The Washington Department of Ecology has notified SSA Marine subsidiary Pacific International Terminals that the road-grading work at its Cherry Point property appears to be in violation of state law: The company should have obtained the stormwater permit required for construction sites.
Here’s the letter Ecology sent to the company, which has proposed construction of the Gateway Pacific Terminal marine cargo pier to ship coal and other bulk cargoes to Asia.
On Wednesday, Aug. 3, Whatcom County’s Planning and Development Services notified the company that it would be assessed a $2,000 fine plus $2,400 in costs connected with violation of county ordinances in connection with the work. A company spokesman said the roads were graded to clear the way for geotechnical boring equipment.
The company has acknowledged making mistakes in doing the work, and has pledged to fix it up.
County Council member Carl Weimer discovered the road work while walking his dog.
(Note: I have not used the “Pacific International Terminals” name in my reporting up to this point, because I thought it added another level of confusion. Pacific International is the SSA Marine subsidiary that is seeking to build the Gateway Pacific Terminal project. The subsidiary name appears on project permit appiclations, and state documents often refer to the project under that name.)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a possible GOP presidential candidate, has not been shy about his personal religious beliefs. On Saturday, Aug. 6, he has invited the faithful to Houston’s Reliant Stadium for “a solemn day of prayer and fasting for our troubled nation.”
Perry’s piety is getting rave reviews in some religious circles, while other religious leaders express unease over the intertwining of faith and politics. Here’s a report from Zahira Torres at the El Paso Times Austin Bureau.
Andrew Jackson, our seventh president, was a pious, Bible-quoting, gun-toting, unapologetic slave owner. But when a group of clergymen asked him to proclaim a national day of prayer, he declined.
“I could not do otherwise without transcending the limits prescribed by the Constitution for the President and without feeling that I might in some degree disturb the security which religion nowadays enjoys in this country in its complete separation from the political concerns of the General Government,” Jackson said.
In the Washington Post, Ezra Klein has a thought-provoking column today reminding us that governments can have only limited impact on the state of the economy.
That has become painfully obvious this week, after the U.S. government more or less resolved the “crisis” that resulted from its own debt ceiling rules. Stock markets responded with a scary selloff that is continuing today, Aug. 4.
Governments here and abroad have no quick fixes for the fundamental problem of this economy: The prosperity that peaked in 2006-2007 was based on borrowed money. Money was borrowed and lent on the assumption that there was no limit to the rise in real estate prices. When that foolish assumption became demostrably false, there was a crash. Household mortgages were under water, banks had books full of bad loans, and the big financial firms were stuck with all kinds of complex instruments that multiplied their losses.
Now everyone is retrenching. Lenders have less to lend and are more cautious with what they do have. Consumers are (rightly) cautious about borrowing and spending.
The economy needs some real productivity to replace the collapsed economy based on borrowing and consumption. Eventually, we hope, entrepreneurs will provide that. But it won’t happen fast.
Here’s another good summary of the current situation from Fox.
Over at the Seattle Times, Jon Talton is always worth a read too.
Here, prominent conservative David Frum, on his blog FrumForum, suggests that events are proving that Paul Krugman, not the Wall Street Journal editorial page, has been proved right about the economy.
On Tuesday, July 12, The Whatcom County Council takes its first public look at a new lease with Lummi Nation that should keep the Lummi Island Ferry operating for another 35 years. The lease agreement itself contains no surprises at this point, but county officials are also being asked to agree to curb public statements about the deal.
An “intergovernmental framework agreement” that is being brought to the council alongside the lease deal contains this language:
“Any potential media announcements or discussions regarding this agreement and the implementation of this agreement will be jointly discussed with the goal of agreement by the parties in advance to ensure that the sentiments expressed represent an accurate and balanced description of the subject matter involved. The parties will discuss foreseeable public events or open meeting where media may be present and/or where communications on the parties’ discussions may occur with other parties — with the intent to avoid surprises if at all possible. Neither party will make a statement characterizinig the position of the other party to any media relating to the substantive issues under discussion. Statements to the media by the individual parties apart from those referenced above should be limited to acknowledgement that discussions are ongoing between the parties with a view towards reaching agreement on issues concerning the project area, or other matters as may be appropriate.”
I’m not even sure what this means. Does it mean an unhealthy restriction on Whatcom County officials’ freedom to discuss a costly public contract with their constituents via “the media?”
Or is it a reasonable limit on public airing of sensitive talks between the county and a sovereign government?
I have emailed County Executive Pete Kremen and Council President Sam Crawford seeking their understanding of this paragraph. I have also left voicemail for Dan Gibson, assistant chief civil deputy prosecuting attorney. Stay tuned.
