Port of Bellingham Commissioner Scott Walker announced Tuesday, April 16 that he will step down at the end of his term this year, ending a 22-year run on the port commission.
Walker made the announcement at the start of the port commission’s regular meeting. He said he simply wants more time to relax.
He is retired from a position as manager of government and community affairs at the BP Cherry Point refinery.
Perhaps the biggest event during Walker’s tenure was the transfer of the Georgia-Pacific Corp. waterfront industrial land to the port in 2005. The port and city now appear to be making progress on redevelopment plans for the area.
In 2012, Walker’s role in the ouster of former port executive director Charlie Sheldon angered many. Walker’s initial demands for Sheldon’s resignation were outvoted by fellow commissioners Mike McAuley and Jim Jorgensen, but by April 2012, Jorgensen swung around to Walker’s position and Sheldon was out, despite pleas from McAuley, commercial fishermen, port tenants and others in the community who supported Sheldon.
Walker’s departure offers an open seat for the position in the fall 2013 elections, and that could attract some interesting candidates.
The county-wide port district operates the Bellingham airport, shipping terminal, Alaska ferry terminal, marinas in Blaine and Bellingham, and commercial and industrial real estate holdings. Pay is $700 per month plus $104 per meeting, not to exceed $18,384 per year.
Bill Knutzen, finishing his first term on the Whatcom County Council, will run for re-election this summer and — he would hope — this fall. (If more than two people file for this office, they will be whittled down to two in August. Those two face off in November.)
The news item that ran online and in Tuesday’s paper focused on his political stance in support of farmers, foresters and developers.
But there’s more that can be said about Knutzen, as his long press release would indicate.
While there is ample evidence that Knutzen wants to protect business interests in the county, he has also worked in a very practical way to help low-income families.
Knutzen partnered with RELectronics an the Whatcom County Re-entry Coalition to provide refurbished government and business computers to families, so children can do their homework.
The original client, Knutzen said, had a husband in prison and a son who had to wait in line for a one-hour session on the public library’s computers.
“It’s bad enough to be a single mother, but for low-income kids like that, there seemed to be a real need,” Knutzen said in an interview today.
The program, Computers for Kids in our Community, has wiped clean (of data) and refurbished dozens of computers from entities such as Whatcom County government, the Whatcom Transportation Authority and BP, Knutzen said. In the county’s case, government would otherwise need to pay for the computers to be recycled.
After the original client’s son got his laptop from the program, he went on to graduate high school, Knutzen said. He recently got a job.
Here’s Knutzen’s announcement:
April 15, 2013
Bill Knutzen Announces Campaign for Re-Election to Whatcom County Council
Councilman Bill Knutzen today announced his candidacy for re-election to the Whatcom County Council At-Large position.
Fourth generation Whatcom County resident Knutzen and his wife Sandy own Communication 2000, a business that provides computer and cellular repair and service. He is also an agent for S&V Insurance Services that focuses on “small town” superior service.
Small town superior service is also what Bill Knutzen delivers as Whatcom County Councilman. Knutzen looks at every issue before the council as an opportunity to put Whatcom first. He understands the need to balance job creation in all sectors with a clean environment that is responsible to the citizens.
“Four years ago my concern for farmers propelled me to run for Council,” Knutzen says. “I grew up on a farm. I understand the importance of agriculture to our local economy. As Councilman I set out to protect local farmers’ ability to farm. We have come a long way but there is still more that can be done.”
During his first term, Knutzen assisted in the reorganization of the Washington State University Extension and saw to it that commercial agriculture in Whatcom County was considered a priority.
Knutzen understands that forestry is another vital industry of our local economy. As Councilman, Knutzen developed a Forestry Advisory Committee to address the needs and concerns of all those involved in the timber industry.
Knutzen recognizes the value of bringing people together. He has facilitated numerous meetings to bring conflicting parties together to come up with positive outcomes. One such conflict included petitioners involved in a drawn-out dispute over the Urban Growth Areas (UGA). The productive summit included the Mayors, Planning Departments, litigants, and other concerned parties. Together they tackled many sticking point issues of the UGA.
In an effort to assist low income families in Whatcom County Knutzen established a program that restores outdated county agency computers, which are then given to students for assistance with their homework assignments. As a bonus this program saves taxpayers the money it would cost to recycle the county’s retired computers. These are the innovative ideas that Knutzen brings to the table.
