Hello Loyal Readers,

And here we arrive, stumbling to the end of the week. Usually July is my slow month as far as readers are concerned but thanks to the gunsgays and ganja social issues triple threat, I’ve been working overtime keeping this puppy running. So let’s get back to some less explosive topics like . . .

What could go wrong?

What could go wrong?

Transporting Oil by Rail. The Washington State Council of Firefighters passed a resolution at their convention in June (part one and two here) asking Governor Inslee to do “all in his power to halt the movement of this crude by rail until the completion of his study in March 2015.”

Strong words from our state’s firefighters, I hope the increased pressure on this issue will help create some stricter safety requirements and prevent a disaster.

The Whatcom Skillshare Faire is fast approaching. This event, sponsored by Transition Whatcom at Hovander Park, will includes classes on making soap, keeping bees and even making your own tools. The idea is share these hands on skills and provide an opportunity for everyone to learn, teach and grow. You can find more information at their website here.

As part of and around the Skillshare Faire, there will be an accredited course on Permaculture design being offered and the deadline for signing up is fast approaching. Check out all the details here.

These guys

These guys

Finally, at the request of a few very kind readers, I have given the Whatcom Excavator (a local very conservative blog with anonymous writers) a pass for a while but their latest post requires a little comment. They put up a post explaining that they don’t hate “Hispanic, black, Asian, Jewish, gay, young, old, poor, or a woman” citing a recent Townhall article. The Whatcom Excavators explain their position as, “There are too many truly important things going on, to get all bigoted on someone’s hiney.”

If I were Jon Stewart, this is when I would say, “Roll tape.” Here are just a sampling of the Whatcom Excavator completely not hating on poor peopleyoung peopleprofessional women and that’s just what I could find while drinking my coffee this morning.

Look, I know that the Republican party recognizes the need to be more welcoming for people outside of their base - the secret meeting among local Republican donors recently centered around that exact question – but this will require more than simply saying that you no longer dislike those “other” people. Nice try, Excavator, but your archives tell a different story.

Enjoy the good weather this weekend, I’m going to be working for Sweeney Portraits photographing a wedding and, of course, attending the Pride parade so I hope you have a restful couple of days. Oh, and I almost made it through an entire Odds and Ends without posting an amusing picture of Pete Kremen. Here you go.

Posted by: sweeneyblog | July 10, 2014

More Thoughts on Open Carry and Bellingham Pride

Clocking in at 66 comments and counting, that will teach me to stumble into both gun policy and identity politics at the same time. Thank you everyone for participating in that rather spirited debate – I really appreciate this little slice of digital sky being used to fully discuss these ideas and in some cases, change my perspective on the issues discussed.

When I first investigated this story, my heart and perspective was with the members of the LGBTQ community who had faced very real threats and acts of violence. I remember two years back when I marched in the pride parade, there was a gentlemen open carrying a pistol at the very start of the parade route (right after you left Bellingham High School) carrying an anti-gay sign. There was a Bellingham police officer across the street keeping a close eye on him but the intimidation felt very deliberate.

A few more thoughts on this issue

A few more thoughts on this issue

So reading about this group marching in the Pride Parade made my heart go out this community facing more men with guns. However, the ensuing discussion definitely drove home how narrow that perspective was. There are proud gun-toting members already walking in the parade, I just didn’t know it.

There are proud LGBTQ and gun advocates doing their best to bridge communities and break stereotypes (special shoutout to Samantha’s story in the comments of the previous article). In many ways, my perspective on the open carry folks had been as limited as many of the outdated notions about gays and lesbians held by parade protesters and for that, I apologize.

Which brings me to my next point – open carry makes me really really uncomfortable. In my view, the sight of someone carrying a large (didn’t say high powered this time, just large) weapon through the streets in times of peace makes me deeply nervous, and many of the political actions engaged in by some open carry supporters seem . . . in my eyes . . . foolish.

To be clear, I’m talking about people walking around Target stores with semi-automatics or bringing Remington 870s into Starbucks. It seems like the wrong way to go about increasing people’s comfort with firearms. But that’s my perspective, my own discomfort, and I will continue to try to overcome that as I report on gun issues in our community.

