hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

This Is No Way to Spend Wednesday Nights

Just back from another Fire Commissioners' special meeting, the third meeting this month.  Well, they each get paid only $90 per meeting, so it could be worse from that perspective.

The news.  Mr. Meursing, who has a maybe-German accent that makes him hard (for me) to understand in a room with bad accoustics (which the fire hall has) started off by telling the 30+ attendees that he would tolerate no bad behavior, no clapping, no booing, no interrupting, none of that.  So, under the impression that he was in control of his inferiors (in fact, we were largely indifferent to him and could scarcely bear to speak to him), he maundered on a bit with the minutes being approved and the like; then appointing himself chairman. And then, he announced that the lawyers forbade them from discussing anything to do with the firing of Mr. Kiniski.

And, since that was really all the attendees wanted to discuss, they were indifferent largely to whether they spoke or not.  And mostly did not, though they were not exactly invited to do so at any time.

Then came the first dramatic act (this is like in script writing classes where they tell you that if you introduce a gun in Act 1, the gun must go off in Act III):  Mr. Gellatly had sent a resignation letter.  Meursing read all five lines to us and we learned that Mr. Gellatly was resigning because he longs to spend more time with his family.  I imagine so.  Whether that goes both ways was not placed in evidence.  Thus, Mr. Gellatly, goodbye and don't pick up your $90 on the way out because you didn't show up to say goodbye.

Last week, the piece (i don't know where to find the French accent marks) de resistance was interim Chief Carleton being thrown to the public wolves.  After a very bad performance then, however, the Commissioners remaining sent him out again to do their work.  Carleton bravely stood up and attempted to explain exactly what level of EMT services we have in Point Roberts or could have or used to have.  I don't know: maybe all of those things.  But he also talked a lot about what they have in Mt. Baker and Glacier, which might (or might not ) be of interest if I lived in Mt. Baker or Glacier.

He hammered hard, again and again (in the manner of a hammer, that would be), on his main point, which seemed to be that one person, even if he had an apartment at the Firehall could not provide paramedic services 24/7.  Part of the reason I lost interest in his performance was because I doubted that anyone thought that was the case.  There is a lot of casual talk about Nick's providing 24-hour paramedic service because he lives here, but no one of any sense thinks that means Nick would be providing 24/7 paramedic services.  He, like everyone else, has a life.  We know that.  But Mr. Carleton apparently does not know that.

And then he discussed typical paramedic salaries with us, in the clear belief that no one in the audience would know anything about it.  Unfortunately, I had just googled that information a few days ago, so I did have an opinion and some information on that topic but it didn't gibe with his so he got to tell me that "Google is wrong."  But, when I asked him where he got his figures, it turned out all he knew was his own salary, which included a 12% Bellingham bump and a 15% experience bump.  Thus (his eventual point), we would have to pay $240,000 a year to have three paramedics to get 24/7 coverage.  Yawn.

Finally, he sat down.  I'm sure he's a decent and ambitious young man (ambition has its place in the world), but he has let himself be used by the Commissioners twice in 8 days in a very bad way.  He is clearly not someone who learns quickly.

And then, I guess, the gun goes off and they announce a 40-minute retreat into Executive Session to discuss Mr. Carleton's contract and qualifications and our lawyer's papers with his lawyer's papers.  Except.  Ms. Olson of the APB read the rules about what can be discussed in executive session and it did not seem to include what they were planning to discuss.  Mr. Meursing, who suddenly didn't seem entirely to understand Olson's point (maybe he has the same accent hearing problem that I have), seemed to be willing, in a gentlemanly way, to accommodate her preferences as to what they could discuss and said, well then we won't discuss those things and maybe 20 minutes will be enough not to discuss those things.

So, the three left, about half the public left, and the rest of us waited for their return, in about 13 minutes, to the announcement that they weren't making any decisions tonight and, said Mr. Meursing, he hoped we would leave immediately in a quiet and orderly way.  And we did.  Good soldiers that we are; good citizens and all that. He also thanked us for behaving properly.  What a guy!  What a guy! He would teach his grandmother to suck eggs.  (A very old-timey expression.)

Now, pondering this wasted time, I can't help but think that his family is probably hoping that he might soon be wanting to spend more time with them.  I certainly am.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Maybe It's a Five-Act Play?

