By John Stark
U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell have joined Whatcom County’s two U.S. House representatives, Rick Larsen and Suzan DelBene in urging President Barack Obama to designate a national monument in the San Juan Islands.
Here is the joint press release from the four Democrats, which includes the text of their letter to Obama:
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a joint letter sent Monday, the Northwest Washington Congressional delegation called on President Barack Obama to take action to conserve close to 1,000 acres of federally owned land on the San Juan Islands with a Presidential National Monument designation.
U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representatives Rick Larsen (D-WA-2), and Suzan DelBene (D-WA-1) urged President Obama to make such a designation prior to the departure of Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar later this year. Salazar has led the Administration’s efforts on conserving the federally owned lands in the San Juan Islands, including holding multiple community forums in Washington state over the last several years. Salazar announced on January 16 that he would leave the post and return to Colorado later this year.
In the letter to President Obama, Cantwell, Murray, Larsen and DelBene also announced their intention to reintroduce legislation in the 113th Congress that would conserve the land through a Congressional National Conservation Area (NCA) designation. Currently, there is no long-term comprehensive management plan for these lands, which the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) oversees.
“As the 113th Congress and your second term commence, we write to renew our support for the dual-track approach to conserving certain federally owned land parcels in the San Juan Islands that are managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM),” Cantwell, Murray, Larsen and DelBene wrote. “While we will continue to push for the swift passage of our legislation to conserve these areas, we want to make clear that we believe a National Monument designation offers another pathway that could expedite our shared goals. Before Secretary Salazar leaves office, we urge you to consider designating a National Monument in the San Juan Islands, bringing his and our efforts to fruition.”
The citizen-driven effort to preserve these lands has generated widespread, passionate support from the community. In February 2012, Cantwell, Salazar and members of the community held a public meeting in Anacortes to discuss federal efforts to preserve the land. In July 2011, Cantwell and Larsen held a community listening session in Friday Harbor to hear feedback on the effort to create a National Conservation Area. In April 2011, Salazar held a meeting in Washington state with state and local leaders to discuss San Juan Islands conservation efforts.
Permanent protection of the approximately 1,000 acres of federally owned lands would ensure it remains in its current state and publicly accessible, despite higher use. The federally owned lands include over 60 locations that range from pine forests to lighthouses and are visited by more than 70,000 people every year.
“A National Monument designation will protect the sensitive and beautiful BLM lands in the San Juan Islands and would make a lasting impact of the hundreds of hours of service made by local volunteers to care for the land,” said Tom Reeve, a member of the Islanders for the San Juan Islands National Conservation Area. “We applaud the leadership of our Congressional delegation and urge President Obama to act now to meet the call of San Juan islanders to preserve these cherished lands for future generations of islanders and visitors.”
Full text of the letter is below.
January 28, 2013
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
As the 113th Congress and your second term commence, we write to renew our support for the dual-track approach to conserving certain federally owned land parcels in the San Juan Islands that are managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). While we intend to reintroduce legislation to protect these cherished lands permanently through a Congressional National Conservation Area designation, we fully support your alternative efforts to conserve these same lands through a Presidential National Monument designation (an authority that Congress granted as part of the Antiquities Act of 1906) if such a designation ensures the same level of community involvement as the legislative effort.
The BLM manages approximately 1,000 acres in the San Juan Islands that are important wildlife habitat and draw thousands of tourists every year. Secretary of the Interior Salazar has been particularly helpful to our efforts to preserve these lands. We greatly appreciated his visits in April 2011 and February 2012 to engage local stakeholders and discuss the best way to protect and preserve public access to these unique federal parcels. His willingness to listen to our local constituents and their concerns about the legislation and National Monument designation was instrumental in gaining local support for the dual-track approach. The volunteer community group that first developed the idea of a National Conservation Area, in addition to local, state and tribal stakeholders, now supports a National Monument designation as well. While we will continue to push for the swift passage of our legislation to conserve these areas, we want to make clear that we believe a National Monument designation offers another pathway that could expedite our shared goals.
