Posted by: sweeneyblog | January 30, 2015

Friday Odds and Ends: Ericksen’s Bertha, Linville’s Sidewalks and Crawford’s Clarification

Hello Loyal Readers,

Time for another Friday Odds and Ends, all the news that is fit to print, but not big enough to justify its own post. No time to waste, let’s dive right in!

Bertha

Bertha

Sen. Doug Ericksen, flush from his victory over Seth Fleetwood, proposed a rather odd piece of legislation. He, along with Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane), proposed killing Bertha. What is Bertha? The giant drill that was burrowing a tunnel to replace the Seattle Viaduct. Currently, it is stuck and Seattle has been working to unstick it for the last couple of months. So Ericksen and Baumgartner decided to swoop in and propose burying it where it lies and abandoning the project.

Why would Ericksen want to meddle with a project in Seattle? It is a huge infrastructure investment in the same community that sent several thousand dollars to fund Seth Fleetwood. What better way to showcase his disdain than shutting down their project.

So what’s Baumgartner’s excuse? He’s running for state-wide office in 2016 and will need a higher profile – what better way to endear himself to the rest of the state than thumbing his nose at Seattle. The Governor’s office has already gone on record opposing the bill and the Republican head of the transportation committee has indicated he does not support it.

Kelli Linville at Occupy Bellingham

Kelli Linville at Occupy Bellingham

Meanwhile, Mayor Kelli Linville has proposed a rather controversial ordinance that would grant the Police wide authority to ticket or arrest anyone who is sitting or lying down on our sidewalks in the downtown and Fairhaven areas of our city. Naturally, this drew some outrage from civil libertarians, poverty advocates and people who are waiting for the bus and want to sit down. Definitely a far cry from Linville’s original support of the Occupy Bellingham.

The text of the ordinance focuses on pedestrian safety (tripping over people sitting on the sidewalk), but it is pretty clear that this is aimed squarely at the addressing the appearance of homelessness in our community. Definitely a far cry from Linville’s original support of the Occupy Bellingham movement. Expect this issue to grow as it makes its way through the council and into election season.

Finally, a quick clarification from a previous article about Sam Crawford’s retirement. In describing the 2009 appointment saga with Ward Nelson, Pete Kremen, Sam Crawford and Rud Browne, I wrote a rather clumsy sentence that implied that Rud Browne proposed an ordinance to acquit Nelson after the fact . Browne was on the ethics committee that acquitted Nelson but it was Crawford who proposed the ordinance to legitimize the entire scuzzy business. Sorry for the confusion. You can get all the details here.

That’s all for now. I had an article about Rep. Vincent Buys (R-Lynden) legislative proposals but it got delayed because I’m confirming a few policy details. Should go live tomorrow.

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Responses

  1. Well I suppose the no sitting down rule is designed to get some of the more problematic homeless people off the street – downtown merchants have continuing problems with vandalism and the need to keep watch against theft. It’s a difficult problem that requires a more humane approach along with enforcement – like an expanded sheltered seating area at the bus station where people can wait for their bus protected from the elements in a supervised area. Our downtown library is (if I recall the stat correctly) the highest-used library per capita in the State – one reason (besides a literate and educated population) is that it provides a refuge for homeless people to get access to the internet and books and warmth and (quiet) fellowship.

    We are blessed with a temperate climate where it’s possible to live outdoors for most of the year – we will always have a substantial homeless population. Sweeping the problem under the rug is really not a great solution.

    • I’ve spoken to the cops, and the big problem downtown they’d like addressed by these ordinances is not homelessness but aggressive surly drunks (who actually have homes) who like to swill booze out of JJ’s and take their issues out on pedestrians. All of this is civil infraction w/o much capacity for scofflaw behavior. True, the ordinances were not well crafted or supported by much more than anecdotes, but I think the “civil libertarians, poverty advocates and people who are waiting for the bus and want to sit down” might permit these work sessions to get vetted by City Council before going all Watts Riot on City Hall.

      • There already are bylaws that allow the police to ticket and remove “surly drunks swilling booze”. SO your response makes no sense. What this new bylaw does is criminalize loitering. Perhaps we need it – but your characterising people concerned about this as “Watts rioters” is about as sensible as the rest of your point.

      • Bylaws? David– drinking in public is a civil infraction. Yes, they can issue tickets. Which the cops say just get torn up. If they litter, perhaps that’s a misdemeanor.

      • Tim – Isn’t being drunk and surly also a misdemeanor? Otherwise why do we have a drunk tank?

      • BTW – if people are ripping up tickets – they are scofflaws and can be picked up later for failing to appear, failing to pay fines – it may take longer but these things accumulate and a failure to appear is also an arrestable offence, no?

      • Finally – these drunk surly scofflaws are also well known to the police – Bham is a small town – how many of these guys are there?

