Wally Wonders Why

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Whatcom County

Right Size Jail

What is the right size jail for Whatcom County?

We need bigger prisons in general, not because we are going to lock up more people for petty crimes, but because about 20 years ago we as a society decided that on your 3rd strike you were out for at least 25 years to life. And in the couple of decades since that time our prison populations have doubled and not surprisingly violent crimes across the country have dropped nearly 50%. This all makes sense, keep the repeat offenders off the streets and the streets are free from the crimes committed by repeat offenders.

The price for this 3 strike policy is building and running prisons to house these 3 strikers for 25 years to life from the date of their 3rd strike conviction. I’ve read that the average age of 3 strikers is in their mid-30′s so even those locked up at the start of the program back in the early 90′s haven’t reached the 25 year mark, let alone our average life expectancy which if I remember correctly is about 75-plus. Prison population will not plateau until the inmates start being released or dying at the same rate they are being handed their 3 strikes sentence. Doing the math says that this plateau will be somewhere around 2025, which is the average between 2018 if everyone received minimum sentence and 2033 if everyone received life.

For the safety of the rest of us, we need to plan for this continued growth in prison population so that we have the means to house violent criminals for the duration of their sentence without overloading the prisons and forcing judges to release people who should be locked up. Too many times lately I have seen that the authorities are hunting for someone who is known to be violent and dangerous, only to find out that they were in jail and just recently released. We are currently right in the middle of one of those cases here in Whatcom County.

A few years ago he was booked on multiple accounts including assault, last week he was picked up and jailed on a Dept of Correction violation, then yesterday he kidnaps someone at gun point, and today police are looking for him. How safe are we? How is law enforcement supposed to protect and serve when violent criminals are on a catch and release program?

What is the right size jail for Whatcom County? I say take the high estimate and add 25% capacity to it for good measure. That’s the kind of jail that I think is the right size jail. In order to maximize safety, we need to keep criminals off the street to the full legal extent of the law and to do that we need a big a*s right size jail, right now!

Dingling Brothers

Yes, we have circus clowns right here in Whatcom County, but instead of the Ringling Bros. we have these dingling bothers as a lame substitute.  The dinglings are progressive talk show host Joe Teehan and his caller Riley, who I presume is Riley Sweeney 2nd Vice chair of the Whatcom Democrats.  Are there any progressive Democrats out there that are proud of this performance?   Are the Whatcom Democrats proud of this?


Sound Clip from The Joe Show for 8/16/12

Cut our Losses; Abandon the Gateway Pacific Terminal

It is about time we just cut our losses and abandon the fight for a Coal Port at Cherry Point.  In my opinion we have reached a point where there are so many reasons not to have the Gateway Pacific Terminal/SSA Marine Port, that continuing the fight, which is really fight between coal fired conglomerates and the Sierra Club, will only create a big lose lose situation regardless of who wins the fight.

Reasons not to have the Gateway Pacific Terminal/SSA Marine Port.

  • Our coal reserve is of strategic importance.
  • Coal is a raw material that we should be using to create value added items for export so the import/export balance shifts in the right direction for US companies
  • Exporting coal helps China to produce goods for us to import which shifts the import/export balance in the wrong direction.
  • Additional shipping terminal, whether coal or not coal will have an additional negative impact on the environment.  How much or how little will be mitigated doesn’t change the fact that there will be some negative impact.
  • Health risks due to the transport and storage of coal in Whatcom County and beyond.
  • Coal trains are a visually ugly blight on the look and feel of Bellingham.
  • Coal trains will add to much noise to the local environment
  • Taxpayers will be stuck with the financial impact of transportation upgrades due all aspects of the port.
  • Cancer rates in Whatcom will go up.
  • Long wait times at rail crossings will adversely effect business.
  • Continued advancement of corporate greed and rule over the American people
  • Wetlands destroyed/not fully mitigated
  • Wildlife suffering
  • Global warming/Global climate change due to coal burning
  • etc.
  • etc.
  • etc.

