Posted by: sweeneyblog | April 17, 2015

Friday Odds and Ends: Taxes, Weed and TPP

Hello Loyal Readers, vertebra_fractureBoy is it good to be back. Three weeks ago, I managed to fracture one of my vertebra (see right) and I’ve just now been healed up enough to catch up on all that I missed, so I’m sorry for the lack of posting.

Without further ado, let’s go to the triumphant return of the Friday Odds and Ends.

In Olympia, the clock is ticking down to the end of session and one of the main points of contention are the dueling transportation packages. You might remember this as the thing that Sen. Doug Ericksen and his Republican allies stonewalled last year that would have created hundreds of jobs in Whatcom County repairing our streets, roads and bridges. Currently, the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democratically-controlled House have each passed a version of the package and they are duking it out on how to merge them. Below is a little table, numbers courtesy of the Association of Washington Cities, that shows how much our area would receive in state transportation funds:

House Plan Senate Plan
Whatcom County $7,047,397 $4,784,304
Bellingham $4,034,380 $2,738,841
Blaine $238,800 $162,115
Everson $193,142 $131,119
Ferndale $634,364 $430,654
Nooksack $65,570 $44,514
Sumas $84,531 $57,386
Total $12,298,184.00 $8,348,933.00

In other legislative news, the State has finally begun to seriously regulate the medical marijuana business. Since medical marijuana was legalized in Washington, many of the dispensaries have operated in a sort of legal limbo, unable to file taxes for fear of federal involvement and with several loosely defined restrictions over “collective gardens” where the dispensaries would be the designated grower for a specific patient.

Regulated

Regulated

This year, the legislature changed that by folding medical marijuana under the auspices of the Liquor Control Board. They eliminated the collective gardens model. Patients will have to register into a designated database, will be issued a registration card that allows them to carry more marijuana that the current legal limit and provides more protections from arrest. They will be able to grow plants in their homes and retail stores can become certified to sell medical-grade marijuana to card-holding patients. The Governor is expected to sign the bill in the next week or so.

In the wake of forty-seven Republican senators interfering in peace negotiations with Iran, the Republican-controlled Senate reached a deal to cede power to President Obama to negotiate trade agreements with less oversight, a process dubbed “Fast Track”. This is seen as a key step towards approving the Trans Pacific Partnership (known as TPP), a trade deal that has become a flashpoint for economic justice advocates locally.

One of the key objections to TPP is that it would allow foreign companies to seek financial compensation from the United States government for complying with American laws – a provision that sets off warning bells in the labor and environmental community. There is a rally at Pioneer Park in Ferndale this Saturday at 1pm in opposition to TPP hosted by the Washington Labor and Fair Trade Advocates.

That’s all folks! Stay tuned for more legislative coverage this weekend!

Posted by: sweeneyblog | April 14, 2015

Liveblogging the Whatcom Council Jail Hearing

Over 150 members of the public showed up on a sunny Tuesday to share their thoughts on the new jail with the county council.

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Barbara Brenner (Whatcom's Kiwi) waves while the council gathers

Forgive the formatting, this blog is via smartphone.

Essential Background: The county has purchased the land for the jail and come to a bit of a consensus on the size (551 beds).

Now the discussion revolves around two issues – whether there will be any sort of diversion programs or mental health services included in this project and how will we pay for it all.

Council chair Carl Weimer frames the discussion, “We all agree there needs to be a new jail . . . what we are looking for are ideas on reducing the growth of our jail population.”

He also noted that the vote to fund this jail could be this August or November or even later.

Sheriff Elfo spoke raising the fear factor of a “calamitous event such as a fire.” He urged the council to approve the jail, “with all possible speed.”

Elfo then goes through a litany of our current efforts to reduce the jail population including giving warnings for misdemeanors and pleading for funding from the state for mental heath programs.

Two speakers in and their comments can be summarized as, “Don’t slow down the jail, build it now!” Still no discussion of diversion programs, but this speaker have already blamed, taxes, Bellingham and the Whatcom Charter.

Greg Winter, head of the county health department called for a full review of our treatment programs so we can improve those efforts, “On a parallel track or accelerated path with the jail.”

Joy Gifilen spoke saying that she spoke to “two millionaire types” who have been, “run out of town by the Sheriff and the executive”. She complained that the Sheriff got too much time while the public is limited to three minutes. Her comments drew cheers from the audience, which got a gentle rebuke from Weimer.

Finally a speaker shares his personal story of a family friend who struggles with mental health. The speaker highlights the number of private companies making money off the incarceration system. “Please tell me how building an even bigger jail and putting our community even deeper in debt will solve these problems!”

