Letters to the Editor: September 25 – October 1, 2014

The Editor:
I am now a senior, but looking at photos of my grandfather as a young boy I am startled to realize how different his day-to-day life was from mine, just 100 years ago. Earth’s population was about 1.8 billion, and the Industrial Age was young.
Earth’s population is now almost 8 billion, and we have gobbled up most naturally existing liquid oil, but continue to dig for every last drop. Blind to healthier options, we continue to overuse fossil fuels. We are clear cutting forests, blowing up mountains, digging huge holes, leaving behind toxic sludge, dumping garbage into the ocean and depleting soil with industrial agriculture.
In 1970 scientists began taking core samples in deep ice, analyzing pockets of air trapped over time. They found that the CO2 content in the atmosphere had remained relatively constant for millennia, averaging 250 ppm. In 1956, NOAA scientists in Hawaii and 100 other sites worldwide began daily atmospheric studies, revealing rapid escalation of CO2, now at 400 ppm and rising. Our burning ever more fossil fuels for over 200 years has created a greenhouse effect causing temperature rise. What the oceans and vegetation cannot absorb remains trapped in our atmosphere for decades, causing unusual weather patterns.
An August U.N. draft report states, “Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”
The unprecedented rate of heat increase from burning fossil fuels in such a short speck of geologic time must be taken seriously. We must aggressively transition to sustainable energy sources for future survival. Eight billion people relying on the dirtiest, most expensive fossil fuels is a fatal error.
We have lost sight of what the earth provides: energy and heat from the sun; and oceans, trees and vegetation, which absorb CO2, regulate weather patterns and provide rich soil for healthy food.
Our resources deserve respect and protection. At this point our choices must be wise, so vote this November as if your life depended on it, because it does.
Christine Westland
Birch Bay

The Editor:
You deserve to know where I, as a candidate for the 42nd district State Representative, stand on a critical issue. When talking with voters I am often met with tax anxiety, and rightly so. The governor and Democrats are proposing a carbon fuel tax, an additional increase on the gas tax, a state capital gains tax, and to top it off a state income tax.
The Washington State Democratic Party has adopted a policy on income taxes that is directly against the will of the voters. In 2010, voters overwhelmingly rejected Initiative 1098, which would have established a new state income tax, by more than 64 percent of the vote.
Despite the clear mandate against this new tax, state Democrats included creating a new income tax in the Democrat Party platform (which can be found on their website). With our tax burden so high, we do not need an additional state income tax. The voters have spoken. We are taxed enough.
Luanne Van Werven
Candidate for State Representative, 42nd district, position 1

The Editor:
In the last few months the mail service to our address has gone from bad to worse. There have been a few Saturdays we did not get any mail. About one month ago I complained about this.
There have been a few Mondays where the mail is delivered after 4 p.m. Last Saturday (September 13) we received no mail even though we had the flag up for a pick up.
On September 15, the mail was delivered after business hours – we close at 4 p.m. On September 17 we received no mail by 3 p.m.
We have been at the same address for 35 years and have never seen such a lousy service.
Sometimes we have received mail from our neighbor or from a business down the road.
Please let me know what can be done about this. I tried to call the post office numerous times, but all I get is a recordings and a run around.
I have heard plenty of people complain about the same problem.
Wolfgang Kommer

The Editor:
On Tuesday, September 15, CBC news reported that Scotland’s voter registration was 97 percent of eligible voters. The Bellingham Herald reported that 86 percent actually voted – truly representative of
the population.
According to national census data, only 57 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds even registered for the 2012 presidential election. Only 59 percent of 25- to 44-year-olds and 75 percent of those 45 to 75+ registered. In total, only 54.75 percent of the total registered population actually voted. That means a pitifully small percentage (about 15 percent) of eligible citizens of this country decided the election. This even includes qualified but non-registered citizens.
We complain about government but do not vote to change the policy makers. Other democracies around the world average 78 to 98 percent turnout. It is really scary to recognize that our older citizens – a population that will disappear over time – have the most votes that count. What will become of our representative government?
Citizens have the power to demand what they know to be important and right.
Please register, no matter how frustrated you are. Donate, organize, think, discuss and exercise your vote. This country certainly needs your democratic input.
Donna Starr

The Editor:
GPT proponents – those who deliberately misinform and those who are uninformed – tell us coal dust is not a problem. But proof that coal dust is a serious problem can be seen even in official railroad and coal export terminal documents.
In 2011 after two train derailments, BNSF successfully sued its own coal customer by proving that coal dust from rail cars causes train derailments. BNSF proved in court that Wyoming/Montana coal dust is “particularly harmful ballast,” a “serious problem for operational integrity,” “interferes with track stability to a much greater extent than other contaminants,” “destabilizes rail bed ballast,” and “when combined with water from extraordinary amounts of precipitation weakens the rail bed and causes track failure.”
Additionally, the court told BNSF that maintenance to remove coal dust from the rail bed does nothing to address “the harm to neighboring streams, people, and communities.” (http://1.usa.gov/XWiWT2)
Every day 18 GPT coal trains would use the very same track as the dangerous crude oil trains heading to Cherry Point. Every day 18 GPT coal trains would travel between the Montana/Wyoming coal mines and Cherry Point, spreading toxic coal dust and harming millions of people, environments and more than 100 communities along the route.
Communities surrounding Cherry Point would be further harmed by coal dust escaping from GPT’s 2.5 miles of six-story-high uncovered coal stockpiles.
A Canadian government study of Westshore coal terminal found it emitted 1.5 million pounds of coal dust per year. Since GPT would have twice as much uncovered coal as Westshore and GPT would use the same stockpile dust control techniques (primarily spraying water) as Westshore, it is likely that 3 million pounds of coal dust would escape from GPT’s uncovered coal stockpiles per year.
Wind would blow that coal dust in all directions for 5 miles or more onto surrounding communities, including Birch Bay. Toxic coal dust would contaminate the air we breathe, our neighborhoods, our property and the water upon which we and so many other creatures depend.
The facts may be scary but people in Whatcom County don’t run or hide – we oppose GPT.
Paula Rotundi

