hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Friday, December 2, 2016

Next Act

(Cross Posted from Friends of the Point Roberts Library blog)

Almost a month since election day and the truly unhappy news that the new library levy put forth by the Park and Recreation District had failed to reach the 60% of votes required by Washington law. Alas, I believe it was the only levy that failed in Whatcom County.  On the other hand, it did NOT fail to achieve a majority+ of votes: over 55% of voters did vote to approve the levy which would have required an average property owner payment of $100 for one year in order to build a new library for Point Roberts.  A library that would have served our community well for decades.

But, what's done is done.  There are two ways forward: first, those of us at FOPRL could just say, "well, the voters have spoken and that's that."  But I don't think that's going to happen because although the voters have voted, the majority of the voters also spoke; and the majority of people in Point Roberts spoke even earlier when FOPRL received many hundreds of individually-identified donations.  FOPRL feels a deep commitment both to those who already donated over a half-million dollars to build a new library at the site of the Julius Firehall, to those who supported the levy, and to our own view of the community's real need for a new, centrally-located, larger, and appropriately outfitted library that will serve us and those who come after us well into the 21st Century.

At the moment, we are working on next steps forward.  We have met with the Park and Recreation Commission and with Whatcom County Library System, our two partners in this project, to review the options for a plan to move this project forward as originally intended.  It has a bunch of moving parts, but we hope to be able to get it finalized by January (given the demands of the holiday season).  We will have to do some further fundraising, of course, but we have already received some encouraging offers of significant help.  And we would be happy to receive more offers, of course!  Just call me.

So, that's it for the moment, but stay tuned!  The Board of the Friends of the Point Roberts Library, and especially Ed and I personally, extend our great thanks for all you have done for this project over the last 5 years.  We look forward to completing this new library which will mean so much to us all when it is finished, and mean even more perhaps because it has been a challenge that we will have overcome together.  A library is a community treasure and we believe we will have that renewed treasure, soon.

--Judy Ross
President, Friends of the Point Roberts Library

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Correction

The meeting that you can go to to ask questions of the Fire District Commissioners is Wednesday, December 14th, at 4 pm, not today.

Oh, Sigh, the Fire District

Apparently, there is some unhappiness at the Fire District over their decision to insist on having all the money they can get from the County's property taxes.  In a post to Point Interface,  they note, about their budget requests:

"No one from the public has come to either meeting where we discussed the 2017 budget and the banked capacity to talk about those topics. If you have questions, please come to our meeting, review the meetings online, or contact Chief Carleton at 360-945-3473 or email him at chief@wcfd5.com. "

Apparently, the Commissioners have forgotten that they instituted a policy some years ago (after the Great Unhappiness, about 6 years ago) in which members of the public could make a 'comment' at the beginning of the meeting, before they had much if any information about the topics of the meeting, but could not ask questions.  I was personally and publicly instructed that my 'question' was not appropriate since I was entitled only to make a comment.  If you can't effectively question them, why go to their meetings?  You can just wait until you read the results in the All Point Bulletin's reporting.

But, perhaps they'll entertain questions today (as they suggest in their public relations/press release on Point Interface), Wednesday, at 4 pm.  Correction: Wednesday, December 14th, at 4 pm.  So go if you want to ask questions about their add-on budget request.  If not, thank the All Point Bulletin (Pat Grubb and/or Meg Olson) for telling you what is happening.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

On the Projected New Point Roberts LIbrary

[CROSS POSTED FROM FRIENDS OF THE POINT ROBERTS LIBRARY BLOG]

The November All Point Bulletin is out now and I see that there are a bunch of “Letters to the Editor” about the new library.  I hope that we have not lost track of the actual existence of facts, but I do note that the two letters in opposition are sort of fact-challenged.  So, here’s an attempt to address that.