      • They went through a lot of this at Monday’s meeting. There is no mechanism to punish people who ignore their civil infractions unless it is adopted into City Code. That’s the purpose of the one ordinance. Saying rude things, being aggressive to people as they pass you on a sidewalk also doesn’t really amount to Assault IV, but it is still a behavior police would like some tools to address. The City Prosecutor explained that WACs have to be adopted into BMC.

        The number of these people is not large. You see their names over and over again in the police reports. Yes; they’re known to the cops.

        The problem with the ordinances proposed is while they’re intended to limit egregious behavior, there is no definition within them of what constitutes “egregious” and hence there is capacity for abuse by law enforcement. These aren’t perfect laws, they need work, but I think it is a mischaracterization to say the motivation for creating them is to hassle the disadvantaged.

      • The Sitting and Lying ordinance has been on the books a long, long time. More than a decade. And what was proposed is to extend both the physical area and hours involved in its enforcement. Yes; it is all very arbitrary, and that’s wrong. But no new philosophical ground is being broken on this restriction.

      • @tim – if the sitting and lying ordinance is already on the books, why all the hyperventilating? I’m more confused about this than ever – if what you say is correct, the police ALREADY have all the tools they need. A geographic expansion just extends the area they can enforce it – this thing just doesn’t add up.

      • And I never suggested this was about hassling the disadvantaged – if people have nowhere to go, they will hang out on the sidewalk – compassion for these, enforcement for the bad actors. “What you do to these, the least of my brethren, you do unto me” -JC.

      • Being drunk in public is a civil offense but can result in a mandatory visit to jail if and when a cop decides it’s time to go sober-up.

    • I posted this a few days ago on Whatcom Hawk having attended the discussion before the council where the city’s arguments were not convincing. “If this were really about pedestrian safety, we would immediately see the removal of all those “sandwich” signboards that proliferate in the downtown area and Fairhaven. And talk about obstructing pedestrians, did you ever try to go by the Little Cheerful Cafe in the summer when all the tables are out? What about those tables on the sidewalk in front of the Fairhaven Rocket Donuts in the summer. Not to mention the ones blocking the sidewalk in front of Tony’s Coffee in good weather. And what about the uneven walking surface created by the tree wells? And why is a chair put out by a business owner less a hazard that one put out by a homeless person? And why is a bench in the middle of the sidewalk (check them out in front of Fiamma’s or Woods Coffee [I guess those in front of Woods are gone now.] on Railroad Ave. less of a hazard? Is it because these are considered art work? And why is sitting on the sidewalk at a bus stop less a hazard than sitting anywhere else? And how does one determine if someone is really waiting for a bus? And what about that goat cart statue at the Market. Think of all the sharp edges! Mothers beware! Where is Chicken Little when we need him? Mercy me! …”

      And did you take a look at the “working group” put together that suggested these measures? Business owners and so-called professionals from various other agencies, public and private. Even two folks from Liquor Control. Could they not have found a few homeless people who experience this from the other end to serve? Maybe one or two folks who actually live downtown in some of the apartments? This blow-back from the public is what you get when the groups advocating various remedies do not include the citizenry – and business owners and non-profit organizations are not the citizenry. We are seeing this same blow-back with the CAO process now where the “technical” reps were brought in to discuss the changes but the residents of the city were not consulted.

  2. Turn down the thermostat and they will move to Bellingham’s “progressive sister city” Santa Cruz-problem solved.

    • They have the same homeless issues – do you have an actual solution or approach or is an inane Farberism all you got?

      • An inane Farberism. Good one!

      • “Do you have an actual solution or approach or is an ad hominem attack all you got

      • Read my other comments, Wayne. This is a serious issue in our town that needs dialog and serious discussion, not flippant remarks that don’t add to the discussion.

  3. Mr. Ericksen is right about the Bertha dig since it already has all the hallmarks of an expensive taxpayer Boondoggle –
    overruns, poor design and in-house bickering over whose fault it is.
    So maybe he’s looked at the project with his college-educated eye and not his partisan Republican one and there really is no retribution afoot.
    Even exciting boring machines aren’t designed to eat their way through fill and midden and steel pipes
    so it’s destined to fail and when it does,
    it may not be possible to dig another 120 – foot repair hole.
    Not quite so clear is why Madame Mayor thinks that removing the right places to sit,
    like the benches at Maritime Park,
    is a smart move before criminalizing sitting in the wrong places.
    Most disturbing is the new load of non-violent poor people who’ll be added to the guest list at Elfos Can’tTravelLodge which,
    like David Camp says,
    simply pushes homelessness under the rug,
    out of her sight.

