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Letters for the week of February 22, 2017

Welcome, diversity

I feel that our new immigrants—the ones more recent than my grandparents or great-grandparents—add cultural diversity and vitality to this country. I very much appreciate the color, imagination and willingness to work hard that they bring to the United States.
I am sorry that the out of control government has body slammed our Constitution in ways that are insulting, demeaning and harmful to these valued people. I am glad to see Mexicans, Muslims, and other immigrants here.
I hope they stay here and prosper.

—Chuck Nafziger, Alger

The rising resistance

The energy at last week’s monthly meeting of the 42nd Legislative District Democrats was tangible. I was impressed with the turnout, with the involvement of new voices and with the obvious interest in our district.
Among the new faces were two young Bellingham lawyers, a union spokesperson, a statistician, a native American who has stepped up to represent us at the state level and a new (to me) young chair. All of this involvement bodes well for our future as a viable organization here in Whatcom County. I found this refreshing and energizing.
Naturally,  there was discussion about our district’s Senator Doug Ericksen. There was a call to action that will be refined in committee and presented to the community.
This is a important and exciting time to add your voice to the others. Together, we can accomplish our goals of including all voices from our district. While other groups may speak with one voice, we are Democrats and include all voices in our conversation. It may be noisy and messy, but it is so necessary for our democracy!

—Naomi Murphy, Ferndale

Bring back the professionals

Whatcom County faces a water quality crisis. Shellfish harvesting is conditionally closed in 800 acres of the Lummi Nation’s shellfish beds, and almost all of our lowland streams have bacteria levels significantly above the healthy, allowable limit.
This problem isn’t new—it’s been going on for more than 20 years. A lot of money is being spent, as many agencies are working hard to clean up our streams and shellfish beds.
Our boldest farmers have taken a huge step forward by forming the Portage Bay Partnership.
Fecal coliform bacteria comes from the intestines of warm blooded animals—humans, livestock, pets and wildlife. Our farmers are working diligently to improve their manure management practices, and it’s time for the rest of us to do our part.
About  30,000 households in Whatcom County rely on onsite septic systems (OSS), to treat sewage. In the portion of Whatcom County that drains into the Nooksack River, there are 14,174 OSS, and only 5,308 are current with their inspections. We can do better.
Whatcom County Code currently allows for self-inspection of gravity-type OSS, and inspections (either by the homeowner or professionals ) are required every three years. Our Whatcom County Health Department has recently documented that about 3 percent of septics that were self-inspected actually failed  after a county re-inspection.
The Whatcom County Public Works, and Safety Committee is currently debating changing Whatcom County Code 24.05  so that homeowner inspections will no longer be allowed.
With the high failure rate of septics, I believe eliminating voluntary inspections would greatly benefit our farmers. Please contact Whatcom County Council members and voice your support.
We have too much to lose. I don’t want to have to tell my grandkids at a later date, I can’t afford to buy them ice cream because we all don’t do our part to help clean up the waterways.

—Bob Seaman, Lynden

An emerging consensus on climate

Progress on climate change in the immediate future does not appear politically promising. The Trump administration and the Republican Congress are threatening to undo years of progress at the national level. There are, however, two recent developments, neither widely known yet, that give reason for optimism.
First, last year two Florida Congressmen—one a Republican, one a Democrat—founded the Climate Solutions Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives. Admission to the caucus requires a Republican and a Democrat joining in self-selected pairs ensuring equal party input. For example, early in February Washington Republican Dave Reichert teamed with Oregon Democratic Earl Blumenauer as members.
The purpose of this low-profile caucus is to study climate change with an emphasis on bipartisan possibilities, not party ideology. It is growing and now has about two dozen members. Perhaps our northwest corner representatives, Suzan DelBene or Rick Larsen (both with good climate records and much experience) might consider reaching across the aisle to a like-minded Republican colleague and joining the Climate Solutions Caucus.
The other development, just announced, is a policy proposal from the Climate Leadership Council written by eight conservative, widely respected elder statesmen—George Shultz, James Baker, Henry Paulson among them. It is the first time leading Republicans have put forth a clear, specific climate proposal. Its four pillars in brief are: (1) A gradually increasing carbon tax on carbon dioxide emissions, (2) All tax proceeds returned to Americans equally and quarterly, (3) Border adjustments for carbon content imports and exports to protect American competitiveness and (4) Rollback of most current climate regulations.
Will this proposal or a variation gain traction? Will the Climate Solutions Caucus revive bipartisan cooperation? As usual some will balk at any policy that doesn’t fit their personal or political ideology. But doing so all but guarantees little if any effective climate legislation.
Those who feel climate issues shouldn’t always take a back seat to ideologies should pay attention to the Climate Solutions Caucus. And the Climate Leadership Council report deserves close study and comparison with other possibilities.
If both of these recent efforts become better known and if citizens let congress know how they feel, effective climate change legislation in the near future might not be as bleak as it now appears.