A grizzled corrections officer speaks to the challenges of our growing population and the dangerous state of the current jail.

Kay Sardo, of the Right Size Jail coalition asks that part of the funding package offered for the vote go to diversion programs.

Catherine Chambers, a local social worker and one of my favorite people, points out that social services work best when they are not in a jail setting such as teen court.

Abe Jacobson points out that we will be growing in population as “waves of environmental refuges come in from the south west seeking temperate climates.”

Tyler Ryan says that Elfo and Louws have spent “a lot of time” on this and “we should trust our elected officials to make the decisions we’ve elected them to make.”

Phone is fading so I will add more info once I get home.

Was able to charge it up enough for Kris Halterman, organizer for the pro-coal PAC SAVEWhatcom. She argues that the size is right but it could be bigger. “You are going to have a hard time convincing people that you will actually build it this time.” She then went on to compare reparations to slavery.

Last week, the Chinese ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, visited Olympia to meet with Gov. Jay Inslee for a trade meeting. In accordance with international protocol, the state flew the Chinese flag next to the US and State flags to honor the visiting dignitary.

This drew a small crowd of Tea Party activists who protested this act. This action appear be sparked by conservative activist Anthony Bosworth, a pro-gun activist and former Sheriff candidate from Yakima, who was was outraged that the Capitol would fly a “communist flag”. Bosworth took to facebook to rally opposition to this flag.

The Flag of Communist China flying over the capital of Washington State in a place of honor.
Governor Inslee is honored to be meeting with Ambassador CUI Tiankai of Communist China this morning.
We now know where the loyalties of our liberal, communist loving Governor are. The people of Washington State has asked the governor to address our list of grievances and yet we have heard nothing from him. 
But yet he takes time and Washington taxpayers money to show honor to one of the United States of America’s enemies a communist ambassador and he is honored to do so.

A mighty crowd

A mighty crowd

Activists gathered on Saturday morning to protest the flag, you can see their mighty crowd in the picture to the right. After a little bit, a state trooper arrived to remove the flag to the cheers of the gathered tea partiers.

Why was the trooper removing the flag? The ambassador had left for his next engagement. But that didn’t stop this story from circulating like wildfire through the conservative media – showing up on Fox News, the Examiner and then finally breaking through to more mainstream sources like, Huffington Post and the Wonkette.

Locally, State Rep. Matt Shea (R-Spokane) arrived to deliver a speech praising the activists. You might remember Rep. Shea as that legislator that was just as crazy as Rep. Jason Overstreet. Shea said, “In the dawns early light of Holy Saturday as we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ these heroic patriots demanded that the Communist flag be taken down.”

I’m glad that this issue got resolved before it spilled out into the realm of international diplomacy. Our relationship with China is a complex and ever-changing negotiation and I would hate for Olympia to be a flashpoint for an international incident.

One last note, this wasn’t Bosworth’s first brush with controversy. He was arrested last month for carrying an assault rifle into a Federal Courthouse, and on his facebook page, you can find some charming videos of his kids field striping and reassembling various pistols.

Posted by: sweeneyblog | April 1, 2015

Sen. Kevin Ranker Proposes Marriage to the Puget Sound

Note: This was a satirical post for April Fool’s Day. 

Sen. Kevin Ranker, long-time environmental advocate, proclaimed his deep love and commitment to the Puget Sound at a fundraiser in Bow, WA yesterday. Ranker and the Puget Sound had been engaged in a long-term and committed relationship ever since a mutual friend, Washington Conservation Voters, introduced them to each other a few years ago.

The happy couple pictured together

The happy couple pictured together

Since then, Ranker has been courting the Sound by sending the expansive body of water a series of legislative proposals designed to keep it safe from harm and sheltered from pollution. Friends of the Puget Sound say that at first, it was flattered by all the attention. “I just didn’t know what to say,” said the Puget Sound, “I’m used to having my picture taken now and again but never so many kind words and actions on my behalf. I guess I was just flattered at first.”

Their relationship had been on the rocks recently after Republicans took over the State Senate and Ranker was forced to spend most of his time at work, away from the inlet of his dreams. However, they have managed to regain some balance in the recent months.

Ranker proposed marriage in front of over fifty guests at a fundraiser yesterday. Puget Sound would have accepted were it not for a recent law, drafted by Sen. Doug Ericksen, which outlawed water/human marriage. His efforts were met with resistance by the State House but Ericksen managed to keep his bill from being, “watered down”.

Ranker says that his love for the Puget Sound is undiminished by this recent setback. “I will always love, protect and support the Puget Sound, whatever our legal status.”