I believe that Bellingham Pride did the right thing by not caving to pressure and keeping them as part of the event. I hope that their presence will not cause any fear or alarm among the community and hopefully, we can work on bridging these cultural barriers, as I hope our discussion already has.

The central message of pride is that all families are worthy of respect and appreciation – and tolerance begins with the communities that make you the most uncomfortable. See you all at the parade.



Posted by: sweeneyblog | July 10, 2014

Open Carry Advocates to Walk in Bellingham Pride Parade

For the second year running, firearm enthusiasts will be marching and staffing a booth at the Bellingham Pride Parade. The Whatcom County Chapter of Washington Open Carry has signed up as one of the hundreds of groups to march in the parade. In response, the Occupy Bellingham organization petitioned Bellingham Pride Parade to disallow Open Carry from the parade and celebration afterward, and when they were refused, Occupy pulled out of the parade, refusing to participate.

Open Carry Whatcom

Open Carry Whatcom

Let’s unpack this a bit. First, I believe that it is incredibly insensitive for open carry advocates to insert themselves into an event like this. After years and years of very real threats, intimidation and violence from those around them, the LGBTQ community is finally able to walk down the street of their hometown without fear.

Other communities still face bomb threats and violent attacks on the LGBTQ community in an attempt to silence their pride festivals. So to have people come to this event and brandish high-powered firearms is more than a little alarming for many attendees.

That said, that is the whole point of why Open Carry advocates are doing this. Pride festivals have been very successful at focusing the public attention in a positive way on the progress we have made on civil rights. They remind people that there are thousands of LGBTQ members in their community and make that point in a very positive way.

Bellingham Pride

Bellingham Pride

By generating this controversy and getting people worked up at each other, Open Carry is unraveling the progress Pride festivals have made.Why do I think they are deliberately trying to spark a reaction? Not only are they marching in the parade, but they scheduled a “family picnic” the day before the parade . . . at the same park and day as the Bellingham Pride family picnic.

It is possible this a coincidence but it seems to me like the open carry advocates are trying awfully hard to be in the same places as the Pride folks. With the Occupy Bellingham folks pulling out, they have already achieved some of their goals in sowing doubt and dissent within usually parallel organizations.

So I say, ignore them. They filled out their paperwork, followed all the rules and can march in the parade. They want to spark a reaction, that’s their goal. Let’s not give it to them.

In the internet world, we call this “not feeding the trolls.” Let’s keep the attention focused on the central mission of Bellingham Pride, “. . . to create a festival that everyone can be proud of.” You can watch a video they made promoting the festival here.

I will be marching this year in Pride. Come join me in celebrating all members of our community. I will be marching with the Whatcom Democrats, my wife will be with the Planned Parenthood marchers and neither one of us will give the Open Carry advocates another moment of our time at this event.

Posted by: sweeneyblog | July 8, 2014

A Ground Floor View of Bellingham’s First Marijuana Store

The scene at Top Shelf Cannabis this morning was spectacular. Over 200 people gathered for the 8 a.m. opening of one of the first retail marijuana stores in Washington. The parking lot was full, the line stretched from the front door down through the parking lot and there were television cameras and microphones everywhere.

Satisfied Customer

Satisfied Customer

Journalists paced up and down the line looking for an unusual angle or a fresh insight (“Is anyone a Canadian that traveled down here just for this?”  “Anyone opposed to legalization but has changed your mind?”). The impression was one of plenty of people waiting in line, but that’s just part of the story.

I was impressed by the diversity of the people waiting. As usual, there was your mix of snowboarders and aging counter-culture folks but I talked to several retired women, eager to ease their aches and pains without a prescription and a handful of young professionals in business wear before clocking in at the office.

The crowd was pretty jubilant but the recurring theme I heard was, “I can’t wait until this is normal.” Many customers did not care for the pomp and circumstance and looked forward to the days of quiet shopping ahead.

There was some concern over pricing, but that faded away once customers were able to see the diversity of product. Each package of marijuana had the name of the strain on the back along with THC content percentage, moisture content, cannabid details and a whole range of medical information (most of which went over my head, to be honest).

While this morning’s kickoff was exciting, I am very curious to see how things will be in a months time, when the novelty has faded away. Hopefully, still running smoothly.