—John Whitmer, Bellingham

Absentee representation is no representation

I am a constituent of the 42nd District, ostensibly represented by Doug Ericksen.  Since Ericksen has taken a full-time job with the Trump Administration in Washington, D.C., he has been unable to do his job here at home. Senator Ericksen has missed 75 percent of his committee meetings in Olympia, he even missed a press conference about how he could do both jobs because he got stuck in DC! Ericksen’s absences are not just hurting those of us in the 42nd District, but the workings of the senate as a whole.
Those of us in the 42nd District need a senator who actually represents us here, in Washington state. If Sen. Ericksen refuses to step down from his position in DC, then he should resign as our state senator so that we can elect someone who will actually do their job representing the 42nd District.

—Amber Hixson, Bellingham

Protections eroded

Apparently, protecting consumers against unfair, deceptive, or illegal practices is not high on the Trump agenda. After the financial crisis of 2008, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created to hold the bad actors in the financial industry accountable.
For example, when Wells Fargo was caught signing up more than 2 million accounts for customers without their consent, the CFPB stepped in with a lawsuit and forced the bank to pay $185 million in fines and penalties.
The bureau handles complaints about problems with financial companies, creates consumer protections for financial products and services, and has a user-friendly website with financial information and advice, as well as an easy way to file a complaint (http://www.consumerfinance.gov).
To date, the CFPB has provided nearly $12 billion in relief to more than 27 million harmed customers. Ninety-seven percent of consumers get timely replies when the bureau sends their complaints to companies.
Just recently, the CFPB filed a lawsuit against RD Lending in New York for allegedly scamming 9/11 heroes out of millions of dollars in compensation funds. The CFPB acts as the citizens’ cop on the financial beat.; however, a just released memo from the House Financial Services Committee shows a plan to turn the independent head of the agency into a political appointee who could be fired at will, while stripping the agency of the authority to bring cases against financial institutions and eliminating the database of consumer complaints.
So much for Trump’s promise to protect the working class!

—Carol Kemp, Bellingham

Earth shattering

I had a vision last night that proves our worries about the Cascadia subduction zone are a moot issue. If one looks carefully at the latest NASA images of North America, you will see that all sides and underpinnings of the continental United States are rapidly fracturing and crumbling. This is surely proof that the US will very soon break off, to be launched into outer space far beyond Pluto, unless it first shatters into countless bits of cosmic dust.
Scientists term this phenomenon the Trump Effect.

—Gwen McEwen, Bellingham

Dark money

It is time to speak up. Is this a big coincidence? Has anyone noticed that Donald Trump’s appointees mesh perfectly with the Koch Brothers and other ultra-rich, ultra-conservative plans? Some appointees, such as Betsy Prince DeVos who is nominated for the head of U.S. Dept. of Education and wants to divert federal funds to private schools without accountability, are in fact card-carrying members of the ultra-rich, ultra-conservative groups who are conspiring for totally free markets, no regulations, very small government and to hell with the rest of the American people.
Have you read Dark Money by Jane Mayer? It is well worth reading for understanding why the election and post-election activity has happened the way it has.
It makes one wonder if the Koch Brothers, DeVos family including Betsy Prince DeVos, Richard Mellon Scaife, the Coors family, and others of the ultra-rich through their non-profit, tax-avoiding foundations who bought “Citizens United” have dug Trump out of a financial bind and now own his presidency? Time and good investigative journalism will tell.
Please people, pay attention!

—Donna Mason, Whatcom County

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