Knutzen currently chairs the Whatcom County Planning and Development Committee and serves on the Public Health Advisory Board, Flood Advisory Board, Sheriff’s Advisory Board, Natural Resources Committee and Joint Lake Whatcom Policy Group. He is a Council Representative to the Council of Government, a member of the Lynden Chamber of Commerce and a past member of the Bellingham, Anacortes Ferndale,and Skagit County Chambers. In addition, Knutzen served on the Marine Resource Committee, Whatcom Transit Authority Board and provided input for the Action Plan for the Puget Sound Partnership.
Water issues have moved to the forefront in Whatcom County and Knutzen wants to work toward solutions that provide certainty for all consumers of this vital resource including farmers, small cities and Public Utility Districts.
Developing a level playing field for Whatcom County businesses is a top priority for Knutzen’s second term. He will work to establish a permitting and regulation process that is fair and consistent so Whatcom County will be recognized as a preferred place to do business.
“Whether its businesses, farmers, foresters, low income students, or anyone else, you can count on me to put Whatcom first and go to bat for the citizens of Whatcom County,” Knutzen says. “It would be my honor to continue serving as your Councilman.”
Knutzen lives in Lynden with his wife Sandy. They have been married for 24 years and have three children – Amanda, Elana and Darrell. Over the years Bill and Sandy have cared for many foster children and continue to this day.
Knutzen for Council
6934 Guide Meridian
Lynden, WA 98264
To follow up on my post yesterday about the unusual Craigslist ad seeking a female candidate to oppose Kathy Kershner for a District 1 seat on the Whatcom County Council:
I had emailed the anonymous ad poster, seeking clarification. Should this person be pro-coal terminal or against? What stand should she have on the jail or Lake Whatcom?
I never heard back, but lo and behold, the ad has been updated. A clearer picture of the desired candidate appears:
Want to Keep Dirty Coal Out of Our Community? (Whatcom County Dist. 1)
WANTED: A fantastic woman to represent Whatcom County Council’s District 1 (south Bellingham and beyond). Perhaps the biggest, and most important, of all the races this year will be the Whatcom County Council seats. Why? Because these are the only elections for people who will be making decisions on the Gateway Pacific Terminal permitting as well as a range of other critical decisions including a new jail, protecting water supplies and protecting farmland. We want YOU because you feel passionate about these issues, want to keep dirty, subsidized coal and excessive train traffic out of our community, as well as give back to your community in general.
I haven’t heard all of Kershner’s public statements on coal or most other things, but I don’t know that she has taken a position on the export facility. I have heard her direct members of the public at council meetings to not speak on the coal terminal during open comments, to avoid muddying the open-record process.
Despite objections by my critics, I still maintain that Kershner has proved to be capable of departing from the predictable, partisan decision and voting her mind after much internal deliberation. I have no reason to think she wouldn’t do the same with the coal issue, if it even comes before the council in the next four years.
That said, opposition in a race for public office is only a good thing. Whether it comes via a Craigslist ad or some other inspiration is beside the point.
And sometimes — not always, but sometimes — men make good elected officials, too.
We found an interesting ad on Bellingham Craigslist today. Among the notices for stolen boats, businesses closing, and a warning that law-and-justice agencies are in cahoots to arrest drivers with PTSD, someone out there is seeking a “fantastic woman.”
No, not for that. At least not in the section I was reading. The ad in the Local News and Views section, posted today, is headlined: “Wanted: Terrific Woman to Represent Whatcom County (Whatcom County Dist. 1).”
A fantastic woman to represent Whatcom County Council’s District 1 (south Bellingham and beyond). Perhaps the biggest, and most important, of all the races this year will be the Whatcom County Council seats. Why? Because these are the only elections for people who will be making decisions on the Gateway Pacific Terminal permitting as well as a range of other critical decisions including a new jail, protecting water supplies and protecting farmland. We want YOU because you feel passionate about these issues and you want to give back to your community.
District 1 includes downtown Bellingham and reaches as far northwest as Eldridge and Squalicum Way. It also includes the southern third of the county (see map).
