The Gristle

Gifts of the Three Magi

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

GIFTS OF THE THREE MAGI: Whatcom County Council used their last meeting of the year to employ departing colleagues and approve a number of familiar and long-hammered policy goals before their membership shifts a bit next year. These actions included the creation of a Lake Whatcom Stormwater District and along with that the financial confidence to approve $1.2 million in new money for water programs; the formation of a climate impact advisory committee; and Council expanded the scope for a legal review of what county government can do in response to new fossil fuel export proposals—the latter surely an area of study and recommendation for the new advisory committee. All of these issues were long and robustly discussed in 2017.

The Port of Bellingham intends to use their last meeting of the year in a manner remarkably different, to jam through—in the middle of the holidays—a brand new expedited plan for the central waterfront. At the last commission meeting, port staff sheepishly withdrew the deficient and ridiculed “napkin sketch” proposed by Harcourt Developments in October and announced a new plan, yet unseen, would be unveiled in the commission’s final meeting in December. The gambit takes advantage of a public distracted by the holidays and a commission diffident and decimated by departures—two out of three commissioners will not be around to be responsible for their actions next year. The gambit is also intended to take advantage of an expedited review that could place the matter in front of Bellingham City Council as early as April, with permits on the new (as yet unseen) site plan by the close of next year. Needless to say, none of these issues were long or robustly discussed in 2017.

Bellingham City Council ended their legislative year with a different imperative than other two local governments—they postponed decisions on a couple of complex matters of social and community justice until next year. These included some decisions on inclusionary zoning in residential neighborhoods and a series of protections intended for residential tenants. These are matters that will undoubtedly be discussed long and robustly in 2018.

Bellingham City Council set the overall tone for that discussion, though, in an approved resolution that outlined the guiding principles for justice and justice-related systems moving forward. The document is intended to lay out parameters that will guide the city as it works with local government and community service providers in response to the failed initiative to replace the decayed and overcrowded jail.

The immediate concern facing the city is a policy response to efforts or proposals (if any) to restrict bookings for municipal misdemeanors or to move booked misdemeanants to remote facilities as the county wrestles with issues of overcrowding and repair. Let’s be blunt about this: It’s pretty easy and uncomplicated to house these nonviolent offenders somewhere else and they may be, unless there is a clear policy not to send them somewhere else, far from their families, their community support, and their legal counsel. The city’s policy goal is that detentions are prioritized independent and regardless of the charging jurisdiction, which is at the center of their approved guidelines.

“I’m concerned that given the current situation at the Whatcom County facility, that the City of Bellingham, and other jurisdictions including all the Whatcom County cities, Lummi Nation, and the Nooksack Indian Tribe will be limited in the use of the facility,” Mayor Kelli Linville cautioned in a memo to the county administration. “Even with the City of Bellingham’s use of the Yakima County facility and using current incarceration alternatives, managing the inmate population will likely require a focused effort by all jurisdictions.”

One option, she proposed, is a meeting of a broad group of stakeholders early next year to discuss matters related to the operation of the jail.

Beyond that immediate expedient, the city’s guidelines provide a statement and framework for many social justice issues moving forward, establishing protections from “unfair treatment by promoting a fair and equal justice system that is free of discriminatory practices based on racial, socioeconomic, religious, cultural, ethnic, mental and physical disabilities, national origin, language spoken, immigrant status, political backgrounds, sexual orientation, gender identity or age.” These principles flow outward and press inward on an entire spectrum of issues related to social and criminal justice—from homelessness and housing security, economic justice and income security, restorative justice, and community response and engagement by the city and its partners and providers.

“I appreciate the high focus of these guidelines,” Council President Michael Lilliquist said. “I like the fact that this goes beyond jail planning to address community values.”

Council was responsive to a great deal of insightful public comment in their initial discussion of the guidelines earlier this month, as well as public comments in the same evening on tenant rights, access to justice, income security and housing equality—the foundations, as several citizens said, of a fair and just society.

For all their faults, the care of City and County policymakers—the degree to which they are willing to discuss issues at length among themselves, hold hearings and receive comment, delay action if necessary to encourage maximal benefit—stands in stark contrast to the Port of Bellingham and the manner in which that staff-driven agency attempts to slam issues forward with virtually no public process. The last several commission meetings have ended in the angry bang of a gavel, the critical discussion left unfinished. Transparency is an irritation to the Port of Bellingham.