  4. Good jobs and affordable housing (this in particular with rents skyrocketing over the last 10 years) would be more productive areas for Mayor Kelli to focus on if she wants to fight homelessness and vagrancy. This sort of heavy hand, regardless of intentions, is horrible. I’ll point out as well that while your article may imply that this sort of action is a recent turnabout by Mayor Linville on the spirit of the occupy movement, remember that it was her storm troopers that evicted them from Maritime Heritage Park…

    This sort of ordinance is not a shocker from Bellingham establishment democrats (key being establishment), they seem to love and capitalize on the ideals of the radical movements, but when push comes to shove, they use intimidation and force to silence those they claim to speak for.

    • Actually Pike ordered the eviction as one his last official acts as mayor

      • Pike ordered the eviction. The decision to take the military approach was made by the chief of police.

      • You are right. I apologize for not doing the required due diligence on that one, at any rate the sitting and lying ordinance is eerily similar to the eviction act in tone and I feel that the comparison must be made.

    • “remember that it was her storm troopers that evicted them from Maritime Heritage Park…”-stick with the facts Nick (I am a Reaganite Libertarian).

      • Nonetheless the eviction and sitting and lying ordinance whether under one establishment figurehead or another are cut from the same cloth, they reek of civil liberty infringement.

  5. Why am I not surprised that Kelli “I will support a coal terminal if you call it a grain terminal” Linville is turning out to be a closet conservative. Of course we have seen all this before. As Phil Ochs said in the intro to “Love Me I’m a Liberal” (1966):

    “In every American community there are various shades of opinion. The shadiest of these is the liberal.”

    • Then what are you? Oh, that’s right, Ralph Swartz says you are an anarchist.

      • Wayne – My full name is Walt Whitman Haugen. I am a transcendalist. I have transcened all the petty, venal labels with which you try to label me.

    • Happy 110th Birthday Ayn Rand.

  6. Ooopss! That should be transcendentalist. Unfortunately, I have not transcended the rules of grammar and spelling. LOL

    • No poetry?

      I am a Krishnamurti follower myself.

      You don’t like cabbage? No Patrick’s Day food for you, no coleslaw with your burgers? No fun either, I guess.

  7. “I think it is a mischaracterization to say the motivation… is to hassle the disadvantaged.” — That may be true, Tim Johnson, but the ordinance would have the effect of criminalizing homelessness, if enacted in the form presented to the council. And how neither Linville nor the city attorney saw that outcome is , uh, curious.

    People can decide for themselves whether or not Linville acquits herself well, under fire from Terry Bornemann, who speaks with some clarity here:

    • Again, as I said in my comment above, this happens when the “plan” is not vetted by the citizenry at the outset. When the so-called experts (organizations and attorneys) are brought in up front to develop these ideas the risk is overlooking issues that may be obvious to the citizens or to the homeless themselves. But these people were not asked to contribute to this up front so now we are in a situation in which the issue has already been framed by the city and the citizens have to work AGAINST a proposal instead of having been invited to participate in the first place. Framing the issue and positing the terms or vocabulary to be used in the discussion is a questionable device that works against a more robust and all-encompassing discussion. It often makes the proponents look silly or inattentive and serves to anger the citizens. Lose-Lose from the get go.

      • I think the concept of “negligence” applies here. If a Mayor and City Council enact an ordinance that discriminates against people who are poor, they ARE responsible for the harm it causes. I am sooooo tired of the endless hand-wringing and cries of “no mea culpa.” It is all just BS. If you are going to send out cops to harass and harry the homeless, yes YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE.

  8. This whole no sitting down rule is aimed at people who already have things hard enough. For some reason, Kelli Linville thinks that it is okay to have police come in and harass the poor and homeless people in Bellingham. She’s sure making Bellingham look bad. Maybe our next mayor of Bellingham (who will hopefully be elected in 2015) will actually do what works for EVERYONE in Bellingham. And yes, they are responsible for it if they use force to bug the homeless. The roads and sidewalks are public.

    The city of Bellingham always makes it so the activists and the homeless have no chance.

  9. Can the tunnel be built? Of course. New York City has completed boring of twin tunnels for the East Side Connector rail line. Senator Ericksen’s bill smacks of an ALEC-inspired piece: If we spend money for the common good we’ll have none to give away to our favorite corporations.

    • It’s a geology issue, not a political one.
      Boring machines will eat rock all day long,
      fill and mud and sediment and steel pipes,
      not so much.

  10. […] City Councilman Michael Lilliquist shared his thoughts on the controversial ordinance Linville is proposing that would forbid sitting on our streets and sidewalks. Via his facebook page, he said […]

  11. […] Her administration has been marked by some dramatic movement on the Port, but also some sharp criticism over her struggles with the Roosevelt neighborhood, her support for Peacehealth’s $1.2 million tax exemption, and most recently, her proposed ordinances to address the homelessness in our downtown core. […]

  12. could you inform me the number or where I could find an online copy of this ordinance?


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