The district seat up for election this year is held by Kathy Kershner, a conservative. I’m inclined to guess the Craigslist poster wants a progressive to run, but conservatives can also feel passionate about the jail, the coal terminal and Lake Whatcom water quality — and want to give back to their community.
I responded to the ad asking for more information about this woman so urgently sought. I’ll let you know what I hear back, if anything.
Oh, and I got confirmation over the phone this morning from County Council member Bill Knutzen that he will seek re-election to his at-large post. I expect his media statement to come soon. He announced his candidacy Saturday at a Republican Party meeting. Also running for that seat is Bellingham entrepreneur Rud Browne.
County Council members Kathy Kershner and Carl Weimer will both seek re-election, they said last week.
I want to thank Dan McShane for doing some digging and exposing the falsehood in graphics used by Dr. Don Easterbrook, formerly of the geology faculty at Western Washington University.
Easterbrook has achieved fame by denying human-caused global warming — the increase in atmospheric temperature caused by unnatural levels of carbon dioxide, in turn caused primarily by the burning of fossil fuels.
The professor turns the issue on its head, asserting that the globe is in fact cooling. McShane reveals that Easterbrook likes to leave the tail end of his line graphs off his illustrations.
Sloppiness or deceit? Perhaps we’ll never know.
Thanks to Dan McShane for refusing to remain silent in the face of findings that are directly and very simply contradicted by a large majority of scientific research.
As I mentioned in previous posts, Easterbrook’s views came to light again last month, when he testified before the state Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee. He was welcomed by committee chairman Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, a self-described climate agnostic.
* * *
I don’t know whether Easterbrook had an effect on this decision or not, but I was interested to note that WWU chose for its Western Reads program “Early Warming: Crisis and Response in the Climate-Changed North.” The book focuses on northwest Canada and Alaska, where the effects of global warming are felt more strongly.
The book will be given to all incoming freshmen for 2013-14.
U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, says the Navy plans to spend $127 million on construction projects at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.
That includes $85 million for a hangar and training facilities for the P-8A Poseidon aircraft.
The air station has about 10,000 military and civilian employees, according to state statistics.
Larsen’s press release on the Navy’s plans includes this helpful link to the Defense Department’s proposed 2014 construction budget.
Here are the details emailed from Larsen’s press office:
WASHINGTON—The Navy plans to spend more than $127 million on construction projects at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, including $85 million for a , Rep. Rick Larsen, WA-02, announced today.
“My top priority is to invest in the foundation of long-term economic growth that creates jobs and opportunity in the Pacific Northwest,” Larsen said. “This major investment will create hundreds of jobs on Whidbey Island and secure the future of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island as one of the Navy’s most valuable Pacific assets. I am committed to making sure that Congress approves this funding so that Naval Air Station Whidbey Island continues to grow as a national strategic asset and local economic driver.”
The budget proposal includes $85.176 million for the construction of a P-8A aircraft hangar and training facilities, $32.482 million for facility improvements for the expanded EA-18G aircraft presence and $10 million to replace the fuel pier breakwater.
Larsen is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, which will consider the defense budget proposal in the months ahead.
Larsen announced $7 million in funding for the design of the P-8A hangar last month.
The blog went dark on and off for the past five days, so I’m catching up on announcements from candidates for Whatcom County Council.
Kathy Kershner, in her second year as council chairwoman, announced her intent to run for a second term on Tuesday, April 9. On Monday, electronics refurbisher Rud Browne said he will seek the at-large seat, currently held by Bill Knutzen.
Browne, who founded a business that has won an award for being green, is a stark contrast to Knutzen, who has more sympathy with foresters and developers than conservationists. Knutzen, as of this writing, has not made his plans for this election season public.
So far, Carl Weimer, Kershner and Browne have announced for county council. Two other incumbents are up for reelection: Knutzen and Ken Mann, who asked followers April 1 on Facebook if they thought he should run again.
Given that pretty much all of the 58 comments underneath were positive, I’m guessing he was moved to go for a second term. I await his announcement.
Speaking of announcements, here’s Kershner’s:
County Council Member Announces Bid for Re-Election
Kathy Kershner announced today (Tuesday) that she is seeking re-election to the Whatcom County District 1 seat she won in 2009. Voters elected her to bring common sense leadership to county government, protect the most vulnerable, listen to all and serve without an agenda.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed working for the citizens of Whatcom County,” Kershner says. “Working together, we have made significant progress on many important community projects.” She adds, “But I haven’t accomplished all I’d like to for our community; there is much more work to do.”
