|The Whatcom Excavator||
WE found a new series on YouTube: Nanny of the Month. This episode is about a government ban on bikini baristas. Keeping with our local-content policy, this is a tale about something that happened here in Washington State, in Shelton. And it might fit right here in Banningham, WA. This has become such a Banana Republic.
Are bikini baristas sexist? Maybe a bit. But so then, are beaches, Sports Illustrated, Victoria's Secret, fashion models, Hollywood... Why, Mommy? Why not let the free market sift the chaff from wheat? We're all consenting adults living in a free country -- or we would be if only the busybody nannies would let us grow up and make our own decisions, and take responsibility for our own lives. And maybe have a little fun once in a while.
Angry sign, recently seen.
Futurewise has been power-tripping the light fantastic, over the moon, since it won its rural element "water" case against Whatcom County at the Growth Management Hearings Board (GMHB) on June 7. Maybe you've seen or heard the hyperbole that's been flooding the press and radio airwaves about it.
Depite all the early whoop, on Tuesday night former county planning director and current Bellingham city county planning employee David Stalheim spat flames and venom at council in person, threatening to "play hardball" ("...it's going to be long and it's going to be expensive," and, "You dig holes, and you dig 'em deeper"). Dog-gonnit, this county had better knuckle under and restrict growth more that it does already, or else. Bullies do things like that.
By all accounts, the evidence given to the Growth Management Hearings Board in the latest water diatribe was cherry picked to make it appear that the county has done "absolutely nothing" in the last ten years to protect water, allowed pollution, and failed-failed-failed to protect fish (check out the decision's voluminous footnotes). And it seems that the all-appointee GMHB ate-up the mountain of vague reports and odd accounts of "science" presented by Futurewise's attorney and WWU prof, prior planning commissioner Jean Melious. Check out the Stalheim-Melious blog "Get Whatcom Planning." It's regularly loaded with bitter complaints, dramatic interpretations of law, and rather pathetic and phobic-sounding posts about germs and "poop" in an unfair world.
Melious pleaded to the GMHB that dire neglect and "lack of water" have created a crisis that requires strict "measures" despite the reality that this is, and will very likely remain, a rain capital on the Pacific Ocean. (Uh, step outside but better take your umbrella.)
With this "ruling" - Melious and Stalheim and their very tight band of city supporters fiercely intend to have their way in many respects: reductions of land use to 20% or lower, even stricter restrictions of "impervious surfaces," more plantings, etc. and so forth. There was even talk between Melious and the board about a "moratorium" on permits if need be, which is something citizens cringe to hear. The Lake Whatcom moratorium has lived on and on - well over 10 years.
Denying folks the use of water and land - the property they've dreamed to use, paid taxes on, and will continue to pay taxes on - was discussed glibly as a practical necessity for what? To retain "rural character." Would all these regulatory impositions and losses be compensated? Forget that. Color that precious rural character increasingly desperate and frustrated as the rural community itself is run not by residents but by regulation.
Mind you, Futurewise isn't the only party looking to win big in this legal battle that has waged on for years. The grossly ballooned conservation industry and tribes stand to do very well cashing in on restrictions and resources they've cobbled-up to the tune of "How dry I am". It's sad to think that few everyday folk can afford the outrageous cost of environmental "restoration" that never quite meets elusive and ever changing goals. Elaborate retrofitting for stormwater and other "solutions" can run into the tens of thousands, and some have little practical value most particularly in sparsely settled rural areas. (Remember, all this is supposedly saving rural areas - the "rural element" of the comprehensive plan.)
Other "solutions" waiting in the wings are crippling (like buying credits from the newly-created Lummi Wetland and Habitat Mitigation Bank, at $200,000 per credit or share), or from the Washington Water Bank which has been sniffing the environs. Some very cozy crony relationships have developed, including well paid-partnerships that - let's face it - have become routine patronage. Planning-buddy outfits like Farm Friends and ReSources are constantly on the dole - along with sole source relationship vendors like Dumas, Blake, and Peterson. Facilitators can work deals from agencies simultaneously for "outreach" while fishing and nudging grants along that rely on this crisis scenario. (Facilitators coordinated the recent "certainty" symposium at considerable cost).