Below are a series of pictures from the event, captured by Sweeney’s Portraits.

IMG_5561 IMG_5580 IMG_5577 IMG_5581 IMG_5574

In my constant efforts to improve operations here at the Political Junkie, I’m demo-ing a new feature: The Council Meeting Preview. In these articles, I will look ahead to see what the Whatcom County Council and Bellingham City Council are discussing this week so you can attend and weigh in if you wish. If you find this valuable, you can always toss us a few bucks in our digital tip jar here.

Whatcom County Council – Tomorrow at 7 p.m.

The big fish in this week’s pond is the water plan. Council President Carl Weimer has made it a top priority to push the county into developing a plan to handle water issues over the next ten years. In the spring, the council passed a resolution directing Public Works to update the “Whatcom County Coordinated Water Systems Plan” and this Tuesday, Public Works staff will report back on their progress, as will County Executive Louws – who will share his thoughts on the process.

Carl Weimer

Carl Weimer – Not wearing ballistic armor plates

Weimer sees outreach as the most critical part of developing a water plan. He laid out his thoughts in a recent blog post, “People need to understand their legal obligations, be told why those obligations exist, how to most easily and effectively meet those obligations, and have advanced warning that if they don’t meet their obligations there will be penalties.”

Another issue to be debated, the sheriff department has requested a slew of budget appropriations. Buried in there is over half a million dollars for implementing mental health court and housing programs for the mentally ill.

That has been one of the priorities of the Right Size Jail coalition and a key component to reducing the burden on our jail system. Mental health court provides another avenue for those with serious mental health problems who tangle with the law to be handled through a medical care system rather than incarceration. Bravo for these efforts and I hope the council approves them swiftly.

On the other end of the spectrum, there is a request to use grant funding to buy ballistic armor plates in that package.

Also, the council will continue to debate the slaughterhouse ordinance. Haven’t we finished dealing with that yet?

Bellingham City Council – Today at 7 p.m.

The City Council will be holding a work session, debating three different versions of a rental licensing program. You can read the options here, here and here. Most of the debate seems to center around enforcement and inspections – who will carry them out, how many will be conducted a year and the like.

Other than a brief discussion of some non-Alabama Street-related traffic improvements, that will be it for the council this evening.

Hello Loyal Readers,

Happy Fourth of July! I’m just finishing up this post before heading to Blaine to march in the 4th of July parade. Side note: in light of the recent Hobby Lobby decision, I hope I see this truck there. Now, on with the Odds and Ends.

First, the new comment policy. Previously, my policy here at The Political Junkie was simple – don’t insult other readers. You could insult me or public officials but not each other. Unfortunately, I’ve had to spend far too much of my time moderating the comments sections, weeding out people who break the rules. Or making judgement calls about whether something did or did not cross the line.

Previously, I have written about my unabashed love of diagrams, therefore I have created a diagram of the things that I enjoy about running this blog and the things I don’t.

There is no overlap

There is no overlap

Therefore, effective immediately, I will be deleting any comments that don’t have a real name attached to them. If you worry that your comment might be accidentally deleted because I don’t know you – simply fill in an email address and I’ll double check. We will see how this works for a while.

But what about the First Amendment? Simple – I am not abridging your right to speak freely. You are welcome to do that on the rest of the internet, and if you start a local blog, I would be thrilled to put it on my blogroll, but here on my little space of digital land you have to sign your name. Consider it my digital property rights.

Hobby Lobby photobomb

Hobby Lobby photobomb

Enough of that, let’s move on to happier subjects. Like the fallout from the Hobby Lobby decision. Already hundreds of companies are petitioning for their ability to use the religious exemption to discriminate against LGBT employees or refuse to cover any sort of birth control at all.

A silver lining is that this may drive home the importance of electing more women into government, since all the justices who voted to limit women’s access to a full slate of health insurance options were men who prioritized the religious beliefs of a corporation over the actual beliefs of female employees.

Much digital ink has been spilled about how the Democrats may capitalize on this for the midterm elections. I think that is short-sighted and narrow. I would hope this does more than just motivate women to vote. I hope it moves them to become fully engaged in the political process – to run for office, manage campaigns and fight for justice. Women face different barriers than men when it comes to entering the political sphere and hopefully this ruling, and ensuing fallout, will help motivate everyone involved to change that.