Posted by: sweeneyblog | April 1, 2015

5 Bellingham Art Pieces that Make No Sense

Note: This was a satirical post for April Fool’s Day. 

It is time to come clean, we have some weird public art in Bellingham. Any tourist will tell you they are completely baffled by some of the public sculptures that adorn our streets. Here’s FIVE examples of just how weird our public art is.

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1. That spinny globe thing in front of the WTA Bus Station

Seriously, did we rob the Daily Planet in Metropolis of their building decoration? What the heck is going on with that thing? Maybe it was just a hood ornament on a very very large car. Either way, I think if it spins fast enough, you can send a very tiny Jodie Foster into outer space to meet her dad.

3596386-Superb_Pacific_Northwest_symbolic_detail_Bellingham

2. The giant man-eating Salmon Mural

There you are, peacefully just walking downtown then OH GOD, THAT GIANT SALMON IS GOING TO EAT ME! What the heck?!  Yes, we really do need a two story picture of a salmon downtown to scare little children who like to eat fish. WHO’S YOUR FAVORITE BAGEL SPREAD NOW?!

download (1)3. Dirty Dan Harris stole my wallet

All I’m saying is when I sat on the bench, I had my wallet but when I left, it was gone. If I find him at that Steakhouse eating on my dime, well, let’s just say I’ve got a smelting pot with his name on it.

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4. Man Humping Bear Statue may actually cause injuries

Yes, everyone knows that WWU has a statue of a man with a bear on his lap with both of their heads thrown back in that ecstasy akin to downing the first sip of that delicious latte. What they don’t know is the Student Health center at WWU regularly treats patients who have fallen off this statue trying to take a selfie with the man and the bear at the same time. It doesn’t work, they are too far apart. Unless you have a selfie stick.

Bayou on Bay-001

5. Giant Glowing Something on Holly Street

Seriously, what the heck is it?! Is it a giant google maps pin made real? Is it a microphone (a nod to the SPARK Museum just down the street) or maybe it is some alien spike, sent to monitor all communications inside Bayou on the Bay (a well known meeting place for all extraterrestrial activity). Either way, the Mayor needs to put a task force on this right away.

Note: This was a satirical post for April Fool’s Day. 

Sheriff Bill Elfo told the County Council that if they just greenlit the funding for the new jail, he would consider it “really awesome” and it would “totally count as my Christmas AND birthday gift.”

Bill Elfo

Elfo, a well-known Christmas enthusiast, was proposing a sales tax which would shift the burden of paying for the jail to the poor of Whatcom County, since sales taxes unfairly burdens the less fortunate and the poor are the most likely to go to jail. However, he faces resistance from the County Council who have serious concerns about the implementation of those funds.

Barry Buchanan responded to Elfo’s proposal, “You can’t just say it’s your birthday present. That’s not how it works.” Buchanan continued, “Besides, Carl already made a card and we all signed it. Well, Barbara Brenner signed it really big so I had to kindof squeeze my signature into the bottom corner, but that’s not the point. You can’t have it as your birthday present.”

County Prosecutor Dave McEachran was less certain. “He did claim that it was both Christmas AND Birthday present, so that’s got to count for something. Also, no one told me it was his birthday so now I look like a jerk. Thanks guys.”

County Executive Jack Louws was unfazed. “Look, Bill’s birthday isn’t until April 23rd, so we’ve got a few weeks. I don’t necessarily have a problem with giving him the funding as a birthday present but it can’t count as a Christmas present too, that’s too far away. I might find a really good model train or something for him before Christmas. What will I do then?”

Noted municipal rabble rouser Wendy Harris took to facebook to tweet her displeasure about the whole process. “Are you kidding me? What about the cost overruns and the environmental damage this new construction could cause! Someone needs to stop this gift-giving madness!” The status received one comment from Michael Lilliquist saying, “Good point.”

Posted by: sweeneyblog | April 1, 2015

4 Things Pete Kremen’s Mustache will do in Retirement

Note: This was a satirical post for April Fool’s Day. 

We have this shocking scoop about Pete Kremen’s mustache and it’s plans for retirement. After serving many long years as a defining feature on Kremen’s face, the Mustache, or “Bristle McFillister” as he is known to his friends, has some big plans for the coming year. The Political Junkie, as the official Buzzfeed of Whatcom County, was able to score an exclusive interview with the Mustache.

Kremenbear1. Travel the world fighting global warming

Pete Kremen’s Mustache is eager to tackle the world-wide challenge of climate change. However, he is a little less clear on the details of such a plan. He knows it involves fighting, and polar bears and something about carbon but he will work it out I’m sure.