Whether you agree with the reasons or not,  they are still positions that are held by some in the community so even if they might not be legal or real to you or I, they are fit for the argument because they are real to those who believe them.  This is especially so in the court of public opinion, which is currently where the coal port battle is being waged.  This is not to say that there aren’t good arguments for the Coal Port such as jobs, tax revenue, and just plain standing up for property rights.  After all, in America if someone owns property and they are using it in a legal manner, then they have the right to do so.  However in America you also have the legal right to step off a curb into the crosswalk  when the Walk signal appears, but doing so in front of a red-light running MAC truck is still stupid.  You can make a stand for what is right, but the game always ends the same way, MAC truck 1 – Pedestrian 0

The Sierra Club is that red-light running MAC truck with a no coal goal and they don’t seem to care what laws are broken and who is run over as long as the coal is left in the ground.  And like the MAC truck, it seems the Sierra club doesn’t lose.

Sierra Club: Coal Victories Across the Nation!

Because we live in a world currently powered primarily by fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas and oil, and because a good portion of the suppliers of crude oil are unstable and openly hostile towards our nation, I consider all U.S. fossil fuels to be strategic reserves.  If and/or when the Middle East becomes too unstable or radioactive to supply us with oil, I for one, would like to still be sitting on a large pile of coal.  Our national leaders haven’t come to this realization yet, and started addressing it with legislation, but they will.   I am firmly opposed to this Coal Port proposal because the primary customer for the coal is not within our nation, it is China.  Run a coal train right out to Cherry Point on their way to Alaska, Oregon, California and I’ll happy wave to them as they rumble by, but don’t ship US coal to a foreign nation.

I’m not opposed though to burning fossil fuels of all types, however I’d be stupid, as would anyone, to turn a blind eye to the Sierra Club’s record in opposition to coal and other fossil fuels.   Given their record who would bet against them?  Perhaps someone with a lot of money?  Maybe, but even money won’t guarantee a Coal Port when Sierra Club, with plenty of financial and government support, has been placing even more emphasis on coal over the last few years.Sierra Club annual notes

But what if the unimaginable happens and Coal Port proponents do manage to squeak out a victory?  Well it would have come at a large financial cost to Whatcom County and Bellingham.   The battles would have also created a much stronger, more motivated, more cohesive green socialist group in the Bellingham area and in spite of the Coal Port being built, the anti-coal groups will likely have used anti-coal sentiments to help pass things like the Bellingham Community Bill of Rights and more stringent land use regulations.  We’d have a coal port, but also a much more greatly divide social climate and a much more unfriendly business environment.

There isn’t a win anywhere in the future so it is time to take a hard pragmatic look at the lose-lose situation and cut our losses.   Time to have the County Council just say no to the port and all the expenses involved with the battle.


You know how the saying goes, “With Friends Like this, Who Needs Enemies” and that also happens to be the name of a very enlightening post over a the Whacom Excavator.   They talk about a very scary situation that is being created all over our nation.  The situation is that our taxes are being used to fund Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs’)  that are essentially unregulated civilian eco-police who roam the countryside filing real complaints on anyone they see fit to complain about.

You know we’ve got a long list of control obsessed friends here in Whatcom County, like ReSources “Baykeeper,” those city-livin’ “Farm Friends,” east county’s “Kendall Watch” with a busy-body blight squad, and our positively unhinged self-appointed planning police who are devoted to stopping as much rural land use as possible with boots firmly planted on County Council’s neck.

I linked to their post and to a follow up post at the Freedom Foundation because people need to know that this is a very critical situation.  Check these two videos which shed light on the power that NGOs’ can have to make peoples lives miserable and also the kind of arrogance and attitude that is evident  in their typical leadership.  

And if you think this won’t happen here, think again.  It took Google and I about 5 seconds to find out that the Stephanie Buffum, who is gaining infamy in this case, was also a presenter at a Shoreline Protection workshop attended by at least two people from Whatcom County.    I don’t know that this makes the Whatcom County guys as bad as she is bad, but it certainly doesn’t make them look good either.

