hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Point Roberts Ups and Downs

The Up, Way Up!  Last night was the local elementary school (K-3, 15 kids) performance of their annual Christmas play.  It is always a home grown performance (one of the teachers, Deb Wilkowski, wrote this year's play, which lasted about 45 minutes).  The 15 kids, in their dress up clothes, with added costume touches (especially elegant headgear) showed us how Point Roberts got to be here, from about 1701 (even before cell phones, the kids noted) to 1870 or so.  There was a prodigious amount of memorization required to carry off this feat, and the kids were more than up to it, even handling microphones with considerable skill.  There was scarcely a moment when anybody needed a cue.  The older girls, i.e., 8-year-olds (for awhile, there was a dire shortage of boys in the school, and as a result we now have a lot of older girls) did much of the heavy lifting, and they were without flaw.  There was a newly configured sound system that made it almost easy to hear what they were saying, although the inherent accoustic defects of the space are still major.

Turns out, getting to be Point Roberts, once beyond Captain Vancouver's naming it for his dead buddy, Lieutenant Henry Roberts, was the usual historical mishmash (at one moment, one of the actors says of one such event, "Does anybody care?") of how things happen: do we have any decent maps that tell us exactly where the 49th parallel intersects the land at issue?  What about the Gulf Islands and the woeful dead pig that provided an opportunity for a shot heard around the neighborhood, at least?  And, ultimately, you have to love the most the fact that some nameless bureaucrat in the Buchanan Administration thought that the U.S. should grab the peninsula apparently named Point Roberts City or something because it might have some kind of military use at some time.  One can only imagine launching a war from Point Roberts.  (And unfortunately, nowadays, one certainly can.)  But one can also imagine provisioning a Yukon/B.C. gold rush from the Point, as they did.

All round a spectacular evening provided by spectacular kids and spectacular teachers of various sorts.  We're lucky to have them.

On the down side, the December All Point Bulletin included a news item about the Fire District's need to add to its reserve fund of more than $700,000 in case the District is, due to some catastrophe, unable to access its regular yearly income (which comes from the County).  I wonder exactly what Chief Carleton is thinking of?  That there will be a nuclear bomb set off in County Treasurer Steve Oliver's office?  If so, we doubt that Oliver keeps the money there.  Or that the entire banking system, including electronic/digital transfers of funds, will cease to exist?  I trust everyone in Point Roberts will take this to heart and immediately ensure that they have the equivalent of their yearly income in cash somewhere (perhaps under the bed?)  should their present source of income cease to exist as a result of some catastrophe.   We note in passing that the Fire District already has over $700,000 in reserve funds as compared, say, to the Park and Rec District's maybe $50,000.  So, the Fire District voted to take $20,000 more from Property Taxes to increase its reserve fund.  The Park District got a 1% increase in its budget, which probably amounts to about $600.00.

Do you keep in mind how much of your property tax payment goes to local government?  For the median household, the median householder (on a property whose assessed value is $115,156) yearly pays $103 to the Fire District, $47 to the Hospital District (the Clinic), and $16 to the Park and Rec District.  There is some kind of disconnect between those numbers and what we need for a vibrant community.  (The APB story on the Fire District budget is on page 8 of the December issue; I'd give you a link if I could figure out how to do it. Maybe the APB could help; or maybe you still have a copy of the December issue at home, folks. )

And a Happy first Snowstorm of December.  Big flakes falling as I write this.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Election Outcomes

Arthur Reber handily outpolled Wayne Knowles for a seat on the Water Board, and Stan Riffle was returned to his post as Fire District Commissioner, but he won by only 13 votes (against Judson Meraw, which is not an impressive vote of support for an incumbent).  Perhaps the Fire District will reconsider how they're doing business; or perhaps not.

And now on to U.S. Thanksgiving.

Thursday, October 29, 2015


Coming up quickly on election day.  Get those ballots in the mail.  You've had lots of money spent on mailers to tell you why X is the best candidate or Y is the best idea since sliced cheese, so you probably don't need any more from me on that topic.  However, you don't get very much on local elections.  Of course, there are only two, I think, contested elections here in Point Roberts: at the Water District, it's Arthur Reber and Wayne Knowles; and at the Fire District it's Judson Meraw and Stan Riffle.