Before Secretary Salazar leaves office, we urge you to consider designating a National Monument in the San Juan Islands, bringing his and our efforts to fruition. Thank you for your interest in the San Juan Islands. We look forward to working with you to protect these areas for future generations.
By John Stark
Will the Obama administration allow the state of Washington to overturn federal law by referendum?
That’s one question overshadowing the controversy over how the federal government should respond to the state vote that decriminalized recreational marijuana possession — while directing state officials to set up a system to enable state residents to buy the stuff legally too.
The AP reports that Gov. Jay Inslee and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson emerged from a Tuesday, Jan. 22 meeting with Attorney General Eric Holder saying that they heard nothing to dissuade them from moving ahead to implement the law that this state’s voters approved last November.
Inslee als0 made it clear that Holder listened, but did not talk. As yet, there has been no indication of how the feds will react when and if the state sets up a marijuana sales system n the state.
A lot of people are deeply committed to the legalization of drugs, for a variety of reasons.
But aside from the specifics of that issue, this case raises larger legal and constitutional problems. Can Holder and his boss allow a state to set aside a federal law by initiative? Before you answer yes, stop to think about how other states might wish to apply this principle.
If Obama accepts the principle on marijuana, he will have a harder time rejecting it when hostile states pass initiatives blocking the individual health care mandate, greenhouse gas emission controls, and so forth.
MORE INFO: A Seattle law group is using its website to advertise its expertise in marijuana law, including the new pot initiative 502. Among other things, Canna Law Group notes that it sued the city of Bellingham in an (unsuccessful) effort to block prosecution of medical marijuana dispensaries.
The law group offers this disclaimer: “Please be mindful that possessing, using, distributing and selling marijuana are all federal crimes and neither the forms we provide you nor any legal advice we give you are intended to assist you in violating federal law nor will they in any way assist you in complying with federal law.”
By John Stark
President Barack Obama has begun his second term, and we are awash in predictions and punditry.
How do the next four years look from your vantage point in Bellingham and Whatcom County? What did you think of his speech? What are your hopes and/or fears for the next four years?
What did you think of his pledge to take action on climate change?
Post your thoughts in the comments section.
By John Stark
Amid all the chatter about the trillion-dollar coin, Ross Douthat at the New York Times offers some sensible political analysis. He argues (convincingly, I think) that if Obama and his party were seen to be seriously considering such a move, they would look even crazier than the Republicans and shift the tide of public opinion back in the Republicans’ direction.
By John Stark
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has had some time to reconsider his sharp critique of his own party, which we blogged here . He seems to have decided to keep those critiques coming.
Jindal was quick to respond to Mitt Romney’s remark that Obama bought victory at the polls by “gifts” to minorities and young voters.
“I think that’s absolutely wrong,” Jindal said. “We have got to stop dividing the American voters. We need to go after 100 percent of the votes, not 53 percent.“
Jindal may not be alone in those sentiments. He was speaking on a public panel alongside Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, whose battles with public employee unions made him the target of much animosity. Walker seconded at least some of what Jindal was saying.
The Republican Party is not “just for people who are currently not dependent on the government,” Walker told CNN. “It’s for all Americans.”
Let’s see if this “big tent strategy” gains any traction in the party and the nation. Has Jindal come up with a winning strategy for his speculative 2015 run for the presidency? Or has he said things that other Republican hopefuls will be able to use against him?
By John Stark
It was a long, long ballot bristling with people and issues that mattered, from the White House to the Port of Bellingham offices on Roeder Avenue. The local races are in some ways the most suspenseful, because there is seldom any polling data to warn us what the voters are going to do.
What election result was most surprising to you? Was it Obama’s win? Rob McKenna’s seemingly weak showing? (People are saying that one is too close to call, but McKenna’s weak showing in King County makes it hard to visualize a comeback for him in late rounds of vote counting.)
How about Democrat Suzan DelBene’s rather healthy margin over hardy perennial John Koster in the redrawn 1st District, which includes most of Whatcom County outside Bellingham?
