The Year in Review
Continued from the Jan. 5 edition.
By Tara Nelson
•A policy by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that requires customs agents to check the identification of every traveler against a national security database, caused a delay at the already-clogged Peace Arch border crossing and angered many residents and even customs inspectors. “It’s stupid,” said one inspector who would only speak on condition of anonymity. “It just slows down traffic when we have to process people we know.”
•City manager Gary Tomsic and community development director Terry Galvin announced at a special meeting at the Blaine senior center that growth predictions for the city of Blaine used in the comprehensive plan were woefully inadequate given the recent surge in development proposals submitted to the city’s planning department. In response to the finding, Galvin proposed a series of public meetings inviting residents to give input about their vision for the future of Blaine. Results from the meetings are available by contacting Galvin at the planning office.
•Mark Napier, a consultant at W & H Pacific, who was hired by the city of Blaine to study options for a $16.8 million airport expansion project, presented his findings at a city council meeting June 18. The meeting degenerated into an exhausting three-hour debate about whether the airport should be expanded or sold, with almost equal number of Blaine residents voicing their sometimes vehement support and opposition for the expansion.
•Whatcom County Emergency Medical Services Working Group unveiled a new plan to provide emergency medical services in Whatcom County that was decided by voters in November. The proposal keeps the current Medic One paramedic system until 2012, with local fire districts lightening the patient load and the budget by transporting patients with less serious medical emergencies.
•The Blaine city council, in response to public protest, contemplates whether to form a committee to study alternatives to the proposed $16.8 million airport expansion, of which, the Federal Aviation Administration is poised to foot most of the bill. One of those alternatives would be the closure and selling of the airport, in which the city would forfeit any federal money.
•Blaine police officers arrest three juveniles after they take a multi-modal joyride that resulted in a stolen 1985 Ford Escort, a beached yacht that incurred more than $25,000 in damage, and more than $3,000 in property damages to one Blaine neighborhood. The youths - Timothy Berry, Timothy Merrifield and Jacob Ross, all 18 of Blaine, and one juvenile male, age 17 - were booked into Whatcom County Jail and faced charges of burglary, motor vehicle theft, hit and run and possession of stolen property, as well as other charges.
•After several months of dispute, a Washington State court of appeals upheld a ruling by Whatcom County Superior Court judge Steven Mura that Blaine’s proposed boardwalk project is for public use and denied an appeal brought forth by Isac Feldstein and members of his family, who own a piece of land adjacent to the project site. The court found that because the boardwalk is a public use infrastructure, the city’s determination of necessity was not “arbitrary and capricious,” as argued by Feldstein.
•Local realtor Dennis Hill begins his campaign to put the future of the Blaine airport on the November ballot and forms the “Revitalize Blaine Now!” (RBN) political action committee. The group begins its efforts to abolish the airport by paying for nearly 8,000 loose campaign flyers to be distributed through The Northern Light and The Bellingham Herald and coordinates its members to go door to door collecting signatures.
•After the “Revitalize Blaine Now!” committee collects more than the 500 necessary signatures to put forth the question, “Should the city of Blaine abolish the airport as a municipal function” on the November ballot, Blaine city attorney Jon Sitkin asserts the Blaine city council is not legally obligated by the outcome of the initiative. Sitkin said that, because the airport is a municipal function, it is not subject to the public process. In addition, he argued that because the RBN committee did not reference an existing ordinance or propose a new ordinance in the initiative, it failed to meet the legal requirements to put such an initiative on the ballot. Subsequently, the city of Blaine obtained a temporary restraining order with the Whatcom County Superior Court that prevented county auditor Shirley Forslof from putting the initiative on the ballot.
•The city of Blaine made international and national headlines on October 20, when a 15-year-old Blaine high school student was arrested on suspicion of writing a note threatening to kill 12 students and Blaine high school principal Dan Newell.
•Whatcom County Superior Court judge Steven Mura struck down a temporary restraining order that barred Forslof from putting RBN’s initiative on the ballot. Mura ruled that the responsibility of determining the sufficiency of the petition lies with the city and not the county auditor. The next week, Blaine city council voted to change the language of the petition slightly, so that the language was not legally binding.
•The Minutemen Civil Defense Corps, a group of rogue citizens taking their own initiative in monitoring the nation’s borders, made the city of Blaine a target for their civilian patrols. The day before the patrols began, anti-Minutemen rally groups demonstrated at the border. Meanwhile, Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo was chastised by some community members for conducting a diplomatic meeting with the group advising them that law enforcement would respect their rights so long as they obeyed the law. The group left without incident after their “month emphasis” was over.
•Jason D. Bunger, of Ferndale, a suspect in the death of 20-month old Zakory Commissaris, of Blaine, testified in Whatcom County Superior Court. Prosecutors charged Bunger, a father of two, ages eight and 11, with manslaughter in the first degree but he was later acquitted.
•The 2005 November election was unusually tight this year for the Whatcom County Council and Blaine city council. Incumbents led the way by narrow margins with the exception of Blaine city council member Bob Brunkow, who was ousted by voters for the inexperienced but energetic young entrepreneur Jason Overstreet, owner of Red, White & Brew espresso stand and Suds car wash.
•British Petroleum president Ross Pillari threatened during senate testimony to cut at least 10 percent of the company’s Cherry Point refinery production if an amendment to the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act that limits tanker traffic in Puget Sound is not repealed. The amendment, known as the Magnusun Act, after the late senator Warren Magnusun, was designed to protect Puget Sound’s fragile ecosystem from an increased threat of an oil spill.
•Former Blaine city council member David White alleges conflict of interest against planning commissioners Brad O’Neill and Sue Sturgill, council member Bruce Wolf and hearing examiner Roger Ellingson and files suit in Whatcom County Superior Court. White claims that each acted improperly by participating in decisions that violated state law that prohibits municipal office holders from being “beneficially interested” by any contracts made through their office. White is asking the court to remove them from office, fine each of them $500 and enjoin the return of $2 million in taxpayer dollars allegedly spent to date on the boardwalk project.
•Blaine City Council approves a committee to study alternative uses for the municipal airport but, in the meantime, the city must decide how to keep the airport afloat while it forfeits potential loans and federal grants.
Council members set aside $20,000 from a new airport loan that will fund the airport study, although they were reluctant to do so.
•The U.S. General Services Administration, a federal agency that operates the Peace Arch port of entry in Blaine, held a series of meetings allowing public comment following a preliminary release of its environmental impact study (EIS) on the demolition and reconstruction of the border crossing facility. The study outlined impacts the community and included the demolition of 11 residences.
City manager Gary Tomsic, at the December 13 meeting, expressed concern that the GSA was using outdated information for home values, which would likely result in unfair compensation for those individuals.