U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, has offered an explanation for his votes on tax, war and stimulus measures that got him identified by the Washington Post as one of just nine House members who voted for deficit-expanding legislation in all three categories. We had a blog post on this matter Tuesday, June 15.
In an email, Larsen spokeswoman Emily Halnon said the Post’s characterization of Larsen’s votes is a bit simplistic. While Larsen did vote for the Bush tax cuts in 2001, he voted against extending those cuts. Halnon also says Larsen is part of a bipartisan effort to move the federal government to sustainable spending levels. Here is the full text of her email:
“While Rick did vote for the 2001 tax cuts, he has voted against extending the Bush tax cuts several times since. He firmly believes that Congress needs to end tax cuts for the top two percent of income-earners to help to tackle our debt and deficit crisis.
“A majority of economists agree that the Recovery Act saved our economy from catastrophe and helped to reduce unemployment across the country. A majority of tea partiers don’t. Rick is committed to implementing a forward thinking plan that protects our economic progress and helps bolster private sector job growth while working to shrink the deficit and control the debt.
“Rick knows you cannot have credibility on reducing the deficit and controlling the debt unless the economy is growing and has consistently pushed that it is urgent for Congress must take a balanced approach to balancing the budget, shrinking the deficit and controlling the debt. No ideology is going to fix this problem.
“This year Rick has voted with Republicans and Democrats to cut nearly $50 billion from the President’s 2011 budget and will be part of the solution to develop a balanced approach to cuts and revenue to move the long term budget to sustainability, the standard that people expect.
“He also believes that all new federal spending or tax cuts need to have a source of funding identified to pay for them. He backs a three-year spending freeze on all general non-defense spending in the budget, supports repealing $6 billion in ethanol subsidies and believes Congress needs to restore fiscal responsibility and accountability to the defense procurement process.”
Seattle Times reporter Craig Welch has an interesting report on pipeline proposals that would route Alberta tar sands crude oil to, among other places, Vancouver B.C. for shipment to Asian markets.
It is by no means certain that these proposals will become reality, but if they do, it would mean a lot more oil tankers moving through the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
This seems even more relevant locally in light of concerns about the volume of ship traffic that would be generated by a bulk cargo (coal) terminal at Cherry Point, prop0sed by SSA Marine of Seattle.
Is it just me, or were Bellingham City Council races more lively in the past (I’m thinking 1980s) than the 2011 race promises to be?
Yes, we should see robust debate in both Ward 3 (incumbent Barry Buchanan vs. Cathy Lehman) and the at-large position (incumbent Seth Fleetwood vs. Larry Farr.)
But it’s almost after 1 p.m. on the last day of filing, and incumbents Jack Weiss and Terry Bornemann have yet to draw challengers. I’m not trying to stir up difficulties for those two gentlemen, but it does seem to me that unopposed council elections were far less common than they seem to be at this point.
Probably as soon as I hit the publish button, a dozen City Council candidates will file.
If you read the comments on this blog, you have “known” since this morning that County Executive Pete Kremen would challenge Whatcom County Council member Tony Larson for re-election.
Kremen earlier announced he is stepping down as Executive at the end of the year, mostly because he needed to reduce his stress levels because of hypertension.
When some of our beloved commenters informed us that Pete was already coming out of political retirement, Jared and I had a good laugh and forgot about it, until I made a late check of candidate filings. We will never doubt any of you again.
Pete says he doesn’t see a contradiction, since being a council member will be a lot less stressful and time-consuming than being County Executive.
He said he has no particular beef with Tony Larson. He just happens to live in the same district. I have a call in to Tony.
Details to follow.
Rick Santorum, a former GOP Senator from Pennsylvania, announced his presidential candidacy Monday, June 6.
Santorum’s staunch right-to-life, anti-abortion positions have made him popular with social conservatives, and his announcement speech indicated he wants to reach out to voters concerned with economic issues and issues of federal power.
He denounced President Barack Obama’s health care reforms, and repeated the common theme that these reforms will reduce patient “choices.”
(Every time I read that statement, I wonder what choices they are talking about. Maybe that will become clear at some point.)
UPDATED AT 3:30 P.M. ON MAY 17: In response to the articles pasted below about his attendance record at Ferndale City Council meetings, Malpezzi said the following: “My overall attendance record is as good or better than any other current or past council member(s). I have attended as many, if not more meeting, than any of my peers on an annual basis. And per the Ferndale Council Rules and Procedures, I have always been excused by my peers for any absence.” He pointed to this article to support the comment I wrote below about him being controversial.
START OF ORIGINAL POST
Ferndale City Council member Steve Malpezzi called me earlier to announce that he’ll run for re-election this year.