Stan Riffle writes with great concern about the Park and Rec District taking on too much debt.  This suggests he doesn’t grasp the difference between a bond and a levy, which you would think he would given that he is a Commissioner at the Fire District.  A bond is debt; a levy is income.  So, the one-time levy is not debt, not something that has to be repaid, not now, not next year, not ever.   The levy will increase property owners’ taxes by, on average, about $100 for one year.  If the levy passes, property owners will pay half of their share of the levy with their first tax installment in 2017 and the other half will be paid with the second installment in 2017.  And that’s it.  No more levy payments, no debt to be paid back, no change in the Park & Rec debt level.  And there will be a new library, significantly increasing the District’s asset values.

Linda Hughes takes the position that a library is not important enough for taxpayers to pay a million dollars.  The most recent cost estimate is not a million dollars, nor even $900,00 as Mr. Riffle asserts, but $840,000.  This includes a substantial contingency fund for the unknown unknowns. The known unknowns have apparently already been resolved during the permitting process: we will not need an entirely new septic system, nor additional parking, etc.  

Perhaps Ms. Hughes also thinks that $840,000 is too much for the taxpayers to pay for a new library.  But, of course, nobody is asking the taxpayers to pay $840,000.  They are being asked as a group to pay up to $300,000, 35% of the cost.  The remainder of the cost is covered by donors who have already contributed $540,000+ to the Friends of the Point Roberts Library for this new library: some of them property owners, but also residents, their relatives, summer visitors, local businesses, Washington philanthropic foundations, and businesses from outside the Point.

The Friends asked for and accepted these donations to reconstruct the Julius Fire Hall into a new and appropriate for decades to come library, and that is what the money is to be used for.  It is not a gift to the Park and Rec District to spend as they want.  The Friends of the Library are saying to property owners in Point Roberts, “We will pay 65% of the costs of the new library.  Will you pay the other ⅓?  Will you look that big gift horse in the mouth?”

Those are the facts of this levy request.

--Judy Ross, for The Friends of the Point Roberts Library


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

More About the Border

After the last post on the border, I got emails from Arthur Reber and Mark Robbins, informing me that there existed a local committee, established by the Port Director some years ago, to provide a 2-way communication system between the people who live here and the CBP agents.  The group of about 10 people meets with some regularity.  I was told variously that it was a representative committee (with representatives from the Voters' Association, the Taxpayers' Association, and the Chamber of Commerce [correction: also PREP]; and that it was an ad hoc group, presumably cooked up by the Port Director and somebody to whom he was talking.  Anyone can go to the members of this committee and ask them to take a problem to the border people.  In at least some instances that were mentioned, the problem was specific, not generic: ie, how to deal effectively with the needs of horseowners to get medical care for their animals.  It was not clear to me that anybody took their personal issues with border interactions, although it was said that the Port Director specifically stated that he wanted individuals to bring their problems to him.

Nonetheless, if you ask a border person to make a complaint (in at least several instances I know about), you will be given a form to send to Washington, D.C.  So, maybe not so much.  There is, of course, the distinct vulnerability problem associated with making a complaint: unless you never leave the Point, or you have a lawyer on board during all crossings, you are likely to feel pretty vulnerable after filing a complaint to people who have a lot of not very regulated power to keep track of you or discipline you when next you meet in the Nexus or regular lanes.

Giving your complaint to this local committee presumably provides some protection for you, but then as one committee member said to me, "but of course we're then always operating on second-hand information."  So, making a complaint in these circumstances is not like returning a pair of shoes that don't fit: i.e., a reasonable and easy procedure.

The other major question that occurs to me is why have I never heard of this committee?  I'm pretty active in the community, particularly in the last five years.  I read the newspaper regularly, and not just because I write for the newspaper regularly, but I don't remember any articles about these meetings.  I attend lots of different group meetings and never heard it discussed.  I have all kinds of conversations with Robbins and Reber and I never recall their mentioning it.  Yesterday, I asked a dozen friends/acquaintances who are all permanent residents and active in the community if they'd ever heard of such a committee, and didn't hear a single, "Yes."

