hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Community Advisory Committee, Part II

As I was saying, the County Executive and his posse came up to talk to us Pointers a week ago and here's the big message that they sent: the County has very little revenue nowadays so it's not realistic to think the County is going to be transmitting large amounts of its general dollars to those of us up here and our perceived needs.  They resurfaced Tyee and restored the walking path along Benson to South Beach, they got the funding together for a new dock at Lighthouse Park (now in process), and they have invested in the Lily Point Park entrance and trails.  And that's probably about it for the moment.  And, they added, it would help for us to remember that we are in competition with every other town, city, and village in Whatcom County, and every one of its other residents, which total 201,628.

However, by contrast, we are NOT in competition with anyone for the use of the gas tax money (now over a half million).  A half million doesn't buy you much in the way of roads, but it is up to us to figure out what we want to do with the money, as long as it fits into the acknowledged fairly narrow definition of transportation.

Meeting attendees were not unanimous in any way as to what direction things should go: one person says, 'we want bike paths,' while someone else insists that he knows that what people want is trail development.  I myself like using some of the funds, at least, to underwriting the costs of keeping the flowers on Tyee blooming and even extending them so that the Garden Club would not be expending its own funds for that purpose and could then use its own funds to support something that does not fit under that narrow definition of transportation.

Ultimately, the problem is that there is no way of knowing what people want.  You can put ads in the paper, but if only 50 or so people respond, its a very weak claim that you then know what people want.  Normally, if you want to figure out what people want, either you have elected representatives decide the question or you have the people vote directly.  But, you are not going to get that question placed on your mail-in ballot and we don't have any elected representatives in the community to answer the question.

Thus, I'd predict that no matter how many Community Advisory Committee meetings I attend, I'll be hearing the same thing over and over.  There is just no decision-making process available here that I can see.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Speaking to the County, Part I

Jack Louws, the County Executive, and several of his department heads showed up on Wednesday night here in Point Roberts to talk about what the County can and can't do to help us.  The Community Advisory Committee invited them up to address, particularly, the use of transportation funds, now over a half-million dollars.  (Please, can I have them for the new library?  No.  Okay, no surprise because a library is hard to categorize as transportation, as even I can tell.)

As a result, much of the conversation focused on transportation, with various Point Roberts' attendees insisting that our roads here are terribly dangerous and need to be fixed immediately.  This is a claim frequently heard at the CAC meetings, and I wondered about exactly how the County decides which roads need to be repaired/re-engineered because of safety issues.  Obviously, no road is absolutely safe, just as no automobile is absolutely safe, so there's no point in trying to impose absolute safety as a standard.  But the County must have some standards, some way of deciding which roads are so problematic as to need to get to the top of the fix-it list.

And the reason that the County must have such standards is because they have expertise in this matter in the way that the average citizen neither has nor is expected to have.  If somebody has an accident in front of my house because of bump in the road, they aren't going to sue me to recover the cost of their injuries; they're going to sue the county (assuming they sue anybody), and the County needs to have some kind of defense.  And expertise and due diligence is their defense.

SO, after the meeting, I asked Mr. Rutan who is the head of some County Transportation unit, how they make that decision to fix some particular road/section.  He responded clearly and very kindly offered to send me the 2012 Priority Array of Roads for Whatcom County.  Within 24 hours, that document arrived via the Net and I am here to report the following:

The State requires each county to do an annual priority rating of roads in the county and, using an algorithm based on traffic volume, accident rate, geometry, ride, drainage, rutting, and cracking, to provide each section of road with a rating from 1-100, 1 being the worst, and 100 being the best (i.e., not a problem).  These priority rating lists give the county some fact-based indications for when a road is such a problem that it must/should be addressed.  As opposed, say, to fixing a problem road because whichever local person squeals the loudest has squealed or because some Council-person's best friend would like his own street improved immediately.