Kershner currently serves as the Chair of the Whatcom County Council, the Flood Control District Board of Supervisors and the Board of Health. She also serves on the Northwest Regional Council and the North Sound Mental Health Advisory Board, which she chaired for two years. During her first term, Kershner also served on the Council Finance Committee, the Council Health Committee, the Airport Advisory Committee and the Council of Governments.
Kershner faced some tough personal challenges during her first term. “I was diagnosed with aggressive, stage 4 lymphoma the day before the election in 2009. As I fought and won the battle against cancer, my perspective about what is important in my life changed. I realized that one of the most important things I could do for my children was to leave a healthy legacy.”
Kershner continues, “That is why I work hard on the Council to ensure that Whatcom County remains a healthy and vibrant place to live and raise a family. We do that by ensuring that we have a healthy economy, a healthy environment, and healthy individuals and families.”
Kershner is a retired Navy Veteran, small business owner and advocate for people with disabilities and our seniors. She lives in Bellingham with her husband, John, and nine-year-old son, Jake. Kathy and her family are avid enjoyers of the outdoors. They live to ski in the winter and spend the sunny days of summer enjoying the beautiful northwest. At least once a year, they hit the road with their camper and explore the vast western states. In their free time, they raise veggies and chickens in their backyard and enjoy training their golden doodle, Mille.
You can reach the campaign by phone at 360-220-7535 or email – contact@voteKathyKershner.com. Website – www.VoteKathyKershner.com. PO Box 28171, Bellingham, WA 98228.
Here’s Browne’s statement:
April 8, 2013
Whatcom County, WA – Rud Browne, an entrepreneur who built a local High Tech business which created employment for 360 people, 140 of which were right here in Whatcom County, today announced he will seek the County Council At-Large seat this fall.
Rud Browne started with nothing but an idea – and built it into Ryzex, a $75 million international company which became an award-winning successful business.
“I’d like to use my business experience as your County Councilmember – to ensure local government plays a constructive role in helping employers to create new jobs, by encouraging industries that don’t require proximity to big cities, like hospitality/recreational businesses; computer software, engineering services, specialized high-value manufacturing, and specialty food products created from the crops our mighty farms produce. We must think globally if we are to employ locally.” said Browne.
Named as the Whatcom County Business person of the year in 2004 and by Ernst & Young as one of the top entrepreneurs in 2007, Browne also believes that same entrepreneurial spirit can help governments re-think how they work with businesses. “Let’s face it; our government must be as responsive and predicable to an employer as that employer needs to be to keep its customers.”
“We have a population of over 200,000 and if we want new jobs in the County then we should have more people who have actual experience creating 100s of new jobs with their own money to be the leaders of our government. People who know how to make entrepreneurial ideas work” he said.
Ryzex, under Browne’s leadership was named the Bellingham Chamber’s Green Business of the Year, and one of the greatest places to work in Washington State.
Browne is no stranger to civic engagement here. He’s been a member of the Whatcom County Ethics Commission; the Whatcom Community Foundation; the Bellingham Public Development Authority; the Brigid Collins Child Abuse & Family Support Center; Rotary and the Bellingham City Club (among many other community involvements).
“I believe Whatcom County is a good community that is on the brink of becoming a GREAT community, provided we make intelligent decisions about our future,” he said. This includes protecting the quality of our natural environment while using entrepreneurial spirit to reduce waste, save money and encourage the industries that are going to allow our children to work and raise their families in the County.
“We can do better – and so many of us believe it … we just need more elected leaders with the experience required to achieve it,” Browne said.
Browne will officially kick off his campaign April 17th, from 5:30 to 7:00 pm at the Mount Baker Theatre Encore Room 104 N. Commercial Street Bellingham, WA 98225.
The news was expected but still seems significant, as the “historic” decision on March 12 to transfer 8,844 acres of state timber land to Whatcom County, for use as a park, has been challenged.
Jack Petree filed a petition for review with the state’s Growth Management Hearings Board today, Tuesday, April 9.
Petree submitted a letter to the council via email and made it available to the media this afternoon.