Reber is the past/first Chair of the Community Advisory Committee and in that role he learned quickly about how to go about dealing with the County machinery.  And, he was always committed to involving the community in the processes of his committee.  There were lots of different forces at work in the Advisory Committee and I think Reber did a terrific job in managing them.  I didn't favor the Committee taking on the task of the Character Plan Committee, but it's not as if I had some terrific alternative plan to suggest when Jack Louws decided that Committee needed to be brought back to life and Reber supported taking on that job, too.

Knowles is the guy originally behind Seabright Farms, and he's been here in the community a long time.  Mostly, though, he's a business guy, as far as I can tell.  And I am inclined to think that his interest in the Water Board is largely a function of his interest in his many potential Seabright cottages.  Well, we're all interested in having water, of course, but ...

So, I'm hoping Reber wins in this position, not least because he has the time and interest and demonstrated capability of community work.  Commissioner jobs are essentially unpaid, so it's little surprise that many people with other obligations aren't too willing to spend much time at them.  Reber will spend the time.

At the Fire District, I'm hoping that Judson Meraw wins that slot.  I know Judson from having worked with him some years ago on the creation of the Community Events sign, and also from his generous work in helping to create the Book Sculpture in front of the Julius Firehall (the location of our new library-soon-to-be).  I know Stan from having watched him at work at the dozens of Fire District meetings that I have attended.  If you have read this blog over time, you'll know I'm no fan of the way that Bill Meursing runs Commission meetings, and in my experience, Riffle is just another vote for Bill Meursing on all decisions.  I never saw Riffle stand up for community involvement in the Commissioners' work (unless it was to support Chief Carleton's community involvement programs, which is a very different kind of community involvement).  Judson is all about community involvement in every form.

On a 3-person Commission, taking an extra vote away from Meursing, would only serve democracy I think, where we usually think it's 'One Person, One Vote.'

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Blue Skies,, Grey Skies

I always wonder about how people who move here in spring/summer respond to their first fall with its more than fair share of deep grey skies, early darkness (at both ends of the day and we still have a week+ to the end of daylight savings time), and frequently persistent rain.  Gardening is still required, but not that much fun since it's mostly clean-up and burn piles with very little persistent harvest of fruits and vegetables (we still have apples, there will always be kale, and there is yet a large box of green and reddening tomatoes on the porch:  for a local recipe for excess tomatoes, see here:  rustic tomato soup--although I can't vouch for that 4 cups of basil).

Metaphorically, the state of the peninsula is also in a bluesky-greysky mode.  Under "blue skies", we have the fact that the Friends of the Point Roberts Library are very close to achieving their fundraising goal ($538,000) and it is a distinct possibility that renovation of the Julius Fire Hall could be completed next year.  That task will be under the supervision of the Park and Recreation District and they will undertake the responsibility for raising/providing additional funds should the project cost more than $538,000.  It's coming up on the election, so several of the Districts will be welcoming new Commissioners or returning old ones.  I suppose the fact of elections is a good thing, so it can have a place in the blue-sky paragraph.  The outcomes?  If you put in the giant new jail emporium being planned for Whatcom County, it looks less sunny.  Currently, even at the federal level,  there is a significant consensus about the need to have fewer people in jail in the U.S.   So why does the Whatcom County Executive think there is a need to have an even bigger jail?  You might think that with marijuana legalization, fewer low-level drug offenders would be being sent to the county jail and that the level of incarceration would already be down.  Well, who knows, but in the meantime, count me as a major skeptic for this project.

And then there are the grey-skies, including the radio towers.  Yes, the Superior Court said they can't be built which makes it bluesky, but the radio station people may yet appeal that decision and if they do, its back in grey-skies.  There is the missing dock, and until the County figures out how to do a better job and gets it returned to the water, it's a grey-sky issue.  The lighthouse at Lighthouse Park has had some encouraging moments, but the executive branch has offered plenty of discouragement.  And, finally, there is the dog-leash issue.  Generally, I favor the view that says, when your making new laws and regulations, think about how they will work in Point Roberts and consider whether some kind of accommodation is needed.  Sometimes, yes; sometimes, no.  If there is no place here for dogs to run around a bit, off a leash, then the County needs to get such a place established.  If it doesn't want to permit such activities in our public "[beach] parks," then the appropriate answer is not, "let them run through the private property that is the beach, but prevent them from running on the public property that is the beach.  Deeply grey skies, that one.