The list for Whatcom county includes 228 roads/sections of roads.  Their individual priority ratings (how you decide which ones need attention) range from 27 to 77.  Goodman Road pegs in at a 42 priority rating, and it is #26 on the list (along with 7 other roads/sections which are rated 42 priority).  That is to say, at best, 25 other roads in the county are less safe and more of a problem than Goodman Road is, even though Goodman Road seems like a nightmare problem to many people here on the Point.  Currently, the county is repairing 4 other roads/sections which have risen to the top.  So, it doesn't sound to me like #25 roads with ratings of 42 are all that unsafe or that they're going to rise to the top of the worst road lists and get addressed at any time soon.  Unless they further deteriorate.  And the County and Mr. Rutan would very much like to know if people are noticing new evidence of deterioration in Goodman Road, but they do already know that it is problematic and what its problems are.

Incidentally, the second P.R. appearance on this list of a Point Roberts Road is APA road from Boundary to Tyee, which has a priority rating of 45, and comes in at number 45 on the list, almost 20 places behind Goodman (many roads/sections have the same ratings, such that 6 roads/sections have a rating of 42, for example).

Tyee, which was repaired last year, must have risen to the top of the list for some combined set of facts; Goodman has not risen to the top of the list for some combined set of facts.   But nothing is going to rise easily to the top of the list nowadays because, as our visitors repeatedly said, the County is hard pressed to do much of anything because their revenue has been so severely reduced.

Thus, if we want roads fixed, we need to raise the tax base/revenues sufficiently that there's enough money in the road-fixing budget to get all they way down to the roads with #42 priority ratings.  

And that's how it works.

More about the rest of the CAC meeting in the next post.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The 2nd Saturday Market

Last Saturday seemed to me one of the dimmest weather days since last February.  Cold, very heavy overcast, and pouring rain.  June 15?  Who cares, say the Weather Gods.

As a result, the three-hours of the Saturday Market were about equally dim.  I was there on behalf of the library fund-raising committee, but whereas the previous Market day I, by myself, had talked to over 60 people about that project, this Market day, my colleague and I together were able to discuss the Wi-Fi availability at the library with only 21 people.

One can only hope for better results at the next Market day (the 30th).  However the Garden Co-op people did have some beautiful lettuce and kale on sale and will presumably have even more things in two weeks when it really will be warmer and less oppressively grey!  I hope.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Way Back in Time

Here are the cliffs of Lily Point which are just an everyday part of our life here in Point Roberts.  Nevertheless, they are important geological artifacts which tell long and complex stories about the ice age and what happened when the glaciers receded, thousands and  thousands of years ago.   Those of us who showed up at the Community Center on Friday night last got to learn something about our home when we were offered a lecture with slides about what Lily Point means to people in the geological  line of work.

Organized by the Friends of the Library, the evening drew about 50-60 people and everyone, as far as I could tell, seemed to have an excellent time.  Now, I have to admit that my science background is minimal, even for someone with a M.A. in the humanities.  I remember in that long ago college education a zoology class and a class in the philosophy of science.  There might also have been a physics course, but there definitely was not a geology class.  So, for me, the lecture was way over my head, in large part because I didn't speak the basic vocabulary of geology.  But others clearly did and it was pleasant enough listening to their questions.

The basic story seemed to be that when the glaciers were here (coming down from the north), Point Roberts was largely under water because of the weight of the glacier upon it.  However, when the glaciers retreated/melted, the glaciers left all the junk they were carrying with them on top of Point Roberts and then our peninsula was no longer pushed down under water and much of what we have now is what the glaciers left us.  There was also considerable talk about earthquakes, tsunamis, and liquefaction.  And VERY strong advice about not walking around the edges of the cliffs at Lily Point because they are subject to splitting off at any moment, and they fall down easily, over and over again.  In the middle of P.R., where I live, liquefaction is not a factor.  I'm not sure why not, but I was happy to hear that was the case.

I think this was one of the few occasions where we have had a formal lecture here.  Like a memento of long ago Chautauquas, when we got summertime culture and education.  Thanks, Rose.  And thanks to Heidi for the photo from the Saturday Morning LIly Point Walk.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Some Housekeeping, of a Sort

I've been blogging less, recently, in great part because I've been more involved in the fund-raising program for the new library in Point Roberts.  I hope to be doing more blogging about Point Roberts as the busier summer season starts (e.g., this weekend there is a Friday night lecture on the geology of Lily Point, at the Community Center, 7:30 pm; a walking tour the next morning, the Saturday Market, concerts at the Church on Saturday and Sunday, etc., and also a movie in the yard at Brewster's on Saturday when it gets dark, and if it doesn't rain.  (see here for details.)