The deepest price of all this is paid by the public in personal disappointment if permits are denied to those who can't afford expensive testing and other requirements. The ability to put a thrifty trailer or modest home on a rural lot is slipping out of reach. It skews rural life, which used to be practical. It may be no big deal for the rich. But even those who can afford kneel-and-deal permits may be forced to encumber their deeds forever to trusts or to forfeit extra buffers and open space, just to build or to get water. It's unsettling to think that rural property owners should be commandeered to agree to unspecified future demands to merely use their land, or to access water in this wet place. But that's what "measures" mean to Futurewise and friends. The planning bureaucrats have paved an impervious trail that led to this point. How did Stalheim put it when he challenged council? Something like, "We've built a case". Yes, he did - they did.
Finding a place for a home has become very tough for the young, the struggling, for retirees, and others who can barely get by in this county. Those with only lint in their pockets have avoided the high-tax, high-rent cities to live in rural areas. That demographic - that reality - is well known. Now, thanks to the strong-arm tactics of Futurewise and the growing mitigation industry, rural living will become even more unaffordable for the neediest.
Given this ugly trend, WE thought we'd share this excerpt from a Tom DeWeese, American Policy Center piece. It's depressing; sorry about that. But it hits close to home, here on the heels of yet another Futurewise-GMHB decision:
So the "coal port" story hit the national news on MSNBC tv, May 31st. The video's been 'talk of the town in some circles. Check it out for yourself: (sorry, there's always an ad)
Once you've had a chuckle or two at the bungled mispronunciation of the word "Whatcom," you may agree that this nationally broadcast featurette put a very interesting spin on the tough up-down permitting decision that lies ahead for County Council.
WE were irritated that these reporters implied, throughout, that this decision is mighty big for a parochial, podunk local legislature (a county council). The tone was very "Oh my" and "Tsk-tsk."
So, MSNBC - "What about local decision-making seems so odd?" WE realize some elitists don't grasp the concept of representative government, but this was a mighty crass put-down.
In response, WE'd ask, "Who do they think would make a better job of it? People who don't live here?" (It sure sounded like this pair felt that outsiders would know best.)
Then, the newsies shifted gears to say that that big money is headed here ("coal money" and millions, no less) - supposedly to fill local election coffers and (we presume) sway judgment.
Now, that was downright insulting. Whatcom County is too small for dirty 19th century Tammany Hall tactics. Nobody would get away with it, even if they wanted to (WE hope).
Watching this led us to wonder, "Who would drum up such a sleazy story?" It's hard to believe that GPT supporters would put that spin on it, though opponents might benefit from such insinuations.
Another thing about this story seemed creepy. After the talking heads more or less suggested that our council is small potatoes and vulnerable to bribes, they went on to chatter that Governor Inslee has taken a position. One of the last lines was, "Even though we know what his view is, he can't step in." WE generally focus on local, and don't follow the man. So we dredged a bit and discovered that Inslee and his followers have created a substantial "greenest governor" legend for the guy. Is it possible that his legend involves thinly veiled wink-and-a-nod prejudice for certain endeavors, before the facts are in? WE hope that ain't so.
Read this story about the recent joint Washington/Oregon letter that was transmitted from Olympia to the White House (see the actual letter).
If it's true that the governor’s taken this thinly-veiled anti terminal position, what expectation of impartiality and honest handling could proponents expect at the hands of his state agencies?
There's a long way to go on the GPT issue. WE expect the process to move forward in a way that's objective, fair, and impartial. But with press like this flame-bait - plus Inslee's political nudging in D.C. - can it be?
For the record, WE do trust this council to do the right thing - meaning, to be scrupulously thorough and fair. 'Hope they don't blow principle for politics.
The local Whatcom Tea Party got its start in 2009 as the "Bellingham Tea Party," then it grew and expanded county-wide. It's just updated its website with a new look and format. Their web address, if you want to check this out, is still whatcomteaparty.org.
