Posted by: Tim Sweeney | December 19, 2014

Friday Odds and Ends: #Applicantthunderdome, Pike’s Budget, Morris Snark and Gumbo YaYa

Hello Loyal Readers,

Welcome to the Friday Odds and Ends – all the news that’s fit to print, but not big enough for its own post. Hold on to your hats, this one has the unintentionally comedic theme of “elected officials using the internet!” so you know it is going to be lively.

First, we have a new city councilmember, Dan Hammill. Having had the pleasure of interviewing all the candidates, I tried to keep my personal preference out of my reporting. This selection (read my liveblog of the proceedings here) was the safe choice. Hammill is smart, ethical, and ready to step into the role.

Lehman on her last day as a councilwoman

Lehman on her last day

That said, I hoped the council would be a bit bolder – grabbing someone who could represent the evolving face of Bellingham (Iris), the often-neglected activist core (Michelle) or push for bolder, progressive policy changes (Andrew). Hammill is a fine choice, but a continuation of the status quo.

However, the status quo can change quickly. On the exact date that the Bellingham City Council was selecting Cathy Lehman’s replacement, she sent out a email request from her new employer, the Environmental Priorities Council titled, I kid you not, “Today is not like every other day”.

The email referred to Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposed climate change legislation, not her departure from the council. She documented that departure with a selfie from the City Hall bathroom (see right).

Barg and the Beard

Barg and the Beard

Now I get to use this picture as my transition. Scot Barg applied for the council . . . he currently works with Dan Pike . . . Dan Pike did something interesting . . . ergo Dan Pike is Kevin Bacon.

Dan Pike posted on his blog, Bona Fide Leadership, a deeper look at the City Budget in response to my recent article, A Simple Walkthrough of the Bellingham City Budget. As he pointed out with his trademark tact and diplomacy, “Sweeney’s analysis fails to present much meaningful information, instead obscuring understanding.”

Ironically enough, I really appreciate his write-up. He separates out capital expenditures from general fund and zooms in on our spending on Police Personnel to make a point about trends and long-term budget costs. Despite his salty demeanor, I’m glad that he decided to share some of his expertise – that’s always the goal of my blog, to help illuminate public process and local government.

Rep. Jeff Morris

Rep. Jeff Morris

Jumping back to legislative politics, Jeff Morris took a swing at early proponents of Jay Inslee’s climate change proposal (for those of you saying, “WHAT? THERE’S A PROPOSAL?!”, I say, “Stop shouting at your computer and tune in this weekend”). Anyway, Morris took to twitter with a late night tweet to criticize other Democrats for sponsoring Inslee’s proposals, and even unleashed a Broncos BEARS metaphor in doing so. He later deleted the tweets from his feed.

Finally, you might recall that my Dad has written for this space as the Policy Junkie, but lately he’s been pursuing his passion for music, particularly New Orleans music on Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa. His most recent entries have been on the wide variety of new music coming out of his hometown in 2014. He also does a radio show where you can hear the music he writes about.  Less humor than this blog but much better writing.

And for those who missed it, Alan Rhodes wrote up a lovely interview with me for this week’s Cascadia Weekly. If you haven’t had a chance, check it out on page six here.

This weekend, I plan to take a closer look at the coming legislative session, and cheer on the Seahawks for a victory of the Cardinals, whichever comes first.



  1. Good morning Riley. Thanks for covering my blogged response to your earlier piece, ‘’. See, no snark…Seriously, I appreciate the fact you covered the budget at all, and have shared that on FB and elsewhere. I was irritated with the original post (could you tell??), as the budget is critical for the long term health and well-being of our community; much more so than the curmudgeonliness of a former mayor.

    Had you not posted your article, I would have continued ignoring the budget. Had you responded to my original (non-snarky, or so I like to think) post under your article, pointing out that conflating general funds and capital funds is not informative, I might also have moved on. Instead, I thought I’d follow up that original post on your blog with a quick example, and immediately found trends that alarmed me.

    That may also have affected my tone, but we should all be concerned. I’m now planning to look over the just passed budget in more detail to see what else lurks there. Probably take a few articles to examine a bit more fully.

    So thanks for posting the original, and thanks for providing a link to my blog ( I’m sure I’m getting more traffic from you than vice versa.

  2. Love your rhetorical style, Riley. Please write more articles in this vein… Just love that phrase “neglected activist core”. As a Marxist, it allows me to think more about how poorly American Democracy represents those who want to be involved the most.

    • America is a Representative Republic NOT a Democracy (where the Majority can trample the Rights of the Minority).

      I appreciate the fact that you are the only one who posts on this blog that admits he is a “Marxist”. I know there are many other that live in the shadows (maybe Obama will give them “Executive Amnesty”).

      • We are both a Democracy and a Republic; the founding fathers incorporated elements of both and effectively created two sets of representatives (Senate and House) to salve the ideological needs of those concerned about the separate constraints of both Democratic and Republican governmental forms. In this, the founders were chiefly concerned about unifying the Federal government for functions critical as a nation. However, they sometimes conflated the two terms to equivalence (“Democracy as a form of Republicanism”, e.g. the “Democratic Republic”) and occasionally as subsets of one another in their language; essentially identifying the value of each with rhetoric in ways that today would now seem to be in polarity. Federalist #10 has quite a bit of discussion on like this. Despite the “federalism” of Jefferson, Madison and others, the founders clearly left the implementation of the balance of some of these powers to decided by the states if not already decided by federal government. The Federalists also believed strongly in legislation that protected the rights of the individual; a hallmark of “democratic rights” dating from classical Athens and also the Enlightenment. Effectively, we have had a counter balance between Federalism and the “will of the people”, majority vs. minority, states vs. federal, individual liberty vs. the common good for over 200 plus years now. Whether federalism or the Republic represents the Democratic “will of the people” in any given moment in American history is always an open ended question….