He said he intends to speak to the council about his petition at tonight’s 7:00 meeting at the courthouse, 311 Grand Ave. He will take time during the open session for public comment.
Petree, a growth consultant and a vocal critic of county planning decisions, is the sole petitioner in this case. Foresters, including Dick Whitmore, have also said they may appeal the land transfer, or reconveyance.
More news came today about who’s in/who’s out of local elections this year.
Carl Weimer, two-term member of the Whatcom County Council, announced in a press release he will seek a third term — a change from his original plan to only serve two terms.
As he describes it in his statement, now is not the time to walk away from the council:
“With some of the most critical decisions that any council has ever faced coming in the next few years, I am willing to serve one more term if the public decides experience and sound reasoning are important traits for making these critical decisions. The next Council will decide the fate of the coal export terminal, the new jail, the required restoration plan for Lake Whatcom, and whether we can preserve farmland, protect our local waters and stop sprawl by getting back into compliance with growth management laws.”
I’ve only covered Weimer and the County Council for seven months now, but the District 3 incumbent has shown himself to be a friend of the environment and growth management. He was the most unambiguous council member (with the possible exception of Pete Kremen) in support of establishing a 8,844-acre county park around Lake Whatcom, taking the land out of commercial timber. He also favors strict control of phosphorus in Lake Whatcom and was sympathetic to Futurewise’s lawsuit against the county for what it said were rural development rules that allowed too much growth outside cities.
Some members of the Bellingham City Council have already announced their intent to run, or not. Stan Snapp will not seek re-election, and he is endorsing as his replacement Pinky Vargas, efficiency outreach manager at Puget Sound Energy. City Councilman Seth Fleetwood is also bowing out of public service. Gene Knutson, meanwhile, will run just one more time, seeking his sixth term on the City Council.
On the County Council, posts held by the following councilors are up for election in 2013: Weimer, Kathy Kershner, Ken Mann, Bill Knutzen.
Weimer’s statement from today:
Carl Weimer Will Run for a Third Term on the Whatcom County Council
Carl Weimer today announced his intention to run for the 3rd district Whatcom County Council seat. Weimer explained, “My first two terms have been a wonderful combination of learning, listening, hard decisions, frustration, and a huge sense of accomplishment that comes frompublic service. The breadth of issuesand information that must be considered is always challenging, and understanding the details often leads to decisions that can make both friends and foes angry.”
He went on to say, “I had intended to only serve two terms, but with some of the most critical decisions that any Council has ever faced coming in the next few years, I am willing to serve one more term if the public decides experience and sound reasoning are important traits for making these critical decisions. The next Council will decide the fate of the coal export terminal, the new jail, the required restoration plan for Lake Whatcom, and whether we can preserve farmland, protect our local waters, and stop sprawl by getting back into compliance with growth management laws. I have the experience, knowledge, and desire to solve these critical issues in ways that preserve the quality of life that makes Whatcom County such a special place.”
Weimer, 59, has lived in Whatcom County for 29 years. During his time on the County Council, he served two years as Council Chairman. He has also served on the Mental Health Advisory Committee, the Marine Resources Committee, the Developmental Disabilities Board, the Flood Control Zone Committee, the Portage Bay Shellfish Protection District, the Northwest Clean Air Agency, the Birch Bay Shellfish District, the Solid Waste Advisory Committee, the Economic Development Investment Board, the EMS Advisory Board, and the Drayton Harbor Shellfish Protection District.
Weimeris also the Executive Director of the national Pipeline Safety Trust, which came into being after the June 1999 pipeline tragedy in Bellingham. Both Governor Gregoire and Governor Locke appointed him to terms on the Washington State Citizen Committee on Pipeline Safety. The U.S. Secretary of Transportation appointedhim to the national Technical Hazardous Liquid Pipeline Safety Standards Committee, and he also serves on the steering committee for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipelines and Informed Planning Alliance. He has been invited to testify to both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives numerous times, and has been called as a witness by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The Washington Department of Ecology says its people soon will be checking out sources of fecal contamination in the Bertrand Creek area to try to get contamination of the Whatcom County creek water back to acceptable levels. But what does that have to do with politics?