According to tonight's APB, Gellatly has called a Fire Commissioner meeting tomorrow night at which time he will resign and the remaining Riffle and Meursing will privately discuss Mr. Carleton's salary interests.  And maybe the public is relevant, but probably not.  Pat Grubb''s read on the rules is worth knowing if you are going to the meeting.  7 pm at the firehall.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Last Day at the Saturday Market

Yesterday was the final market day of this year.  They keep trying different things, but it seems always to end on something of a low note.  Yesterday was the smallest turn out of vendors yet, and a fairly small turn out of buyers/visitors.  There was live music, which might have been something of a draw, but it was right in the market and it made it impossible to talk to visitors/buyers while that was going on.  Maybe better to put the players a little farther away on the grass, but by next year, when one can apply that possible improvement, no one will remember it.

The Saturday Market is a good idea, but it needs a lot more management than it gets.  One of the things I have learned in PR over the years is that almost everything depends upon a few people volunteering their time and some commitment to make something happen.  Usually, however (or at least after the first few weeks or months) the volunteer enthusiasm and commitment wane, and whatever leadership skill was available (if any) is left holding the painful remains of a good idea.

Perhaps what we could do is make better use of the pretty well run groups on the Point (e.g., Garden Club, the quilting group, The Historical Society, the Seniors, the Friends of the Library, Taxpayers, Voters, etc.) as an overarching support group for new ventures.  Get their support first for new ventures: not just 'Great idea," kind of support, but something more concrete, whether money or people to draw upon.  Otherwise, the 'Great Idea" is likely to just wither on the vine.

So, I'm not hopeful as the Market year ends; but I wasn't very hopeful that it would happen again this year, so I have to admit to a poor record as a predictor.  I do think it needs more help from the public and from the economic development people down in Whatcom/Port Authority.  Maybe even enough to fund someone with skills to manage it.

And, as a coda:  the new flooring on the main corridor of the Community Center.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Small Follow-up

I'm hesitant to post more on the Fire Commissioner debacle in the absence of further information being available.  However, 2 items plus a brief comment are desiring to get on this blog at the moment.

1.  Gellatly has written a letter to the editor of the APB in which he explains that he doesn't condone or condemn his fellow commissioners' action in firing Kiniski. (He didn't attend that meeting and thus didn't vote on the issue.)
Is Mr. Gellatly saying that he, too, lacks information about why this action was taken?  Why doesn't he get it?  (In every sense of that sentence.)  Gellatly concludes his letter thusly: "The commissioners are unable to publicly comment on any matters pertaining to the chief’s dismissal without direction from legal counsel. That direction has not been provided at this time. This is in consideration of both parties."  Why did the Commissioners not say this at the meeting?

2.  The new APB article about the August 22 meeting continues to generate new comments and includes several photos of the crowd at the meeting.  See who was there and what they have to say. 

And, finally, a thought about it all:  At the beginning of the meeting this past Wednesday, there were probably 3 or 4 hundred people on the Point who knew and were concerned that Kiniski had been fired.  The vast majority of them did not have a view about who was in the wrong.  That's why over a 100 of them came to the meeting.   

What the Commissioners achieved by stonewalling the people of Point Roberts, was to remove Kiniski from the issue.  Now, it's all about the Commissioners.  They took the metaphorical gun and pointed it straight at themselves.   One of the most startingly inept political performances I have ever seen.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Shameful Performance by the Fire Commissioners

Well, I'm just back from the Fire Commissioners' Special Meeting and am absolutely stunned.  But if I'd followed the actions of the Fire Commissioners more closely, maybe I would have had a better idea of whom we're dealing with here.  So I offer a couple of events over the past decade for context.  

1.  In 2003, the Fire Commissioners abruptly pulled District 5 out of a 3-year agreement to work with other fire districts in northern Whatcom County.  The only two Commissioners at the time were Meursing and Gellatly.  Their decision put the Wellness Clinic in a difficult administrative spot but they insisted that it be done immediately.  "I don't think you've done your homework here, fire district 13 commissioner Butch Hinchey told Meursing and fellow district 5 commissioner David Gellatly. I think you're making more of an emotional stand than a logical one." 