Finally, I am looking for an intern for the summer. I’ve taken on interns as part of this blog before and I am eager to do so again. I have a great project that needs to be completed by mid September. If you know of someone who would be a good fit, send me an email here and I will take a look.

That’s it for now. This next week look for another guest post from the Legislative Junkie, a tour of one of the first retail marijuana stores in Bellingham and an article profiling candidates for the 4th Superior Court Judge position.


Posted by: sweeneyblog | July 1, 2014

The Stellar Junkie: Space Debris Provides Very Real Threat

Local astronomer Jeff Hoffmeister has volunteered to send us a few pieces when there is something truly unique and remarkable to observe in the night sky. So bundle up and gaze into the stars with the Stellar Junkie.

Jeff Hoffmeister

Jeff Hoffmeister is The Stellar Junkie

There has been, and still is, a vast variety of creatures on this great Earth, from the smallest microbe to the largest of mammals. Many are unique in their abilities to survive. Some have even survived for millions upon millions of years. With all these life forms, only one has been present more recently that has the intellect to survive by creating tools, not only to survive but to learn about the world and the space that surrounds them. We call ourselves humans.

Our creations have made quite an impact throughout our existence here on this planet, whether for the greater good or destructive for all living things. We try to learn from our mistakes and we try to repeat that which has the better outcome. As we all continue to try to understand each other, the natural processes that have taken place on this Earth and in the rest of the solar system continue as they have for over 4.5 billion years despite all the human battles, famine, plagues, and political upheavals that are part of our existence. All this can be gone in an instant.

Comets and asteroids are by far the most numerous leftover rubble from the formation of the solar system. Many wander from the outermost reaches of the Oort Cloud and many travel as far as the region inside Earth’s orbit. In the early days of our solar system, these objects were more abundant and, due to their collisions, would conglomerate into planets. These collisions happen much less often now because of less material. However, we cannot ignore the fact that these collision still do occur.

Earth gets pelted by 100 to 250 tons of natural space debris every day, most of which is not much bigger than a grain of sand. Earth’s atmosphere is hit by objects the size of a basketball once a month; an object 150 feet across hits once per century, such as the object that created Meter Crater in Arizona. An object one mile across hits about every 500,000 years. 65 million years ago, an object 6 miles across hit the Yucatan Peninsula causing the extinction of the dinosaurs and most life on Earth. We have our big brother Jupiter to thank for grabbing many of these objects in its gravitational pull; objects that may have made it to Earth and caused these occurrences to happen more frequently.

Space is enormous and the chance of Earth being impacted by a large object is minimal. However, the chance still exists, we cannot ignore this fact. Earth will be hit again. As of late June 2014, there have been 1485 potentially hazardous asteroids discovered. At this point, we believe astronomers have discovered about 95% of the Near Earth Asteroids (NEA) over .5 miles across; about 30% of those are 330 ft. across; 2% of the NEA are 130 ft. across. A 150 ft. asteroid may seem small but, considering one about that size created Meteor Crater, we should still consider it a threat.



An impactor 330 ft. across would wipe out an area the size of Colorado. Just between June 16 and August 17, 2014, 11 known asteroids will pass within 60 lunar distances of Earth (one lunar distance is about 239,000 miles) with some passing inside the moon’s orbit. On June 22nd, an asteroid over 50 ft. across passed inside the lunar orbit. Many objects aren’t even seen until they pass, either because they come from the direction of the Sun or the asteroid is made up of a dark material that does not reflect much light.

There are hundreds of amateur astronomers like myself around the world that search the skies. Sometimes we will observe an object that should not be there. Many known asteroids and comets have been found by amateur Astronomers. World-wide, there are about as many professional astronomers looking for NEA as there are people working in a fast food restaurant, so assistance from amateur astronomers is important. We cannot ignore all these facts. Funding is needed to create more large professional-sized telescopes to help aid in the search for NEA, and to send more unmanned probes to learn about these objects.

It is true that money for these projects is hard to come by and there are many other responsibilities here on Earth that require financing. If we don’t take this situation more seriously however,  nothing else we do will make any difference if we get impacted by an asteroid or comet. We have the intellect to learn and understand how to survive in this universe as long as we do not turn our backs on the things that can take it all away in a flash.