Malpezzi says voters should give him another four years on the council because “I believe the city needs a little bit of conservative fiscal responsibility.” He brings a common sense approach to the city, in terms of its spending, he said. He’s afraid that the city has overextended itself and is going into too much debt.
He opposes issuing an additional bond of $10 million for various purposes. “I’m just not supportive of going further and further in debt,” he said.
He believes Ferndale residents are still concerned about traffic congestion, but the city hasn’t done enough to address the issue of congestion on Main Street. The Second Avenue-extension project was billed as reducing traffic by 29 percent on Main Street by luring commuters away from it, but he doesn’t think that’s happened.
The city just completed improvement to Main Street that make it a little safer, extend bike lanes and add some parking, but it doesn’t relieve congestion, he said.
“It was never a project to increase capacity and relieve traffic,” he said.
He wants traffic engineers to look at possible fixes for reducing congestion on Main Street. While he said he’s not endorsing these ideas, he suggested creating a dedicated lane from the Main Street bridge to Vista Drive, so commuters could bypass the signals and blocks of the downtown core. It would require buying land and businesses and demolishing buildings, including the city hall annex, he said. He suggested options for converting streets to one-way streets, as well as building a second bridge over the river. He said the city needs to put a higher priority on upgrading traffic signal hardware so signals can be better coordinated to move traffic. He also questioned whether the city needs the three signals between First Avenue and Third Avenue, less than a quarter mile.
I asked him about the city’s planning for commercial development, specifically large-scale commercial. He said he has concerns about the planned action study looking at large-scale development near Interstate 5 and Main Street/Axton Road. He doesn’t believe that area is appropriate for large-scale retail. He noted that when a study was being done on the proposed Pioneer Plaza development in the southeast quadrant of the interchange, it called for tens of millions of dollars in traffic improvements, including to the freeway overpass. He questions whether this study will come to a different conclusion.
He thinks the Slater and Grandview roads interchanges are better locations for major commercial development.
Malpezzi has been what you could call controversial on the council. Here is the last article written by former Herald government reporter Sam Taylor, who is now city clerk for Ferndale, on how the council was considering admonishing him for missing meetings: Continue reading
Saw this on Facebook via Mark Lowry, president of the Northwest Washington Central Labor Council: The Neptune Terminals in North Vancouver are reporting big upswings in export of coal and potash to Asia, the Vancouver Courier reports.
It should be noted that the quantities mentioned in this article are well below the potential 50 million tons of product that SSA Marine’s proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal could ship from Cherry Point, if it reaches maximum size now envisioned.
Ken Oplinger, president of the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has announced that he will be a candidate for the Ward 1 seat on the Blaine City Council.
As of now, no other candidates have filed campaign information with the Public Disclosure Commission for that or any other Blaine seat, according to information available online.
The ward’s Position 1 seat, now held by John Liebert, will be on the ballot this fall. No word yet from Liebert on his plans.
Seems like just a few weeks ago, we were reading expert analysis assuring us that Syria was unlikely to face much turmoil in the wave of protests sweeping across North Africa and the Middle East.
Now, this report in the Washington Post, and similar reports from other news organizations, seem to indicate that Syria is experiencing some serious uproar, and it’s getting more intense.
I’ve blogged about Ferndale’s deliberations over where to treat the stormwater from a widened section of Main Street at Traffic Talk, but this one is heading more into political territory. It involves possibly increase fees on customer utility bills.
Ferndale City Council members on Wednesday discussed ways to paying for a large stormwater pond on city-owned land off Douglas Road, according to draft meeting minutes. The city applied but didn’t get a state grant to pay for it.
The pond would treat stormwater from widened segments of Main Street and Church Road. It would also handle private developers’ stormwater for future housing projects (they’d pay a fee to help the city recoup some of the costs of building it.)
But, first things first: The city has to find money to build it.
The city planned to have the storm water utility fee on customers’ bills pay back the cost of the pond. But previously the pond was estimated at $850,000, and an increase to $10 per month in the fee in 2012 would have covered that.
But the estimated cost of the pond has increased to $1.8 million. A $10 per month fee won’t cover the cost of the pond.
An increase to $11 per month by 2012 would pay for a $1 million pond, the city’s finance director said. But the larger pond would need an increase in the fee to $12 per month by 2012. It should also be noted that if the city builds the full project at once, rather than in steps, it’s expected to save money. Continue reading
You all have probably read that Ferndale City Council member Connie Faria plans to resign from the council this year because her husband got a job in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and they’re moving there.
The council tonight will discuss the process for appointing a council member until the next election.
City Clerk Sam Taylor has sent out a question-and-answer sheet on the process. Click here to see it.