2.  In 2009, the Fire Commissioners (including Meursing and Gellatly) hired a new fire chief, one Mark Ellison.  A month later, they fired him.

These appear to be people who act first and think later.  And tonight's meeting simply seemed a further demonstration of their total inadequacy.

About a hundred people showed up tonight.  That is a very large number of people at a Point Roberts meeting and there were lots of people standing because there weren't enough chairs (more bad planning).  The meeting began on time and Commissioner Gellatly announced the meeting's agenda.  The public members in attendance were to be allowed to comment, each for up to 3 minutes.  Then the newly-appointed Fire Chief, Mr. Carleton, would attempt to respond to their questions.  And that, in effect, would be the end of the meeting.  There was some outcry from the public, whose objections and displeasure only grew louder over the next half hour or so, but the Commissioners ignored these words, as if they were random noises.

The public commenters repeatedly pointed out that they wanted to ask questions of the Commissioners about what had happened, not just make comments into the air.  Great bursts of public applause each time that point was made.  Gellatly declared there was to be no applause.

The public commenters quickly finished their comments (almost all of which were largely critical of the decision to fire Kiniski without giving any reasons or explanations; an exception was Bruno M. who hoped the decision had been based on the Commissioners' desire to save money).  Then the Commissioners three--Meursing, Gellatly, and Riffle--threw their newly-appointed Fire Chief Carleton to the crowd, which was definitely not in a friendly mood.  The Commissioners sat at their table looking like death warmed over while Carleton dragged on and the public again began to voice their disapproval.

If my new employer had made me do what Carleton was required to do, I would quit in an instant and it is not to Carleton's credit that he agreed to engage in the shameful work that he was put to.  He maundered on about his credentials and his friendship with Nick Kiniski and his devotion to Point Roberts (although he didn't get into the issue of his already having a full-time job in Ferndale).  But the public didn't care about any of this.  "You are not the issue," was repeatedly heard.

And finally, he was forced by the irritation of the public to sit down.  The public vocally and repeatedly insisted that they wanted to hear not from Mr. Carleton but from the Commissioners.  The Commissioners took on the grim look that would be familiar to any Politboro follower: Putin A, Putin B, Putin C.  Their demeanor was that of men who answer to nothing and to no one.  That was it.  That was the 'information.'  The Commissioners were escorted out of the room by the Sheriff's Deputy.  And the meeting was over.

What are we to conclude?  Well, a large group of community members who came expecting to receive information about the decision the Commissioners had announced last week, received instead the full flow of the Commissioners' contempt for them.  The questions, views, attitudes, and concerns of the community residents who had come to this meeting to understand what had happened were obviously of no interest, concern, or importance to the Commissioners Three.

And for me?  Well, incompetent management by the Fire Commissioners doesn't even begin to capture how I felt by the end of this meeting.  Get them out of office ASAP would be more like it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Act 3?

Act 1 may have been last Wednesday's sudden and surprise firing of the Fire Chief.  Act 2 was the unprecedented outpouring of comments on APB fire-chief-firing story.
 And, tomorrow (Wednesday at 7 p.m.), we will presumably have Act 3 in which all will be revealed at the Fire Commissioner's special meeting to explain what all this was/is/has been/and will be about.

For historical (at least brief historical) context, it is probably worth noting that these blow ups occur every few years in Point Roberts: there was the fight over the Transfer Station; the uprising over the mandated septic inspection permits; the campaign to rid Point Roberts of unsightly trailers and unused houses; the end of water permits, which ended by giving people water permits; etc.  It is, I suppose, always something.

I have tried to unearth some facts about the Fire Chief to-do, but they are hard to come by.  The minutes of the Fire Commission (posted on its website) are particularly opaque and a friend who used to attend these meetings once told me that she always felt she was attending the public meeting that was held after the 'real' private meeting occurred.  That's how the minutes read, too, although there aren't any minutes for the past 3 months.  Well, good secretarial help is hard to come by nowadays.  The County Council's minutes reveal that it did pay the $50,000 for Kiniski's paramedic training (which was matched by a scholarship from the hospital in Seattle where the training occurred).  And that Kiniski said he couldn't get into the Bellingham training program because he didn't belong to the union.  But I never found any verification of that claim or any explanation of the Bellingham EMT/paramedic MD supervisor to accept Kiniski after the finished the training program.