Well, public pressure helped to convince a majority of Whatcom County Council members to go easy on enforcement of state-mandated septic tank regulations. Owners of those systems objected to the cost of professional inspections, and to the even higher costs for repairs and replacements of failing systems.
As a result, county officials have insisted on strict compliance only in the Lake Whatcom and Drayton Harbor areas. Faced with fines for non-compliance, system owners in those areas have mostly gotten their systems into shape, Health Department officials have reported. But in other areas, there have been no legal consequences for non-compliance, and compliance reportedly is low.
Information on county regulations is available here.
Some County Council members justified the non-enforcement by arguing that there was no evidence that leaking tanks were causing real trouble in most areas.
The Department of Ecology reports that as recently as 2003, Bertrand Creek water’s fecal coliform levels were within state standards. That is no longer the case. Fecal coliform levels have tripled since then.
Ecology reports that this spring, its inspectors will be working in the Bertrand Creek watershed to identify pollution sources, which could be from livestock as well as septic systems. Ecology provides details and a watershed map here.
It also occurs to me that the increased contamination levels could be at least partly explained by reduced water flow in Bertrand Creek, which has been subject to increased withdrawals for agriculture in recent years.
Withdrawals of water from the Nooksack River have prompted local Indian tribes to seek federal intervention to determine how much water is guaranteed to them under treaty rights, for their own use and to maintain healthy salmon and shellfish populations.
Bertrand Creek flows into the Nooksack, which enters Bellingham Bay on the eastern side of the Lummi Indian Reservation. Contaminated river water poses a threat to tribal shellfish harvests on the tideflats.
An important election is in the hands of Ferndale voters today.
After years of fundraising and City Council promises of monetary support, city and library officials and friends hope to break ground on a new $5.4 million library this summer near City Hall.
They need just one more lump sum to fully fund the project, and they are asking voters for it.
The $550,000 bond issue on the April 23 ballot, plus a partial match from a donor, would ensure the library’s construction before some of the money is rescinded. Construction must begin in August, or the Norcliffe Foundation pulls its $250,000 grant.
The bond would be repaid by a property tax on city residents that amounts to $11.86 a year for the owner of a $250,000 home.
Friends of the Ferndale Library and New Ferndale Library NOW will get out the word with four street rallies between now and Election Day. Ballots were mailed Friday, April 5, according to Friends, so the time is ripe for them to take to the streets.
The first rally is tomorrow, Tuesday, 4 to 6 p.m., on the Nooksack River bridge on Main Street. There will be a second rally at that location one week later, along with two other rallies, at the high school. Commuters heading home should be aware of the rallies, especially the ones on busy Main Street. Those commuters should in any case be driving slowly enough to read every pro-bond sign out there, given that street’s traffic levels.
Here are copies of an email from Friends President Norine Amend and a press release from the groups:
The Friends of the Ferndale Library and New Ferndale Library NOW are faced with turning out over 2115 votes with only a few weeks notice. The City voted to hold an election on March 4th and the ballots were mailed to Ferndale voters on April 5th. They need to be dropped in the City ballot box by City Hall or postmarked by April 23rd. Even April 23rd is a challenge since our Ferndale Post Office no longer has a 5:30 PM pick up. The last pick-up each day is at noon.
We believe the four rallies planned are an important step in bringing attention to this single item election that has had very little publicity.
The press release:
Four “Turn-Out-The Vote” rallies will follow the arrival of City ballots in Ferndale. Two rallies will take place on the Ferndale Nooksack River Bridge from 4-6 PM on April 9th and 16th. Two rallies near Ferndale High School at Vista and Washington will be held on April 12th and 19th, also from 4-6 PM. All rallies have been organized by Friends of the Ferndale Library and New Ferndale Library NOW. For more information, contact email@example.com
Students from pre-school to high school are invited to bring creative signs or even favorite books and participate with library supporters of all ages to raise awareness of the bond election and to support a New Ferndale Library NOW!
Over 2115 votes need to be cast by April 23rd to validate the City election with a 60% approval of the $550,000 bond (Prop 1) to complete the remaining 10% of fundraising for the new Ferndale Library.
It started out as a bill to protect employees and job applicants from having to disclose Facebook and other social media information to bosses and prospective bosses.
The original text of the bill declares that employers have no right to demand social media access from their workers and their job applicants.