This update is news? Well, in a way, yes. What's newsworthy is seeing that liberty continues to ring modern despite efforts to diminish and quash the movement. Perhaps you missed the recent hearings in D.C. about the IRS asking "are you now of have you ever been" questions of patriotic groups. That was followed by the irritating news that the NSA has been mining masses of domestic phone and bank metadata. Closer to home, many have been chaffed by this county's being a testing ground for some of the most oppressive regulations in the state - often framed as "more than necessary" and voluntary.
Universal, left or right
Despite the growing bureaucracy's heavy handed policies into ag and woody rural areas, the joyful rural body politic of self-reliance and individualism lives on. Four years since the campaign began, tens of thousands of "We The People" signs stand fresh, with more popping up every day. Hope for justice and reason springs eternal.
As for the website update, WE were pleased to see that the following short feature remains on the tea party's home page:
What Part of “Infringe” Don’t They Understand?
WE concur. Rights are so fundamental to our being they can't be taken, but they're vulnerable to battery and denial. The big question that bureaucrats pursue is, "What rights can be bent to achieve the greater good?" As it's an election year, ask candidates questions about crossing the line if you can. They may just blink at you, but ask. The tea party's site is a good place to bone up on the basics; check it out. It's relevant.
WE don't know if the Herald will share this message, so here you go. (Do check out that list if you can. Look at the major hits on services to the elderly, medical services, architecture and engineering, computer businesses, publishing, finance, accounting ... leaving few unscathed all the way down to teensie businesses. All this to feed rivers of grant money, hand over fist, into preferred programs.)
From State Rep. Jason Overstreet
42nd District, June 5, 2013
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Today is the 24th day of the 30-day special session. Budget negotiators have been meeting behind closed doors, but the only floor action to take place, in fact the only time the full House of Representatives has been in Olympia since the governor called the special session, was last Thursday.
The only bill we took action on was House Bill 2064, a bill that would provide another tax revenue stream. The bill would reinstate the estate tax, or death tax, on married couples’ assets. The reason this issue has come up is in response to another Washington State Supreme Court ruling. The bill passed 51-40, essentially along party lines with all Republicans and one Democrat voting against it.
The measure contains a retroactivity clause requiring 65 families, who have deceased family members, to pay about $138 million in taxes to the state Department of Revenue.
I strongly believe the bill is unconstitutional based on Article 1, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution and Article 1, Section 23 of the Washington State Constitution, both of which prohibit ex post facto lawmaking. This piece of legislation reinstates the death tax and reaches beyond the grave to penalize the deceased person’s family, and adds insult to injury by engaging in the unconstitutional practice of retroactivity.
You may remember during the regular legislative session I introduced House Bill 1099, which would repeal this tax. That is the best solution for this issue. A farmer may be property rich, but cash poor – this tax hits these folks hard. It’s not a tax on the rich, it is a tax on deceased person’s family and remaining estate. Repealing the estate tax could also result in more family businesses growing in size, more jobs, and more tax revenues, instead of pushing businesses to close to comply with the estate tax law.
I also find it ironic that we were called back for one vote and two hours of deliberation in caucus and floor time at taxpayer expense, and the only bill we pass is one that taxes people so the state can have more of their money instead of allowing them to pass it along to their families.
The Seattle Times editorial has it right. Read Don’t just ‘fix’ the state estate tax, repeal it.
The Senate has a different version of the bill – Senate Bill 5939 – which contains the same retroactivity clause, but would make long-term reductions in the estate tax. The Washington State Wire article, Death and Taxes Create First Drama of Special Session – Senate Goes Eyeball-to-Eyeball With House Over Estate Tax, provides an overview of the issue.
Taxing Main Street businesses
This tax increase hits more than just the doctors, lawyers and accountants the majority party in the House would like you to believe. The list is very extensive and targets child day care services, employment services, grantmaking and giving services, home health care services, nursing care facilities, performing arts companies, radio and television broadcasting, real estate activities, trade schools and countless self-employed people.
Skagit River Bridge
I also wanted to give you the latest update on the Skagit River Bridge collapse given the importance of this major transportation artery in our region. Currently, the timeline to have a temporary bridge in place is slated for mid-June and a permanent span in place by mid-September. Below are some links with information that are being updated as things progress.
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