But i think it is just this absence of facts that makes all this so strange and so unsettling.  We don't need (or want) anything sudden up here.  Best to have things unfold leisurely.  One year they tell us about a plan for waterpipes from Blaine.  Maybe a reminder or an update a year or two later; but we are not expecting any actual pipes for a decade, probably.  It's what's crazymaking at the border: the tendency to have sudden changes: tomatoes, no tomatoes, cut open tomatoes.  No build-up and, as a result, never any explanations for decisions.

Well, tomorrow night may just be more explanations and facts after the decision which is usually the most we get.  But it would be nice if for a change we got to hear the facts and then we got some time to think about it, to talk about it as a community, and to shape our views about the decision.  So far, it seems to be all views, but no facts.

Let us go to the meeting Wednesday night to hear, to listen, to ask for facts/information and to keep our views to ourselves for awhile.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Not Available

See correction below:

Want to write to the Fire Commissioners to ask them about firing the Fire Chief?  Too bad, you can't.  Google 'point roberts fire commission washington state' and you get one appropriate site, but the only email address there is that of (former) Fire Chief Kiniski.  I wrote to that address, asking Kiniski to forward my email to Messieurs Meursing, Riffle, and Gellatly, but it came back instantly: no person by that name at this address.  Not any more.  At least the Commissioners had time to take care of that important little piece of business.

You want to speak to the Fire Commissioners about the kind of job they are doing? Tough luck.  The essence of hubris!

Added Material:  The APB has added a comments section to their e-edition stories.  So, if you want to comment on the Kiniski firing, you can go to the APB and do so.  Here is a link: then page down to the bottom of the story to the comment section.

More Added Material:  The email addresses for the commissioners are on the website and i missed them.  My apologies.  And my thanks to Bennett from San Jose for finding them for me.  However, Commissioner Riffle's email address is incorrectly listed (instead of his email, you get that of a former Commissioner) and that error makes me unsure about the other two Commissioners' email addresses.   But that's what they've got on offer anyway.

Meursing: nettysun@hotmail.com

Gellatly: david@kordlyn.com

Friday, August 17, 2012

My Goodness! Civil Disorder in P.R.

The recent APB account of the doings among the Fire Commissioners is certainly concerning.  It's clear that a high level of dissension has been developing there over the last few months.  But now, with the abrupt and, apparently, causeless firing of Fire Chief Nick Kiniski, it's broken out into something that clearly rivals the trash wars of a few years ago.  That does not give one a good feeling.

It's not easy to see what it is exactly they are arguing about.  A quoted assertion from one of the Commissioners (Stan Riffle) does not help much: "The question of having a part-time chief is our ilk, with a paid administrator.”  "Our ilk"?  What could that possibly mean?  The article has had one editing correction, so I'm assuming  that is what Mr. Riffle actually said or it would have been corrected at the same time.  

No wonder we don't exactly know what is going on.  What language does Mr. Riffle speak?

The problems go back several years ago when the Fire Commission put up a pricey tax levy doubling their previous tax rate.  The voters approved.  The purpose of the tax increase was, in part, to improve advanced life support services on the Point.  At that time, Mr. Kiniski was just finishing his almost 1-year training as a paramedic with advanced life support training.  the purpose of this was, as I understood it, to give the public here greater medical protection on a full-time basis because Kiniski lived on the Point.  The County paid for some portion of those training costs. Now, that training has been completed and implemented, although with substantial bickering about what supervision the Fire Chief would be under, etc.   In any case, by firing Kiniski, the Commissioners (or the two who were at the meeting) have ensured that we no longer have the full-time, on-Point paramedic service we were promised and that we paid for. 

The additional problem with the levy was that, when the voters approved it, the voters did not know that the property assessments of P.R. were going to be dramatically increased.  As a result, since the levy was a percentage increase, the Fire Commission got a significantly larger amount of money than they expected.  Some folks--tax-paying folks--thought the extra money from the levy ought to be returned in some way.  The Fire Commission felt otherwise.

