Whatcom Dubious Achievements 2017
Wednesday, December 27, 2017
While Whatcom County couldn’t begin to compete with the heights of absurdity achieved at the national level this year, we still had a number of foibles, missteps and iniquities that deserve recognition, so let’s get right to this year’s winners.
Fishy Business. This first award goes to Cooke Aquaculture. Last summer a nightmare came true for those worried about the wisdom of farming Atlantic salmon in Pacific waters. One of Cooke’s shaky fish farms collapsed, sending more than 100,000 non-native fish into local waters. After creating this mess, Cooke tried to pay off the Lummi Nation, provided the tribe would not lobby for a ban on net pens (which are already illegal in Oregon and California). Cooke was in for a disappointment when it learned there are still people around who can’t be bought off.
Creeping Trumpism. Former Whatcom County Council member Kathy Kershner apparently holds a grudge. Defeated by Satpal Sidhu in a 2015 council race, Ms. Kershner hopped on the low road this past year, publicly questioning whether Sidhu is really a U.S. citizen. A modicum of research would have revealed that Sidhu has been a citizen for two decades. Reports have not been confirmed that Kershner is currently spreading rumors that Mayor Kelli Linville is a citizen of Afghanistan and County Councilman Rud Browne harbors an ISIS cell in his man cave.
Unfinished Business. If you’ve been wondering what’s holding up development of affordable housing at the old Aloha Motel site (a.k.a. Needle Park), thank your 42nd District state representatives. They joined with other Republicans in the legislature to block passage of a construction budget because they couldn’t get an immediate fix on the unrelated Hirst water rights decision. This failure to act followed multiple overtime sessions that cost taxpayers $445,000. Besides the Aloha development, a few other projects are on hold, including such frills as school construction, new mental health facilities, highway repair, water treatment plants and flood control.
Circling the Drain. For years now the Bellingham Herald has been relentlessly seeking ways to make itself irrelevant. They scored another victory in 2017 with the evisceration of one of the last things people were still reading: the Thursday Take Five entertainment section. They eliminated the job of Entertainment News Coordinator held by the talented Margaret Bikman. You might have noticed that Take Five has shrunk and the lively articles on local arts and entertainment have mostly vanished, replaced by syndicated movie and book reviews that you can find anywhere. At this point, the only things left that people are still reading in the Herald are Dilbert and the obituaries.
Basket of Deplorables. The leadership of the Whatcom Republican Party has been bonkers for a long time, but this year they went over the edge, from wacky to despicable. The party officially endorsed and helped fund the Bellingham City Council campaign of the hate-spewing sidewalk preacher Eric Bostrom, locally infamous for his rants against gays and Muslims. In defense of this endorsement, GOP vice-chair Karl Uppiano explained that the party wanted to encourage “tolerance for diverse opinions.” How noble, Karl, and if you check out the Aryan Nations and the Ku Klux Klan you’ll find plenty of diverse opinions over there as well.
Brother, Can you Spare a Dime? If your paycheck isn’t going very far these days, here are a couple of possible reasons. U.S. Census Bureau data released last fall indicated that Bellingham has the worst affordability rating in the state. Our median annual income is $9,000 below the national average, while the median home price is $405,000. How about renting? It’s estimated that a minimum-wage worker in Bellingham—of which there are many—would have to work 52 hours a week to afford a one-bedroom apartment. Keep clipping those coupons, folks.
Regression to the Really Mean. Naming a park after deceased state senator Harriet Spanel of Bellingham—respected on both sides of the aisle during her 22 years of service—seemed like such a nice thing to do that 92 of the 98 members of the house voted yes. Well, sure, who would oppose such a kind gesture? As it turns out two of the naysayers were representatives from Lynden, Vincent Buys and Luanne Van Werven. Rumor has it that Buys and Van Werven would also like to abolish Arbor Day, defund food banks and take back Malala’s Nobel Prize.
Reefer Madness. This next award goes to a fellow who lives a little east of Whatcom County, but whose delusions could affect us. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions devoted time during his first year to warning us about the escalating violence related to increased marijuana use, even though there is no statistical evidence to support this. Violent crime in Washington state has, in fact, decreased steadily since pot was legalized in 2012. Bellingham officials are worried Sessions might take action on his fantasy, thus depriving the city of this lucrative source of tax revenue, in which case we would have to fall back on our other major taxable resources, multi-ingredient espresso drinks.
The Annual Doug Ericksen Award. Given State Senator Doug Ericksen’s unswerving fealty to misdeeds, years ago we established the Annual Doug Ericksen Award to be presented annually to Doug Ericksen. We can’t cover all of Doug’s capers for the year, so let’s focus on his double-dipping when he accepted a job with the Trump administration in Washington, D.C. while still holding his state senate seat. Doug maintained that he could do two jobs at once, despite his absenteeism on senate workdays and at numerous committee meetings. Reporters were eager to question Doug about this at a press conference he scheduled to discuss the very matter, but Doug wasn’t there. He was in Washington, D.C.
The Blockhead Blockade. Opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline is a worthwhile activity and there are numerous intelligent ways to do it, but a group of local activists managed to pick the stupidest. In February they blocked the I-5 freeway on a busy Saturday afternoon. This misguided mischief accomplished three things: (1) it annoyed people, (2) it discredited the protester’s cause, and (3) it resulted in a five-car accident that sent one person to the hospital. As if all this weren’t enough, some supporters of the action then placed the blame for the accident on its victims, thereby adding insult to, in this case, literal injury.
Those are a few highlights for 2017. I’m sure that 2018 will have its own offerings. As the French philosopher Albert Camus sagely noted, “Stupidity has a knack of getting its way.”