        If President Obama and others in Whatcom County are Marxists or Marxist influenced, neither are talking very much to me. Too bad. I think Marxism is perfectly compatible with both a just Democracy and a strong Republic. And I think there could be an important role for a re-emergence of a Communist or Marxist party in Whatcom County and the United States. I will remind you that Barack Obama and his administration has nearly seamlessly supported capitalist infrastructure, the banking infrastructure, imperialist ambitions and conquests for the entirety of his presidency, despite the rampant imaginings of the (mostly) right wing that he is somehow Socialist in his governance. If Barack Obama is a type of “closet Marxist or Socialist”, then his ability to hide this is exceptional and beyond anything I can detect. Have you read Webster Tarpley or Wayne Madsen or William Engdahl or the WSWS (SEP) on the Obama Presidency? We can choose to believe in whatever shadow governments we want and I am sure there are plenty worthy to believe in, including large scale operations and legislation designed to control the “will and the minds of the people” and remove our political and democratic rights. But I will tell as a Marxist, defining Barack Obama as such takes quite a bit of “shadow belief”, much more so than I can muster. I suppose anything is possible in politics…

      • Given the existing confusion over terminology, it is not surprising that the framers employed various terms to describe the novel government they proposed. A few months after the adjournment of the Constitutional Convention, James Madison, the future fourth president of the United States, proposed a usage that would have lasting influence within the country though little elsewhere. In “”Federalist 10,”” one of 85 essays by Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay known collectively as the Federalist papers, Madison defined a “pure democracy” as “a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person,” and a republic as “a government in which the scheme of representation takes place.” According to Madison, “The two great points of difference between a democracy and a republic, are: first, the delegation of the government, in the latter, to a small number of citizens elected by the rest; secondly, the greater the number of citizens, and greater sphere of country, over which the latter may be extended.” In short, for Madison, democracy meant direct democracy, and republic meant representative government.

  3. Governor Inslee seems to be randomly shooting in the dark in his budget proposals, without a coherent vision of the future. On the one hand, he favors a capital gains tax (a good idea) but has bought into the failed concept of cap & trade. I posted this video on several places but in case you missed it, here is Annie Leonard’s video “The Story of Cap & Trade.”

    • Jay Inslee is Tom Steyer’s and Barack Obama’s puppet.

  4. No Riley. Cutler and Marshall play for Da Bears.

  5. It was great to see two of the last practicing political satirists sharing the page in this week’s EOW.

  6. In an increasingly secretive administration, I think both Riley and Dan did the public a huge service by explaining the budget. Because the budget process is so obscure, I did not take Dan’s post as a criticism of Riley so much as a clarification. I myself raised questions which were interpreted as criticism and they were not… I was hoping that Riley could answer things I was unable to understand based on my own feeble attempts. My concerns were based on policy documents and trends I saw, rather than any ability to decipher the budget. I give Riley credit for doing such as great job as a layman and I give Dan credit for doing a great job as someone with actual experience and knowledge on how to review the budget.

    I would love to have a class on “budget review for dummy citizens” so that we all would have an increased ability to read the budget and see what it revealed regarding changes in policies and practices and future implications for future budget. Some of what Dan noticed coincided with the policy concerns I had picked up on, but the budget shows the hard, objective data and proof. It really it critical for all activists to understand how to read and follow the budget.

    • How about a budget review for dummy City Council members (and city staff)?

  7. I agree that Hammill was a good choice, but a continuation of the status quo. Bellingham needs some changes, with the help of the city council.

    Well, I guess that when the 2015 election comes, the city council could be dramatically changed. We just have to wait. (And by the way, even though it is early, do you know anything about the 2015 election that the general public wouldn’t know? That would make an interesting post.)

    And on the county council (a little bit off topic, sorry.), there was a step in the right direction in 2013. However, after attending all the county council meetings, I still think that we need more progressives and reformers on the county council; right now it is far from a “progressive council.” Even if there are progressives on the council (not implying that there is or isn’t), it is rare that they vote on partisan lines. Take Pete Kremen for an example; he often sides with conservatives on the council, and that was after being a Democratic representative. I do think that is good that we still have a non-partisan council. Then, of course, we have Barbara Brenner, who fits into her own category. Sometimes, I think that the council rejects her motions too much; a lot of them are reasonable, common sense proposals that fail in a 6-1 vote. We need her on the council. She is a keeper. Finally, the other council member up for election in 2015 is Sam Crawford. While I do think that he is experienced and knows the issues well, I am often on the other side of the issues as him. Maybe this comment isn’t necessarily about what you posted, but county government is SO interesting to me.

    Thanks for the post, as usual. Happy holidays!

  8. Nice interview in the Weekly. Deserved recognition.

    • Oh it was a love fest!

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