Posted by: sweeneyblog | June 30, 2014

Battle for the State Senate: The 30th District

Today, I’m proud to reintroduce columnist The Legislative Junkie. He provided some insight to the 2012 legislative session and now is back with a series of articles examining the state Senate races this year. 

Guest Column: Legislative Junkie

Guest Column: Legislative Junkie

The state Senate is currently in the leadership clutches of the “Majority Coalition Caucus” (i.e. Republicans), since Rodney Tom (“D” – 48) and Tim Sheldon (“D” – 35) defected in 2013. Out of 49 seats, the MCC held a 26-23 majority for the 2013-2014 biennium.

However, the 2014 elections could change this balance. There are 25 Senate seats up for election in 2014, but only 12 are worth your time. (Because who, really, has the time, energy, or inclination to pay attention to whatever sacrificial pachyderm has been offered up in the indigo environs of Tacoma?)

Some of these watchable races are competitive and could change the balance of the WA Senate. Some are watchable only with a bowl of popcorn close at hand. I’d like to take a look at these watchable races, one by one, over the next few weeks.

The 30th Legislative District


Mark Miloscia (R) vs. Shari Song (D) – OPEN SEAT

30th Legislative District

30th Legislative District


The 30th LD is in southern King County, including Federal Way and Des Moines. It’s a swing district that is currently served by a mix of Democrats and Republicans.


This seat was opened up by the retirement of Senate Democratic Floor Leader Tracey Eide. As Floor Leader, Eide’s job was to direct the procedural action of the Senate, a job that placed her on the front lines fending off procedural shenanigans whenever Democrats broke ranks to take control of the budget process.

She was fun to watch as she made motions and counter-motions, always with the wearily patient affect of a parent, condescending to the Republicans as one would a temperamental toddler.

The Candidates

In one corner, in the blue trunks, is Shari Song, a real estate broker. In the other corner, having freshly dyed his trunks from blue to red, is Representative Mark Miloscia.

Rep. Mark Miloscia

Rep. Mark Miloscia

Song makes a formidable candidate – she has a history of community service in the Korean-American community in King County, and has raised more than $50,000, largely from Korean-American professionals and small business owners.

Her major drawback is that she is carpetbagging – she JUST moved from Bellevue (where she unsuccessfully challenged Reagan Dunn for his King County Council seat in 2013) to Federal Way. Carpetbagging charges would tip the scales against her if she were running against a popular, likable incumbent who hadn’t recently switched parties. Luckily for Song, she is running for an open seat against Mark Miloscia.

Miloscia’s politics and personality are…unusual. His deeply-felt Catholicism makes him passionately anti-choice and anti-poverty. He has a 91% lifetime voting record from the Washington State Labor Council, and was pushing for a $15 minimum wage – statewide! – years before the cool kids were doing it. He was also the only anti-choice member of the House Democratic Caucus, and voted against marriage equality in 2012.

Shari Song

Shari Song

His consistency is admirable enough, but he does NOT play well with others. In 2010, when he decided House Speaker Frank Chopp wasn’t providing enough leadership, he ran for Speaker (without any support from colleagues)*.

He ran for state auditor in 2012 and failed to find much support even from among the constituencies who had supported him in the past (i.e. organized labor) because of his opposition to marriage equality.

So now, this erstwhile Democrat, erstwhile Representative, erstwhile candidate for state auditor, is running for state Senate. He’s raised less than Song (about $47,000), and his donor list now looks like that of your average Republican – cable companies, pharmaceutical companies, and the plastics industry.


Any sorta-incumbent such as Miloscia should be able to outraise a relative newcomer such as Song. The fact that he hasn’t raised that much money AND has recently switched parties will make it hard for Miloscia to win. My gut tells me Song will win this race, keeping the seat for the Democrats.

*Fun story – soon after Miloscia challenged Chopp, the House rearranged their committee structure (as is common before a new biennium), and all of a sudden, the Housing Committee which Miloscia had chaired was eliminated. The committee’s portfolio was folded into the Community & Economic Development & Trade Committee, and Miloscia found himself without a committee to chair. Life lesson, folks: Frank Chopp does not mess around.


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