Well, if you didn't know about it either, now you do.  But knowing certainly provides me with more  concerns/questions than I had before.  However, I am told that the All Point Bulletin has now expressed interest in writing about the committee and I have been offered an invitation to the next meeting of the group.  I'm more enthusiastic about the former than the latter, I must say.




Friday, October 21, 2016

Thinking about the Border

Last week, a friend of mine had a very unpleasant experience at the U.S. border coming into Point Roberts.  This is his story: He lives here, he has Nexus "trusted traveler program," as it's called.  He crosses the border frequently, as do most of us who live here; he knows the rules; he was bringing nothing in with him from a half-day trip up to meet a friend in Vancouver.  But the border guard (temporarily) took his Nexus card from him, sent him inside for inspection; and, when he asked, would give him no reason for this action.  It was not a random secondary inspection, which can happen to anyone anytime because they didn't give him a slip.  Inside, he was asked many questions about his residence here.  When he inquired politely about why he was being asked all these questions, he was again refused any explanation.  He then asked to speak to a supervisor and was told that he might not get his Nexus card back.  He insisted upon speaking with the supervisor who came out from his office after a bit of a wait.  When he asked whether he could speak to the supervisor privately (the most recent CBP guy he had talked with was standing next to them), the supervisor informed him that it was not possible.  And so, after a few moments of unsatisfactory conversation with the supervisor, they returned his Nexus card, and told him to go on through the border and home.

Who knows what was going on at the border that day, but my friend is a guy with a very even temperament and he was very unnerved by this experience, its threatening tone, its basic incivility.  After all, we with Nexus cards are "Trusted".  So you'd think if there was something that required some deeper questioning than we usually get, that questioning would be conducted civilly and with respect.

A few days later, I was at a meeting of a local group of people and in the slack moments that 8 or so people were sitting about, I told them this story and asked whether they'd recently had any trouble at the border.  Nobody reported any problems that week, but then, in turn, each related an awful border experience that they had had, some as long as 15 years ago.  The detail of each story was extensive; clearly the experience was seared into their brains.

And that's what it's like to live in an exclave like Point Roberts.  Everyone here is intensely aware of what it's like at least occasionally to be confronted by these (mostly) guys with guns, whether they're just in a bad mood or have some private knowledge that requires a higher degree of concern.  I wish that they, the CBP (custom and border protection), had some grasp of what it feels like to be on the other side of their anxieties.  They create bad memories that people just don't forget.  It's rarely necessary for them to act this way (nobody is waving guns or knives in their faces); but apparently they don't grasp what it does to travellers or what it does to our views of them and their agency.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Fearful All the Time!

About an hour ago, the local tsunami siren went off for about five minutes.  I'm not sure that folks everywhere on the Point can hear it, but I live fairly close to it so it was very audible: a long wailing up and down whine.  I looked at the calendar to be sure that it wasn't the first Monday of the month when they do the test check.  Actually, old as I am, I usually know whether it's the beginning of the month, and by the 20th, I'm pretty sure that is the case.  Still, I checked the calendar.

Twice, I went outside to make sure that's what I was hearing, rather than an ambulance, say.  I checked the weather report: no word about high seas here.  And then, the siren turned to some kind of talking which, unlike the siren, is absolutely not capable of being understood this far away.

So, I turned to the Google, asking for "Washington Tsunami Warning" and was answered by:
Millions of people worldwide will practice how to 
Drop, Cover, and Hold On at 10:20 a.m. on October 20* during Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills!

Well, pretty much at my household, we pretty much just learned how to be confused.  I read the All Point Bulletin this past month and I don't remember a warning event being mentioned (maybe in the "Events Calendar"?).  Point Interface has not posted any information about such an event, which one might expect to come from the Fire District or PREP.  So maybe we all missed the Drill and just got the (at least brief) fear.  Perhaps they should have scheduled it last night at 6 pm PDT so that it could have initiated last night's last Presidential Debate.  Now that was something that one could reasonably be afraid of.