Or was it the big margin of victory for the Bellingham Home Fund, with city residents once again enthusiastically embracing a tax increase?
How about the port commission expansion, which seemed to have broad-spectrum support in Bellingham but looks headed to a narrow defeat in countywide voting?
Please share your thoughts once or twice.
By John Stark
As I write this, (9:43 p.m.) everyone agrees that Obama has the electoral votes to win–even though Florida and Ohio are still too close to call. Were’t we being assured that it would all come down to Ohio and Florida?
By John Stark
This afternoon I expect to interview Jill Stein, Green Party presidential candidate, before her appearance at Western Washington University.
Stein’s public address is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19 in Academic Instructional Center West, Room 219. It is sponsored by the campus group Socialist Alternative.
The campaign website has extensive information about Stein and the Green Party platform.
In 2008, Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney got 210 votes in Whatcom County. Stein’s showing in November might be an interesting gauge of how many local environmental activists and liberals have become disenchanted with Barack Obama.
Here is the press release announcing Stein’s Bellingham appearance:
“Jill Stein will outline the Green New Deal for America, which would expand on the most successful aspects of the New Deal crafted by FDR that pulled our country out of the last great depression, in order to create sustainable green jobs and stronger communities in America instead of costly overseas military entanglements. She will also talk about why she thinks voting for either of the corporate-sponsored parties is a wasted vote and her proposals for reducing medical costs by her version of Health Care instead of Sick Care from the aspect of a trained physician who has worked extensively on public health issues.
Also speaking will be Green Party candidate Howard Pellet, running for Representative of the 40th district. Jill Stein’s and Howard Pellett’s opponents have been invited to this forum, but have either declined or not responded to invitations.”
(End press release)
By John Stark
Mitt Romney’s recent statements on abortion have brought that divisive issue back into the spotlight in the last 48 hours.
In an interview with the Des Moines Register, Romney said there was “no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda.”
It’s worth a listen. In this interview, Romney himself introduces the subject and takes pains to refute what he says is the false charge that he opposes all abortions, including in cases of rape, incest and risk to the life of the mother. Romney says he does NOT oppose abortion in those circumstances.
When that remark was interpreted as a shift, on Romney’s part, toward a more moderate position on the pro-life/pro-choice spectrum, he and his campaign people moved quickly to reaffirm the GOP Presidential candidate’s pro-life credentials.
“Soon after his remarks were posted online Tuesday, a Romney spokeswoman told the Associated Press, “Mitt Romney is proudly pro-life, and he will be a pro-life president,” the Los Angeles Times reported. “Gov. Romney would of course support legislation aimed at providing greater protections for life,” spokeswoman Andrea Saul said.
Kaiser Health News offers a good list of links to several different news reports about this issue.
By John Stark
Did the Wednesday night faceoff between President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, change your view of either man?
If you are a devout follower of either one, that’s fine. But spare us the partisan cheerleading, if you can. Tell us if the debate shifted your thinking, your leanings, your attitude in any way.
I’ll confess to tuning in a bit late, but from what I saw, Obama’s vaunted debate and speaking abilities were not much in evidence. To me he seemed tired–the Presidency seems to do that to people– and his delivery was often halting.
It was clear that Romney was working hard to convince us he’s a sensible moderate alternative–not a wild-eyed right-wing radical. He spoke earnestly about the need for government regulations.
In the discussion of Medicare, it seemed as though the world was turned upside down. Romney–standard-bearer for the party of fiscal conservatism–repeatedly bashed Obama for cutting billions from Medicare by reducing the reimbursement rates the government pays to health care providers.
But both Romney and Obama agreed on the obvious need to bring down the cost of health care. The fact is that private insurers are also trying to control costs by holding down reimbursement rates. Here is a local example.
Cutting back on reimbursements is a simple way to force health care providers to cut their own costs. Maybe too simple. But if health care costs are really going to be cut, then we need to spend less on health care. Am I missing something?
By John Stark
When President Barack Obama announced he would “defer” the deportation of some illegal immigrants and allow them to apply for temporary work permits, he was denounced for enacting “amnesty” without action from Congress. Now, Mitt Romney says he has no immediate plans to undo Obama’s action, if elected.