Original Story
Follow up public meeting

Updated 10/23/11: In Hopes that Local Media will Shed Some Light

I haven’t found the time to post much lately, homework, work, kids football and the list goes on, but as our next chance to vote fast approaches I’m finding that one crucial issue has not come fully to light.  The issue is whatever went on in the Whatcom County Treasurers Office between Steve Oliver and one of his employees as well as how our County Executive Pete Kremen handled it.   I can’t tell you what went on for sure, only that something apparently has gone on, but that is the point of this post.   I hope that our local media will shed some light on what has gone on, before we receive ballots asking us to again vote these men into public office.  The people of Whatcom County deserve to know.

For months now I’ve heard rumors of a scandal between County Treasurer Steve Oliver and one of his employees as well as a subsequent hush hush dealing with the situation by County Executive Pete Kremen.   I’ve seen no direct evidence of the situation, so these rumors have remained rumors from my standpoint; I’ve never repeated them.  I frankly had hoped that both County Executive Pete Kremen and County Treasurer Steve Oliver would quietly end their political careers by not seeking re-election this year, or  in Mr. Kremen’s case, election to a new position on the County Council.  Withdrawing candidacy could have left what is undoubtedly also a sensitive personal issue to be dealt with on a personal, not public level.   Sadly it doesn’t look like that is the way it will go down.

Both these men were recently questioned on this subject in open public forums and both seemed to acknowledge the situation, taking it out of the realm of gossip and rumor.  Yet, neither shed light on the facts of the situation and, as of several days later, I’ve read nothing in the news.  So in lieu of the real media at this point, I’ll pass along what I believe to know in hopes that we can make more informed decision.

At a recent NW Business Club forum, County Executive Kremen was asked if he bypassed the human resources department in dealing with a serious situation at the Whatcom County Treasurers office and his response apparently confirmed that he did.

Next, Whatcom County Treasurer Steve Oliver was asked at a Birch Bay candidate forum if he, while in office, did or did not engage in a relationship with a female employee that involved any form of affection, physical contact, sexual contact, or any other inappropriate conduct.  And as a follow up he was asked how that kind of behavior would affect his ability to conduct the duties of the Treasurer’s office.  His response was along the lines that there was no complaint, no grievance, no lawsuit, no threat of a lawsuit and that there had been no liability.  And as far as I know, he didn’t deny anything and as far as I know, he didn’t answer the followup about the effect of this on the Treasurer’s office.

The lack of denial by either Pete Kremen or Steve Oliver gives substance to what had been only  rumors.  Apparently scandal did occur at the County Treasurers office and apparently it was dealt with in a less than standard fashion at the County Executive level.

I think the smartest move at this point would be for Pete Kremen and Steve Oliver to withdraw themselves from candidacy, however I won’t be holding my breath.  But with ballots now close at hand, I sure hope that someone in our local media (Herald, KGMI, Cascadia) will step up and bring some facts to light so that voters may make more informed decisions.

Updated 10/21/11 – In response to a couple of comments suggesting that this post is based on rumor, I added the following which is from the Birch Bay candidate forum.  As you read the exchange ask yourself how you might respond to a similar question and how Steve Oliver responded.  I think for most of us the answer would be something like no or heck no!

Question from audience:

“Mr. Oliver, yesterday I attended a forum in Bellingham, where Whatcom County Executive Pete Kremen was asked if he was aware of a personnel situation in the Treasurer’s office.  The County Executive confirmed that there was a very serious matter, a very serious situation.

Now it is appropriate to ask you directly, did you or did you not in your term as County Treasurer engage in a relationship with a female employee of the County Treasurer’s office that involved any form of affection, physical contact, sexual contact, or any other inappropriate conduct? Yes or No.

Furthermore, please explain to this audience how you as an elected official, how this kind of behavior would affect your job, the ability to conduct the duties of the Treasurer’s office.”

Response from Steve Oliver

“Well, I wasn’t at the forum the other day, but, you know, what, what I would say is that, you know, there has been no complaint, there’s no grievance, been no lawsuit, there’s been no threat of a lawsuit, there’s been no liability, and there was due diligence performed to substantiate that issue completely. I, all I can say is, I love my wife, I love my kids, and I’m not going to do anything that’s going to hurt them, end of story.”