The Editor:
I am amazed at the caliber of people we have in today’s society. Flabbergasted, really. I went out Saturday morning with my bicycle and a garbage bag to pick up a bunch of trash by exit 274. It was a nice day to spread a bit of beauty, you know?
I put my bike down and picked up some trash. You would be surprised at how many beer cans and vodka bottles you find on the side of the road. You also find dozens of coffee cups, bottles filled with urine, burned CDs, soda bottles, miscellaneous trash, road kill, etc. Not the most pleasant things to be picking up (honestly I don’t pick up the road kill).
Well, I picked up a sack of trash and headed back, thinking to myself I should have brought two bags. There’s quite a bit of trash at exit 274!
I wasn’t gone 20 minutes picking up trash, and came back to my bike being gone. Yes. I am upset.
Matthew Sweeney

The Editor:
The Community Assistance Program needs 10 additional volunteers to help staff the clothing bank. With the distribution of winter coats on October 14, 15 and 17, a double shift of working volunteers is needed.
If you can commit to volunteer for the coat distribution on October 14, 15 and 17, please contact us immediately so we may schedule your time.
The clothing bank is adjacent to the food bank at 500 C Street and receives donations of new and gently used clothing, bedding and linens and dispenses them eachTuesday and Friday 9 a.m.–noon, and Wednesdays 5–7 p.m.
Serving the needs of 300 families each month requires a sizable pool of volunteers to ensure that we can provide sufficient staff to be open three days each week. The gift of your time is precious.
If you can find time in you life to make a difference in the lives of others, please contact me at 232-4457.
Rosemary Schmitz,
St. Martin’s Clothing Bank

The Editor:
Thanks to the hard work of thousands of Washington Education Association members across the state, Initiative 1351 to reduce class sizes will be on the November 4ballot.
Nearly 350,000 Washington voters signed the I-1351 petition, and local education association members helped collect those signatures. Our success is an indication of the widespread support for reducing our state’s overcrowded class sizes. Thank you!
Now, we need to make sure voters – our friends, family and coworkers – know why I-1351 is good for kids and why they should vote yes this fall.
The reasons to support I-1351 are compelling:
· Washington is 47th out of 50 in class sizes in the nation. Our kids deserve better.
· Small class sizes, which foster better connections between teachers and students, are the basic building blocks for academic success.
· Lower class sizes help struggling students receive the individual attention they need to get back on track.
· In subjects like math and science, small classes make it easier for kids get interested and engaged in these subjects that will help prepare them for success in our high-tech economy. It makes common sense – lower class sizes make it easier for students to get the attention they need to succeed in school. I-1351 benefits students in every grade, and from all backgrounds across the state.
· The initiative also increases the number of caring adults who help kids succeed in school every day.
To learn more about I-1351 and how you can get involved, visit ourvoicewashingtonea.org.
Thank you again for your support of our Blaine schools and programs. I am so grateful to live and teach in such a great community.
Andy Harmening

The Editor:
As a parent I’m really upset that gridlock and extreme partisanship in Olympia is preventing schools from giving every child in Washington a quality education. The supreme court has held the legislature in contempt for failing to fully fund schools or even to come up with a concrete plan to do so. Every incumbent should have to answer for this appalling situation.
The court’s order requires that we fund basic, common sense things that we all know work, like reducing the number of children in every class. Instead of developing a plan and working to fund it, many senate Republicans, including Doug Ericksen, have spent the last two years arguing about whether they need to follow the court’s ruling at all. Who cares? The legislature is failing our children; they shouldn’t argue that the court can’t make you fix the problem; you should just fix it.
We need a change in Olympia. I’m supporting Seth Fleetwood, who has demonstrated a leadership style that is collaborative. He takes on tough problems, brings people together, and gets things done. That’s a stark contrast to the incumbent who gets little done because he digs his heels in on extreme positions. Our kids deserve better.
David Stalheim

The Editor:
I’d like to find a way to say thank you to a couple of fantastic northern Washingtonians who helped my group of cyclists and me from north of the 49th this past weekend.
This is for Kathy (and her husband), who gave me a ride to the Woods Coffee at the Birch Bay outlet mall on I-5 at about 6:30 p.m. close to sundown.
I was with a group of riders who were trying to beat the coming sunset, and after I put my arm warmers on as a chill set in, I neglected to properly secure the closure to my seat bag. So as we started rolling, out popped my jacket, gloves and a set of cover-up riding pants that progressively wound themselves around my cassette, rear gear changer and spokes.
Fortunately I heard and felt some mechanical problems and unclipped my feet before I damaged myself as well. My little “burple” colored bike is now short a few limbs, but the body and my body are both fine thankfully.
I want to say thank you to Kathy who lives in a little blue house on Tromp Road. She’s totally awesome, and with her help I eventually made it back to Canada.
Also, a big thank you to the skilled barista last Saturday night at Woods Coffee, a voluptuous brunette with a fantastic smile, horse aspirations and grand hospitality. She offered me a soothing beverage, scones and chatted me up, all the while on duty solo that night.
Many thanks ladies! I’ve told our entire cycle group about you both.
As Washington state is a beautiful place to cycle, eat and caffeinate, I hope you don’t mind, but you’ll probably be seeing many more of us Canucks, down for a day to enjoy your fantastic hospitality.
Jodine Baluk
Coquitlam, B.C.

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