But now, according to this report from AP, business groups have proposed an amendment that would allow employers to get workers’ social media information if they are investigating workplace misconduct, such as supplying trade secrets to competitors.
UPDATE: The amendment was introduced Tuesday, April 2 and withdrawn the next day. Here is AP’s followup report.
I’m not sure of the status of this amendment. The link to it on the Legislature’s page contains the word “withdrawn,” so perhaps this proposal is dead for now. Stay tuned.
“Under the amendment, employees would be present when their social network profiles are searched and whatever information found is kept confidential, unless it is relevant to a criminal investigation,” the AP says.
Hmm. It seems to me that if the purpose of these social media searches is detection of criminal behavior, a search warrant is required. Law enforcement agencies can’t get a search warrant without some evidence to back it up, and evidence of criminality that is improperly obtained by those agencies is not admissible in court, under many circumstances.
UPDATE CONTINUED: Apparently this type of concern prompted the amendment’s sponsor to pull it.
This is probably just another footnote to our society’s ongoing effort to figure out how, and how not, to use social media. But this kind of thing bears watching.
The regulatory agencies joining forces on the environmental study of the Gateway Pacific Terminal coal export pier have issued a report summarizing the comments received on the scope of that study.
UPDATE: The comments from federal and state agencies may be of special interest. With few exceptions, those agencies join environmentalists in calling for a sweeping scope of study for this terminal. Those comments begin on p. 81.
The Washington Department of Commerce is the only such agency aligning itself firmly with Gateway Pacific’s backers on climate change issues. The Commerce comment letter asks that regulatory agencies not establish “new precedents under state law that would unduly burden a wide variety of future projects,” and not allow this and other projects “to serve as proxies for bigger debates such as how best to reduce global reliance on fossil fuels.”
Commerce also wants the environmental impact statement to do a thorough job of adding up the economic benefits from the project.
But Commerce also calls for a wide-ranging review of possible negative impacts on property values near the rails, the economic impact of rail crossing delays “for the Puget Sound region and beyond.”
Commerce also suggests that public costs to improve those rail crossings should be subtracted from additions to public revenue.
Commerce’s Jan. 22, 2013 letter is signed by Rogers Weed, the executive director appointed by former Gov. Chris Gregoire. Brian Bonlender, Gov. Inslee’s former chief of staff in Congress was appointed by Inslee to replace Weed. Bonlender took over Commerce’s top post on Feb. 1.
The Washington Department of Agriculture, whose leaders had expressed some enthusiasm for Gateway Pacific as a possible export outlet for wheat, expresses misgivings in a comment letter. Agriculture’s letter calls for an analysis of the project’s impacts on rail traffic throughout the state, especially as increased demands on rail capacity might affect the availability of rail for crops that are already reliant on access to a share of that capacity.
Agriculture officials also want study of possible disruption of rail links to existing agricultural ports, and how changes in air and water quality could affect agriculture.
The document made public April 1, 2013 is a summary of comments, not the key decision on what the scope of the environmental impact statement for Gateway Pacific will be. The summary says that decision will be made “in the near future.” I have asked for (but will not necessarily get) some specific information on what “near” means in this context.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Washington Department of Ecology, and Whatcom County Planning Department are pooling their resources to develop a single environmental impact statement to analyze how SSA Marine’s proposed Cherry Point terminal will affect the environment, and what steps would need to be taken to compensate for (mitigate) any negative effects.
Opponents of the terminal have argued that the environmental impact statement must study global and regional impacts, not just local ones. Global impacts would include climate change and its associated ills (rising sea level, ocean acidification) from the burning of exported coal in China. Gov. Jay Inslee recently joined Oregon Gov. Jon Kitzhaber in calling for such a review by the federal government.
Regional impacts would include the possible disruptions from increased rail traffic from Cherry Point to the mines in the Powder River basin of Wyoming and Montana. The terminal would attract an estimated nine loaded trains per day–trains that would pass through Bellingham and Ferndale on their way to Cherry Point. They would return empty along the same route.
During recent hearings on Bellingham waterfront development, many commenters expressed fears that waterfront revitalization efforts would be hamstrung by the railroad tracks that slice through the old Georgia-Pacific Corp. mill site.
