Letters for the week of March 22, 2017

Cheeky squeaky

Very funny, Senator Ericksen! Making such a big deal of what you said and have said regarding your willingness to do your EPA duties for free.
Then why don’t you, son?
Oh, hey, maybe you could donate your salary to an organization that will need it‚ say the EPA!
Very funny how you rail against government—and yet you and your wife continue to reap your income from the government. Very interesting.

—JD Plaque, Bellingham

Save Birch Bay

Save Birch Bay is a group of Whatcom County residents brought together by a shared concern for the quality of life in our area. We appreciate the importance of Cherry Point’s unique ecosystem, both aquatic and upland, and we recognize that Cherry Point area’s health and diversity have been diminished in our lifetimes. We believe this decline can be reversed.
Longtime Birch Bay residents have noted five substantial Cherry Point fuel spills hitting beaches in the past 45 years—including one where residents were warned to evacuate due to toxic off-gassing from spilled jet fuel. During this same 45 years, Cherry Point’s herring, salmon and migrant bird populations have severely declined.
The Cherry Point Amendments to the Comprehensive Plan proposed by Whatcom County Council member Carl Weimer offer much-needed protections to support a rehabilitation of this critical ecosystem.
Cherry Point is important historically, culturally and spiritually to the Coast Salish people, and we support the Lummi Nation’s interest in protecting that area. Our nation must honor the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott.
We would like to see language in the Comp Plan declaring that Whatcom County does not support additional piers at Cherry Point. We also would like County policy strengthened to protect against piecemeal expansions that could violate the Marine Mammal Protection Act, specifically the Magnusson Amendment.
In recent years the County has allowed expansion of oil by rail at Cherry Point without any study or adequate citizen input.
This is not acceptable policy.
And, we support the proposed policy that directs the County to complete in 2017, a study to examine existing county laws, including those related to public health, safety, development, building, zoning, permitting, electrical, nuisance and fire codes and to develop recommendations for legal ways the county can work to limit unrefined fossil fuel exports from the Cherry Point UGA to levels in existence as of July 5, 2016.

—Rick Hann, Blaine

St. Joseph, patron 
saint of workers

Women founded St. Joseph Hospital more than 100 years ago and worked for nothing. Then, in 2015, the lab workers with others, but mostly women, fought for a contract with a pay scale. Only two years later PeaceHealth is selling the lab jobs out to Quest Diagnostics. That means 75-100 living-wage ($15-$27/hour base), union jobs going away.
This is bad for the local economy and small business; and it negatively impacts the families of these caregivers, some of whom have dedicated decades to PeaceHealth. With their newly contracted secure incomes, they have at last purchased local houses, new cars, or believed they had the financial security to have kids.
The lab going will not only hurt workers, but it will also degrade medical care for patients. Currently, tests are done locally. Under Quest, most testing of lab specimens would be done in Seattle or Southern California.
This hurts turnaround times for results and can have serious implications for patient care when we have outbreaks, like the 2015 E. coli outbreak in Lynden. If we didn’t have our local lab professionals, the secondhand transmissions in that outbreak could have been far higher.
Finally, out-of-state for-profit healthcare is bad and this company is bad. The company Quest Diagnostics is not accountable to our local community. They are for-profit and publicly traded, so their interest is just to make money. Research shows they have a court record of faulty diagnostic test kits, data breaches, wage theft, double-billing Medicare and overcharging their Medi-Cal Program and violating the state of California’s False Claims Act for some 15 years.
Saint Joseph, the patron saint of workers, would never give them an “in” here!

—Rachael Weasley, Bellingham

Wealth care, 
not health care

The GOP’s Orwellian-inspired naming of their Obamacare replacement as the “American Health Care Act” is designed to divert attention from their actual intentions—rewarding their ultra-wealthy benefactors with a massive tax cut. By cynically wrapping this plan in the flag with terms of “freedom” and “choice,” they are hoping you won’t notice that it means freedom from taxes for the well-off and choice that insurance companies can raise their rates, making insurance even less affordable, giving you a “choice” to not be able to afford to buy insurance.
Even the American Medical Association (no bastion of liberalism) and AARP have joined the opposition to this proposal, rightly focusing on the disastrous predictions for actual health care.
But this misses the point of why the GOP is in such a rush. This is a “wealth plan” for the already wealthy, predicted to transfer $300-600 billion over 10 years, benefiting only those with incomes greater than $200,000 per year and disproportionally weighted to the ultra-wealthy.
House Speaker Paul Ryan has been surprisingly candid when he stated “the point here is we’re keeping our promises.” He just didn’t elaborate that it was the promises he made to his billionaire donors like the Koch Brothers.
The GOP keeps pulling off a great magic trick, convincing enough people that voting for the interests of billionaires is also to their benefit. The very voters who placed the GOP into power, especially the age group 50-64, are about to get a rude awakening since they are now the people most likely to be harmed by the passage of this greed-inspired “American (H)Wealth Care Act.”
If you truly care about health care, please check out a viable alternative, HR 676, that would actually have the United States join the rest of the developed world in providing universal health care and save money at the same time.
Call your members of congress and let them know you support universal health care, not a billionaire handout.

—Douglas L Madsen, MD, Bellingham

End military excess

The Trump administration and some members of Congress are developing plans to increase defense spending by $54 billion in the near term, on top of the roughly $600 billion per year the Department of Defense is already spending. Recently, more than 120 retired three and four-star generals wrote in a letter to Congress, “We know from our service in uniform that many of the crises our nation faces do not have military solutions alone.”
The United States spends roughly three times more on defense than China and about 10 times more than Russia. Wasteful spending accounts for a huge chunk of those expenditures—in the DoD’s own study, they identified over $125 billion in waste. But even with that internal study, DoD is the only federal department that cannot audit its own books.
One of many egregious examples of the Pentagon’s mismanagement of taxpayers’ money is the F-35 Lightning Joint Strike Fighter which is excessively over budget to the tune of billions, behind in the delivery schedule, and beset with software problems and systemic shortcomings that render the aircraft unsuitable for combat capabilities. Waste, fraud and abuse!
The Pentagon does not lack funds. It lacks a culture of fiscal responsibility because Congress does not hold it accountable—nor have the taxpayers.
It’s time, as taxpayers, to contact Senators Patty Murphy and Maria Cantwell and Representatives Rick Larsen and Suzan DelBene and let them know we expect them to vote against all increases in military spending. We need an impenetrable firewall in Congress to prevent these irresponsible increases to the bloated, unaudited Pentagon budget.

—Micki Jackson, Bellingham

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