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2. Host a Community Radio Program

With 102.3 KMRE FM and 94.9 KVWV FM both launching community radio efforts, Pete Kremen’s Mustache is looking to anchor his own radio show on the importance of good mustache maintenance. It is an unconfirmed rumor that the mere sound of this mustache’s voice caused a microphone to turn into solid gold.

3. Purchase a Diamond Mine or Season Tickets to the Opera

The Mustache is a little less clear about this particular plan but he seems to be interested in becoming an english dandy. Rumor has it that Barbara Brenner once mentioned something about “respectable people like Opera” but it might have been “respectable people like Oprah and oh by the way, have I mentioned this funny thing that my dogs did and isn’t it unusual that we haven’t once set up an arm-wrestling contest between our district court judges and shouldn’t someone be accountable to the people for this sort of thing?!”  Either way, this mustache wants some class.

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4. Participate in the Ski to Sea race with the Old Spice Guy

After years of observing, Pete Kremen’s mustache is ready to get off the bench and start competing. He has formed a team with the Old Spice spokesmen and together they are going for the win.

Stay tuned for more VITAL and IMPORTANT stories today from The Political Junkie, the Buzzfeed of Whatcom County.

Hello Loyal Readers,

It’s that time for another batch of Friday Odds and Ends, all the news that’s fit to print, but not a big enough story to justify its own post. Don’t worry, I know you’ve already skipped ahead to the next paragraph where I hide the first story. It’s okay, I understand. For those still reading the intro, happy Ostara to all my fellow pagans out there and happy Spring Equinox to all the rest.

Kathy Kershner

Kathy Kershner

In the wake of not being appointed to the County Council on Tuesday, Kathy Kershner took to facebook, publishing an email from Councilman Ken Mann where Mann said he would be willing to support her if she promised not to run in 2015. She declined and Mann supported the candidate closer to his values, Satpal Sidhu. Good call.

This story was picked up by the Herald and more hilariously, trumpeted by the coal-PAC SAVEWhatcom. The coal-funded writers there blamed their second favorite boogyman*, Tom Steyer, saying that his hand-picked people denied the “Most Qualified and Conservative Candidate”.

I’m going to spell this out nice and simple for the readers over there at SAVEWhatcom in hopes that it sinks in.

You are not guaranteed a seat on the County Council.

No one is guaranteed a seat on the County Council. Complaining that you aren’t represented is not a valid argument. You need to persuade people why electing someone is a good idea.

Here, try this mental experiment. I live in North Bellingham, yet I am not represented in the State Legislature. No one from my district, the 42nd, shares my values. Do I stomp my foot and demand that they create a special seat just for people in North Bellingham? No. I work hard to try and change people’s mind – to show them that they are not served well by Free Lunch Doug.

Either way, I encourage Kathy Kershner to run for County Council this November against Satpal Sidhu. Both are talented candidates who care deeply about this county and while I don’t agree with Kershner very often, I do believe that everyone should have to compete for their seat.

Heffelmire in Action

Heffelmire in Action (on the right)

Switching gears, remember that State Senator who went on a racist rant in a committee meeting? The one who represents a majority Latino district? His comments drew protests from young community organizer Heather Heffelmire who unfurled a banner in the Senate gallery criticizing him (see right).

Heffelmire is a student at WWU and also their Legislative Liaison, the Associated Students representative responsible for lobbying for their legislative priorities.

The Western Front blasted her protest activities with the alarmist headline “Endangering Carver Funding”, making reference to the much-needed repairs to Carver Gym.

I could not disagree more passionately with the Western Front. When a public official starts using racist terms like when Honeygrove referred to “the negro”, it does not matter if they are writing the budget or not, the public must speak out against offensive behavior.

Heffelmire said it quite eloquently in her response to the Western Front,

I especially knew I had to take action because I have the privilege of having access to Senator Honeyford and to our legislature, something too few people in our state have. I think it’s important that those of us with these positions of power, regardless of what our job title specifies, use our privilege to speak out when others can’t.

The Political Junkie stands with Heather Heffelmire.

Finally, the panic over Seattle’s $15 minimum wage has echoed throughout the conservative media with frantic reports that restaurants were closing in droves. As usual, reality stubbornly refused to comply with conservative’s vision as the Seattle Times found when they actually spoke to restaurant owners.

They thoroughly debunked the claim – so go read their article, it is fantastic and shows that the change in wages will not doom those mom and pop stores, in fact, the extra spending money in customer’s pockets may actually increase business.

That’s it for this week. I will be temporarily out of cell range so commenters, please behave and try to avoid calling each other Hitler for a few days until I can get back and moderate comments. I mean it.

*The conservative’s first favorite boogyman? Lisa McShane or Barack Obama. Or maybe both (photographic proof!)

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