But the business interests and labor unions backing Gateway Pacific have argued that an environmental impact statement that is too broad and comprehensive would be unfair, setting a precedent that could harm other proposals. They characterize a review of global impacts as “bureaucracy.”
Whatcom County Democrats and self-published authors Ruth Higgins and Al Krause will appear Sunday, April 14, at Village Books to promote “Lessons from the Obama 2012 Grassroots Campaign: What Two Devoted Volunteers Learned.”
Below is the blurb from Village Books. While it appears the authors’ admiration of President Obama hasn’t dimmed, the book seems to explore the tensions that can develop between campaign staff and volunteers. (I haven’t seen the book. I’m just gleaning this from the blurb.)
Sunday, April 14, 4 p.m.
Village Books, Bellingham, 1200 11th St.
Lessons from the Obama 2012 Grassroots Campaign
Ruth Higgins and her husband, Al Krause, started campaigning to re-elect President Obama in the summer of 2011 with Organizing for America, the president’s grassroots movement. With a group of like-minded volunteers, they organized a neighborhood team that covered most of Whatcom County outside of Bellingham. Soon they were recognized for having one of the largest and strongest teams in the nation.
In February, when the President came to Bellevue, Higgins and Krause were invited to have their picture taken with him. But by late summer, they were disenchanted, not with the President, rather by a young staff member who bullied volunteers and was not cautioned by superiors. The couple reported their experience, from elation to disappointment, in their book, “Lessons from the Obama 2012 Grassroots Campaign: What Two Devoted Volunteers Learned.”
Ruth Higgins and Al Krause who previously lived in Salt Lake City and San Francisco, had modest involvement in politics until they retired and moved to Washington, where they got involved with the 2008 Obama campaign. Now they are active in the Whatcom Democrat party. Higgins is a Precinct Committee Officer and she is working with other PCOs to recruit leaders for precincts where positions are open. She and Krause helped organize a campaign event for two candidates for the state Legislature.
I don’t know the authors; then again, I don’t know a lot of people. I found this description from their book’s Amazon page helpful:
About the Author
Al Krause and Ruth Higgins have been together since 1992. She was living in Salt Lake City and he was living in San Francisco. They met in the home of friends in Seattle and they married in the same house in 1994. Ruth, who grew up near Vancouver, BC, first worked in hospital medical records, then quality measurement and improvement. A graduate of Westminster College in Utah she earned an MBA at Fontbonne University in St. Louis, MO, she held management positions with the Veterans Administration, the University of Utah Medical Center and Chinese Hospital in San Francisco. Al, a graduate of Westminster College in Pennsylvania, served three years in the Army Security Agency, including a tour in Korea. He worked ten years in advertising in Philadelphia and over thirty years in public relations in San Francisco primarily in his own firms. Old enough to collect Social Security, but too young to retire, they moved to Birch Bay, WA in 2003, where they’ve written articles for local and national publications and been active in community affairs.
I’m off next week and will be away from the blog. I would only guess John Stark will continue his steady stream of posts — he’s giving you readers a healthy dose of coal news and views. Otherwise, just talk amongst yourselves.
I’ll miss you guys. … Sorry … I’m getting a little verklempt. Be back on Monday, April 8.
If you’ve been paying attention, you know that trainloads of coal are already passing through Whatcom County on the way to export terminals in Canada. Environmental groups are now reporting that coal is falling off these trains into the water elsewhere along their route.
In this report from KOMO, divers for Puget Soundkeeper Alliance say they are finding coal in the water along the rail route at Seattle’s Ballard Locks.
In this report from KGW in Portland, Columbia Riverkeeper reports similar findings in and around the Columbia Gorge.
In my occasional walks along the South Bay Trail to Boulevard Park, I have been checking for traces of coal as I cross the BNSF Railway Co. tracks. So far I haven’t noticed anything.
I have recently heard reports of coal being found around the tracks along the north end of the bay, where the prevailing southerly winds would blow across the cars.
Until the 1950s, Bellingham had its very own coal mine. I suppose it is possible that coal spilled from that era is still visible in places along the tracks. I don’t pretend to know.
If you have found any, feel free to post a comment or drop me a line: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The environmentalists, who are giving the fight against Gateway Pacific Terminal and other projects their maximum effort, are warning that the coal problems can be expected to get worse if GPT and other proposed northwest coal ports are allowed.