In an interview with the Denver Post, Romney said he plans to take no action against those who have already taken Obama up on his offer of a two-year work permit. To qualify, “those eligible must have arrived in America before they turned 16, be under the age of 30, have been living in the country for five or more years, and be either in the military, in school or graduated,” acording to The Post.
The Post story also quotes an Obama spokeswoman saying that Romney’s recent remarks to the Post have not clarified his position on immigration issues, and on whether he would enact the hard-line measures that some Republican factions would prefer.
UPDATE: Immigration attorney Margaret Stock notes that Romney misused the term “visa” in his remarks. The temporary work permits authorized by the Obama administration are not visas, Stock said.
UPDATE 2: Here’s the New York Times take on this episode, with expanded remarks from Margaret Stock.
UPDATE 3: Stock also suggested this link to a page on the State Department website, explaining exactly what a visa is.
By John Stark
Political analysts of every stripe are weighing in on the significance of the upcoming presidential debate on Wednesday, and the conventional wisdom is that this is Mitt Romney’s best hope to reverse Obama’s recent gains and pick up some momentum in the final weeks before the election.
In the Wall Street Journal, Gerald Seib offers a thoughtful and refreshingly non-partisan overview of the debate. Key excerpt:
“… the difficulty Mr. Romney faces is that the kinds of attacks most likely to change the dynamic of the race or produce a memorable moment also happen to undermine a parallel Romney need, which is to make more voters warm up to him. Even candidates who successfully attack in a debate often make themselves less likable in the process. And Mr. Romney doesn’t have much likability to spare. On the other hand, he has less to lose at this point, which can be a liberating condition.”
In the Boston Globe, Callum Borchers notes recent poll data that shows Obama widening his lead over Romney in key swing states, even as the two men appear to be neck-and-neck in the overall popular vote.
Borchers offers this quote from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, predicting that the debate will shift many voters back to Romney.
“You saw the change in those polls happen very quickly, and I’m here to tell you this morning it can happen very quickly back the other way,” Christie said. “And I think the beginning of that is Wednesday night, when Governor Romney, for the first time, gets on the same stage as the president of the United States, and people can make a direct comparison about them and their visions for the future.’’
BTW– if you or your organization is planning any kind of public-invited debate-watching event in Bellingham and Whatcom County, feel free to post that info here as a comment.
By John Stark
Iran’s semi-official FARS news agency appears to have been fooled by a story in The Onion, which provided bogus poll results indicating that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is more popular than Barack Obama among rural white U.S. voters.
I notice that The Onion staff, vigilant and helpful as ever, has noted the FARS report and provides a link to it, referring to FARS as “our Iranian subsidiary organization.” That’s not really true, is it?
By John Stark
Many Democrats seem to be icing down the champagne for an Election Night celebration, but Mitt Romney could still overcome Barack Obama’s apparent lead in opinion polls, says John Cassidy, writing in the New Yorker.
While Obama’s lead in the polls is significant, Cassidy notes that late-September margins typically get a lot tighter by Election Day, and the presidential debates are still to come.
Also still to come: economic and international headlines known only to Nostradamus. Will the October surprises benefit the President, or the challenger?
Also on the New Yorker website, the always-helpful Andy Borowitz offers still more comfort to the Romney camp under this headline: “Romney ahead in presidential race, say replacement refs.”
In one of the least-surprising developments of the week, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s economic stimulus actions, announced Thursday, Sept. 13, have triggered a lot of political commentary.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Stephen Moore suggests that Bernanke is injecting new financial stimulus to help Barack Obama’s reelection prospects and thereby save his own job. Republican challenger Mitt Romney has said he will replace Bernanke if he is elected.
If Romney is, in fact, elected and Bernanke is shown the door, I’m guessing Bernanke won’t be unemployed any longer than he wants to be.
Romney himself had this reaction to the Fed’s moves: He called the stimulus a “sugar high” for the U.S. economy, according to this AFP report.