Additional new stuff:  there is a new 'Craig's List' type site for Point Roberts here.  And, of most importance to me and, I hope, to readers, a new blog to track Point Roberts' new library fund raising progress:  www.foprl.blogspot.com

FOPRL stands for "Friends of the Point Roberts Library," a title I hope will be finding an easy-to-retrieve residence in locals' and visitors' individual and collective minds.  The task to raise money for renovating the Julius Firehall and getting a 21st Century library out of it is formidable but doable, we believe, the architects believe.  But it's going to take the whole community to get it done.

 The first posts are already up on the FOPRL blog (www.foprl.blogspot.com) ; more to come soon.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Saturday Market Re-Starts

Last Saturday morning, the Saturday Market opened its third year of operation.  Although the first year went pretty well, it began to be less peopled, both by vendors and by buyers, during the second year and by the end of the second year it was close to death, I thought.

But it has returned to life for yet another try this year.  One difference this year is that it's only three hours (10-1) rather than four.  Also, unlike last year when the disagreements about whether used goods could be sold continued, such 'flea market' type goods are welcomed.  (Alas, I have sold all my wonderful CD collection, so I no longer have any used goods to populate a table.  Thanks again to the buyers.)

Saturday morning when I drove over to the Community Center (I am assigned to a public information table for the New Library Building Fund Raising Project), it was raining just a bit and, although it looked like it might clear up (and it did), the Saturday Market vendors insisted on going inside.

Probably not a bad idea because there were only 5 or 6 vendors and that looks like a reasonable number in the main room in the Community Center, but it looks like an impoverished showing even in the small parking lot outdoors.  The Coop Garden people had fresh vegetables, including kohlrabi.  I saw several fresh and lovely exemplars of this odd vegetable go by (I was in the hallway outside the library entrance) and wondered how many people in P.R. have actually every eaten kohlrabi.  I'm not sure I have.  But now they were having an opportunity to do so.  Perhaps it should be delivered with a recipe?

There were also some plants and some jewelry and some Avon goods and some slippers and some crafts.  And it was a decent showing.  Wishing the project well, I can only hope that there are more vendors next time (June 16) and that the sun will shine upon them and their wares.  The buyer turnout wasn't bad for a first round.  Perhaps a Renaissance in the Saturday Market is before us.  I'll be watching them from the Library Fund-Raising table.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Lions and G-rafes

A request from someone outside of P.R. to show the lions and grafe pictures.  So, thanks to Rose who had a camera and was close by in the library, here are those pictures.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Kids Are OK

Saturday Friday evening, the Park and Recreation Commission and the Library arranged a gallery of a sorts opening for the K-3 Point Roberts School end-of-the-school-year art work.  Also for an older Bellingham painter who has more technique but no less inspiration than the kids have.  We were glad to see both shows.

Fifty or so people, I would guess, showed up for a couple of hours while the Point Roberts Wind Quintet played various selections for us and while we drank wine and and other milder drinks for those so inclined and ate cheese and crackers just like the folks in the big city do for such events.  And talked to our friends and admired the childrens' work and the Bellingham guy's work, too, although it is mounted so high in the hallway that it's easy to miss it.  By contrast, the kids' work was right at eye level.

Various Point Roberts artists-in-residence had come to the school this year to introduce the kids to various techniques: photography, math/symmetry, brush painting, still life, contour drawing, etc.  The trio of pictures below, all by third graders, particularly caught my eye.

 The first one is by a third grader, the second by a 2nd grader, and third by a 3rd grader: each has its own vision and charm.  The third grader has centered his/her image; the other two have not.  And what you see is the different effects of composing with symmetry and with asymmetry.  The three pictures are an entire lesson all by themselves.

The show will be posted for a couple more weeks, so drop by and see what the kids have to offer.  These three paintings are on the left side, about half way down the main hallway.  Right next to them are a terrific pair of lions by two different kids.  One, a cheerful, almost manic lion who fills all the space; the other a very timid lion who is located in the very center of his space with lots of air around him.  Very different ideas of lion-ness.  And also, a G-RAFE.