And then comes winter?  Oh, my gracious.

Friday, October 2, 2015

What's Point Roberts Like?

Friends, relatives, people who don't live here often ask, "What's Point Roberts like?"  This week we had a particularly nice example of Point Roberts at its absolute best.

Ed was looking for old-fashioned glazier's points; not for a window but for a photograph.  He went to the local hardware store, but it had only the new kind of glazier's points, which are more square.  He came home to find a neighbor had dropped by.  Ed asked hin if, by chance, he had any old-fashioned glazier's point.  "Yeh, I think so," replied Don.  Thirty minutes later, he returned with this:

THAT is a community at its very best!
And it may also explain how we get by with so very few stores.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Point Roberts Follies

What a summer.  Very long and, between the heat and the parade of festivities, pretty exhausting.  You go to some event and you go home a little tired by it and generally pleased to have attended it, but you don’t probably think of all the work that went in to making it happen and the fact that there are a pretty limited number of people here who are making all those things happen.

Here is a list of 20 events that it’s easy to call up:
  1. A dozen or so Saturday Markets plus Auntie Pam's Sunday Markets
  2. The July 4th parade and pancake breakfast
  3. The Arts and Music Festival
  4. The Welcome Marionette’s Puppet Show
  5. The ‘This Old House” series on the history of Point Roberts homes
  6. The Fire District/Border Commendation Ceremony
  7. The Fire Districtrict/PREP Open House
  8. The Cardboard Boat Races
  9.   The Drum Circles
  10.   The Taxpayers Annual General Meeting with Whatcom Planners explaining their work.
  11. The Voters Association AGM, featuring our Congressperson, Suzan DelBenne
  12. Two Art Exhibits (quilts and painitings ) the The Blue Heron
  13. Two FOPRL Big Used Book Sales
  14.   Garden Club Sale
  15. Library Joke Show
  16.   Park and Rec Kids Summer Camp
  17.   No to the Towers Concert
  18.   Trinity Lutheran Church Concerts Series
  19.  Trinity Lutheran Church's Children’s Summer Music Camp
  20. The Salmon Derby

I have not remembered everything (apologies rendered)and certainly haven’t gone to everything; in fact I’ve probably gone to fewer events than I usually would, in part because I’m exhausted and in part because I’ve been to them numerous times before and I decided this year to be on vacation as seemed suitable.  So I can’t evaluate them individually (nor do you need me to), but I can say that’s a pretty impressive list for a place with only 1,000+ permanent residents who do most of the organizing to make these possible.

Yes, the brand new dock collapsed, just a month into its new residency.  And that was surely a shame.  But I don’t think the County people who were responsible for its being installed feel any happier about that happening than we do.  Clearly a failure on their watch.  Perhaps they’ll be inspired to get a new one faster, but perhaps they’ll be even more cautious about installing a new one.  Easily, it could go (and justifiably) either way.  Something about the tides on Lighthouse Park Beach that they didn’t understand and having the dock collapse won’t, by itself, teach them why it happened.

But now it’s all going to be slowing down what with Labor Day only 2.5 weeks away.  The Canadians will soon be packing their cars (still without chickens and eggs) and heading the other way with happy memories of another Summer at the Cottage.  And we’ll still be here, starting planning for next summer and the many ways to entertain our family guests and our neighborhood cottagers in the summer of 2016, when we’ll also have a new library to celebrate.  But first, we're probably going to take a little rest.

Happy End of Summer!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Puppet Show, Saturday at 3 pm

Just a reminder that the P.R. Library and the Friends of the P.R. Library are sponsoring a live marionette theater performance this Saturday at the Community Center at 3 pm.  The "Welcome Marionettes" Company were here two summers ago and gave a wonderful performance of "The Wizard of Oz."  This year, it's Popeye and Olive Oil and, I trust, Sweetpea, and all that gang from my childhood (and perhaps some of yours), who are just as endearing if you've never met them before.

This is a wonderful opportunity for kids to be exposed to live puppet theater, and to meet the people who give life to these charming creations.  Free for kids, free for grownups.  Please do come!