Updated10/23/11 – Glad to see that the Herald has posted an article on this situation, although for me most of the articles content brought up even more questions.

Treasurer Steve Oliver said he has not been involved in any inappropriate or sexual relationship with any of his employees,

…his denial wasn’t worded strongly enough to squash the rumor.

So why did he dance around the question at the forum instead of answering it out right, Yes or No as he was asked?   “No” is a pretty strong word and he was offered the chance to use that word yet he didn’t.  Was he caught off guard?  Was he channeling Bill Clinton?

Now, I have to go back to work on my State of the Union speech. And I worked on it until pretty late last night. But I want to say one thing to the American people. I want you to listen to me. I’m going to say this again: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie, not a single time; never. These allegations are false. And I need to go back to work for the American people. Thank you

And what about this?

The rumor stems, Oliver said, from a person not employed by the county who had come into County Executive Pete Kremen’s office in spring 2010 with allegations of an inappropriate relationship between Oliver and one of his employees.

Who was the person not employed by the county and what was the allegation?

Was any part of the allegation true?

What was their relationship to those involved?

Did the Herald start their investigation before these issues were raised publicly?  If so why?

As I think I said before, rumors abound, did the Herald ask for other records to address or lay to rest other rumors?

Some Youtube footage available at the Whatcom Excavator brings even more questions

I could go on, but suffice to say that something did occur at the Treasurers Office.  And regardless of what that something was, the something was squelched by Pete Kremen and Steve Oliver to the extent that it took an election race to flush them out.

I won’t be voting for either of these men and I suggest that you don’t either.


Signs and Taxes in Ferndale

I had a chance to drop in on last night’s Ferndale City Council meeting. I was an hour late, but enough in time to hear a little public as well as council opinion on a couple of the latest news items: the proposal for an add on gas tax and political signs.

In my opinion the thought of boosting the retail price of gas in Ferndale by even 1 penny, is ludicrous. We already buy gas only as needed in Ferndale, trying to save fill ups for trips we are already making to Costco or Fred Meyers. The bigger the price difference, the more we’ll avoid Ferndale.

I’ve also thought it pretty chump of the council to consider this tax at all, because it is authorized as a way to fund road repairs from all the Canadian traffic. Well the Canadians are wearing out the roads around Costco and Bellis Fair, not here in Ferndale. Councilman Malpezzi was the only one I heard make reference to this fact, while the dishonest nature of considering this didn’t seem to bother others.

In the end the council tied on whether to propose this to the voters and then failed the measure after Mayor Jensen cast the tie breaker vote.

I found it a bit surprising coming from a mayor that has headed so much spending, but I guess that’s why Ferndale has so much debt. Politically it was probably a good move from a man who is campaigning to keep his seat as Mayor of Ferndale; nothing will kill a campaign quicker than stomping on small businesses and telling voters that they need to pay higher taxes.

On the other interesting topic in Ferndale, the Council voted unanimously to firm up campaign/political sign rules and allow 4′ x 8′ signs in areas other than residential. Since everyone there readily admitted that they never enforced the existing rules, ya gotta’ wonder why they are making a change at all?   And today in a FB post about the newly annexed areas, City of Ferndale made a special note that,

The City also will enforce the City’s sign code in this area. Offsite signs that were not permitted by Whatcom County are to be removed.

You wonder where all this is coming from and with the little tiff over Norbert Rojsza display, are they planning on starting signage enforcement now, and if so on who will the enforcement fall?

And did I mention also that at the Ferndale Council Meeting there was a point made that the fine for violating the sign code was not just $500, but $500 per day and penalty could include jail time?   And did I mention that this discussion brought a lot of smiles and a chuckle or two from the Council, City employees and Mayor?  Check it out 

Where were the Ferndale Sign Police when the mondo casino sign went up off Slater?   Oh, that’s right the City worked with the Tribes to put up that sign which advertises gambling and smoking, yet they seem poised to come down hard on anyone seeking office in Ferndale.  What the heck?

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