I take issue with Blaine City Council. I was asked to remove my “Turn of the Century, Antiques are Duty Free” sign from the tree in front of my building. I’ve been using it on and off for 20 years. I also had to remove my sign by Subway, next to the new oyster business sign. Subway also has a little sign held down by big rocks there. I don’t see a problem with any of them, and no doubt neither does anyone else. But our city council apparently does. Now I understand the precedent-setting nature of mounting signs to trees, but I have done so with care and respect to the tree. If I had been asked to submit an application for this type of sign in the city right of way for permission to remount it, well, that to me would have been more respectful, intelligent and proper. Businesses are struggling, it’s a fragile economy and we need help. If it became a problem, then I would understand, but I don’t see a problem with downtown, except a lack of shoppers. These signs help us attract more folks. We need new younger citizens on city council, we need more “Why not” council members, and not so many “Why” members. You would think they would do everything and anything to help draw more folks into downtown. A downtown should be thriving, bustling and full of various businesses serving the public and tourists alike. Really, the biggest gift council could give this city is pushing for restoring the Blaine Depot and getting regular Amtrak service there. Blaine had passenger rail from 1908–1981 and it’s time we do whatever it takes to make this a reality. I’ll get over the sign thing, but really this is the big picture for our downtown. So council, if you want to leave a great legacy, push for this and let’s get that train study done by a respected firm, well respected by WSDOT, BNSF and Amtrak. Olympia and Centralia did it, Blaine will as well with your help. You’re either helping or hurting. Please do the former!
Anyone ever notice how we vote people into government to represent us, and afterwards they basically ignore us and do whatever they want? Just a handful of people decide everything for everyone from local city government all the way to the federal government. Democracy means a form of government for the people by the will of the majority of the people, to practice social equality and to benefit the common people, not just benefit the wealthy. I think major issues should require us all to have a vote, and decide for example whether we want our taxes raised or not. That would be a true democracy. We elect a handful of people and then we no longer have a say in the major decision-making process. If the government decides to hold a town hall meeting to hear everyone’s opinion on some major issue, afterwards they continue on their same course of action, as if the meeting had never taken place. Lip service. Another example is the coal train issue. I believe the majority of people would vote against it if it were put to a public vote. How about Puget Sound Energy, which raises our rates every year. They hold a meeting every year to hear how people feel about it ahead of time, and every year they ignore the majority outcry to not raise the rates. Did you know every time you pay your electric bill, part of it goes to pay stockholders from around the world? Utilities were originally intended to be free. Why are we all paying to make the already rich richer while the majority of Americans are struggling just to pay for housing, heat their homes and put food on the table? Government has become big business. Profits at all costs. Bill Moyers made a comment about our federal government a few years back: “When someone with money comes to the White House, they are let in. If someone without money comes, they are turned away. Whichever way the money flows, that is the direction the government goes… Our government is up for sale.” I don’t believe in making money the bottom line when the government makes its decisions. Money is not truth. Money is not honesty. Money is not integrity. If you base all your values on money, you have lost your values. A loving heart is the truest wisdom, not money.
Big thanks to all the eager volunteers who recently spent a Saturday morning removing more than 1,200 lbs. of old automobile tires, shopping carts and garbage from Blaine’s Cain Creek. We are fortunate to live in such close proximity to the ocean, and it’s great to see that many families and individuals accept the responsibility we have to keep our waterways clean. Ayn Balback Blaine The Editor: Patric Sheppard, you are right about one thing: The Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT), if built, will be a game changer. From your perspective, it means more than 1,000 permanent jobs. Wherever you got that figure, it is wrong. If you take time to look up the official SSA/PIT permit application, it clearly states that by the end of stage 4, the terminal will only employ just under 300 permanent jobs. Of course, there will be jobs while the terminal is built, but they will be temporary and will go away. Further, SSA/PIT can do nothing to mitigate the toxicity of coal. It is full of toxic, cancer-causing heavy metals, which will be sprinkled all along the 1,200-mile route of the nine additional trains per day coming into Cherry Point. Then there will be nine more empty trains leaving, still carrying the dust, which will disperse into the air, ground and water. You must not have read about the tiny microscopic (2.5 microns) particles of coal dust that will permeate the air we breathe and settle permanently in our lungs. Over time, it seems reasonable that these particles cause disease. Our waters will accumulate coal, our sea life will ingest it and right on up the food chain all marine life will suffer and eventually die off, long after SSA/PIT have stopped shipping coal, which is also documented in the permit application as lasting for the first 10 years. You cannot stop or mitigate the strong winds that blow frequently from the southwest, directly into the Ferndale/Birch Bay area. These winds will carry coal dust from the high uncovered coal piles, which will constantly be disrupted by unloading and re-loading into the covered carriers. The currents will eventually cause the buildup of coal residue for along the coast, just as it has done near the Westshore Terminal. The fate of tourism and fishing industries will outweigh the jobs that are secured at the terminal. It’s a losing proposition if you study the impacts.
We have lived in Blaine for 10 years now. A couple of months ago I called the Blaine school district to see if I could volunteer my time. We are reminded constantly how the schools are always in need of help. I have always loved kids so I was looking forward to offer my time and hopefully make a small difference. I was transferred to a lady who asked me why I would want to volunteer after she asked me if I had any children that have or had attended these schools. I explained that giving back to our community is what I wanted to do. She then told me that this is only the second call she has received where someone would inquire just because. After she further questioned my intentions I decided this wasn’t a place I would like to volunteer. When I got off the phone I realized she was treating me like a child molester and I was guilty until proven otherwise. I was very offended by this. I have no problem having a background check and I have a current NEXUS card, which also checks your background. It is sad to me that someone who wants to give his or her time is treated like this. I have since written to the school district but of course no response.
One of our nonsense laws requires that ferries be built inside our state. Open bidding for ferry construction is banned, although we could get them built far more economically elsewhere. British Columbia last year bought three 145-car ferries for an average $79 million per ferry. Their contract offered performance guarantees, and those ships run on diesel or natural gas, whereas our state ferries use only diesel. Meanwhile, our 2007 in-state contract averages $131 million per ship. Our ban on open bidding may have made some sense when it was instituted, but it makes no sense now. It is time to repeal it completely, without limitations. The dollars we are wasting could be used for maintaining the fleet, with no talk about tax increases. If you want more information on this topic, contact Senator Doug Erickson of the 42nd district.