Three kings they came, one not so wise and benevolent as the others. Two brought gifts, the other sand.



Past Columns
The Divisions Between Us

November 14, 2018

The Map is the Territory

November 7, 2018

Climate Kids

October 31, 2018

What The Market Won’t Bear

October 24, 2018

As Above, So Below

October 17, 2018

As Below, So Above

October 10, 2018

A Civil Disagreement

October 3, 2018

Zombie Pipeline

September 26, 2018

Too Little, Too Late

September 19, 2018

Open Secret Disclosed

September 12, 2018

Consent of the Governed

September 5, 2018

Let the People Decide

August 29, 2018

3-in-1 Oil

August 22, 2018

A Deeper Dive

August 15, 2018

Blue Wave Stalls Offshore

August 8, 2018

Mountains of Our Efforts

August 1, 2018


July 25, 2018

Trust Is Reciprocal

July 18, 2018

Pressure in the Bottle

July 11, 2018

Sharing the Pain

July 4, 2018

Home for the Holidays

5:00pm|Ferndale Events Center

You Can't Take It With You

7:00pm|BHS Performing Arts Center

9 to 5, the Musical

7:30pm|Squalicum High School

Seven Supermans

7:30pm|Heiner Theatre

Waiting for Godot

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am|Bellingham Public Market

Romeo and Juliet

7:00pm|Sehome High School Little Theatre

A Chorus Line

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Secret Agents, LOL-apalooza

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A Chorus Line

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Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|Ferndale Senior Center

Gardenview Montessori Holiday Bazaar

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Turkey Trot with GBRC

9:00am|Squalicum Creek Park

NSEA Work Party

9:00am|Willow Creek

Christmas in the Woods Open House

9:00am|Garden Spot Nursery

South Fork Winterfest

10:00am|Van Zandt Community Hall

Holiday at the Port Farmers Market

10:00am|Port Transit Shed

Stuff the Trunk

10:00am|Haggen stores

Rexville Grange Holiday Art Show

10:00am|Rexville Grange

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am| Depot Market Square

Poetry Workshops

10:00am|Mindport Exhibits

Anything Goes Arts and Crafts

10:30am|Sumas Library

Wine and Shop Weekend

11:00am|Eagle Haven Winery

Gnocchi Class

11:00am|Christianson's Nursery

Needle Felting Workshop

1:00pm|Skagit City School

Coffee and Conversation with Surge Artists

1:30pm|Museum of Northwest Art

Fishboy Holiday Show

2:00pm|FishBoy Gallery

A Local Treasure

2:00pm|Ferndale Library

Beatles Sing-Along and Jam

2:00pm|Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship

Welcome to the 20th century


Pacific NW Insects

4:00pm|Village Books

Skagit Wine & Beer Festival

4:00pm|Eaglemont Golf Club

Last Call Group Reading

7:00pm|Village Books

Contra Dance

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A Light in the Darkness

7:00pm|Church of the Assumption

Seattle International Comedy Competition



8:00pm|Lincoln Theatre

Seattle Comedy
9 to 5, the Musical

7:30pm|Squalicum High School

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am|Bellingham Public Market

A Chorus Line

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

A Chorus Line

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Rexville Grange Holiday Art Show

10:00am|Rexville Grange

Holiday at the Port Farmers Market

10:00am|Port Transit Shed

Wine and Shop Weekend

11:00am|Eagle Haven Winery

Sedro-Woolley Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Post #43

Langar in Lynden

11:00am|Guru Nanak Gursikh Gurdwara

Norah Rendell and the Lost Forty

2:00pm|Bellingham YWCA

Hope-Filled Dreams

2:30pm|Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship

Whatcom Symphony Orchestra

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Sing-Along Sound of Music

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Poetry Duo

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Four Pair, An Evening of Duets

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Traveling with the Thurbers

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8:30pm|Upfront Theatre

Seattle Comedy Trove Web
Holiday Festival of the Arts

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Wheelchair Gangball

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7:00pm|Alternative Library


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