So there's a lot of ill will afloat here.  Those who hold that the people who go into government have a special obligation to act thoughtfully and carefully and fairly and absolutely transparently are surely wondering how the Fire Chief whom we just trained to be a paramedic to protect our lives got fired for no reason in a closed meeting.

The next Fire Commission meeting is to be held  at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, September 12, at the Benson Road district offices.  Perhaps some more civil  resolution will be reached, or some persuasive explanation will be offered in the interim; but if not, I'd think the Fire Commissioners owe Point Roberts residents   some explanations.  This appears to be no way to run anything.  Indeed, if they can't manage things better than this, they ought to get out of the business of managing.

(Note: to follow the doings of the Fire Commissioners over the past few years, check out the APB archives).

Thursday, August 16, 2012


'Tis the season of few rainy days and thus the season of leaving upholstered furniture by the side of the road.  It's okay; more often than not, someone else who can use it picks it up promptly.  But if it stays too long, as in when it starts to rain, well, then....not so good.

But really unacceptable is when the furniture/refuse gets set up on somebody else's easement or, in the case of the upholstered chair and table at the skate park, the community's property.  Unwanted furnishings go to the dump and they should be escorted and paid for by their owners, not left for everybody else to take care of.

i don't know.  The vast majority of people I meet in Pt. Roberts seem responsible, friendly, upright folks, so I can never figure out who it is that leaves stuff everywhere, and especially by the side of the road.  The easy thing to say is, 'tourists,' and sometimes those are the people who dump their garbage/trash by the roadside rather than take it to the transfer station.  After all, they can't take it back to Canada with them.  But the tourists seem kind people too.  So, what is it that makes kind people go bad?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Strange Helpers

The Saturday Market people have these signs that they post along the side of Tyee coming into P.R. announcing the Saturday Market.  They had left them by the roadside last week to announce the market at the Arts and Music Festival, which was followed this weekend by the regular Saturday Market.  So, they were on the roadside for a couple of weeks.

But someone not associated with the market, apparently, drove down Tyee and uprooted each of the signs and returned them to the back yard of the Community Center.  Today, the Saturday Market people found the signs as the market was beginning.  Alas.  At first, there was some concern expressed about why someone felt a need to take them all down.  But after a bit of exchange, we decided that it was perhaps not vandalism or irritation but an offer of help.  As in, "Hey, you maybe forgot and left your signs up but I'm happy to help you by taking them down and returning them to your place of business."  The signs are doubtless in some kind of violation of county rules as to what signs can go where.  So, maybe: "Thanks.  Please repeat after each market session."

A nice day for the market today, although a little thin in attendance.  More Canadians, please.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Movie this Saturday... and

Saturday night's outdoor movie at Brewster's is "Hugo," a much-praised movie from last year that was prominent in the Academy Awards last spring.  At dusk.  And there is another Saturday Market this Saturday (so cool to have the Saturday Market on Saturday).  And another in-rush of Canadians for a sunny weekend.

I'm learning to buy produce before Thursday if I want something specific because lots of kinds of fruits and vegetables will be pretty much gone by Friday afternoon.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Finishing Up with BC Day Weekend

The major activity in P.R. this past weekend was moving the Canadians in and then moving the Canadians out.  There were lines both ways and different times as long as any I've ever seen.  I was sitting in the Nexus line to come back in on Tuesday morning and next to me in the regular line were a couple of motorcyclists  with whom I had a little conversation.  They said they had tried to get in on Sunday and on Monday but it was so bad that they just turned around.  But here they were again on Tuesday, trying to get in to Paradise (August only).

But even in paradise, it's not very crowded.  Wednesday morning (today), South Beach was virtually empty in the morning.  It was a little overcast, so maybe if the sun picks up the number of beach walkers will, as well.  And in December, it's actually empty, of course.  One of the oddest aspects of living here is this sudden rush of people in July and August, and then no people.  What a difference the sun makes.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Going to the Arts and Music Festival

At least I'll be there all day Saturday, working on fund raising for the new library.  And now for a few moments of self-promotion:

Ed, over the years, has developed a line of "Somewhere in Point Roberts" postcards that he occasionally brings out for sale.  Now he's donated the inventory to the Library Building Fund.  So, the postcards will be at the Festival.

A few months back, though, it occurred to me that, given the enthusiasm that the "Abandoned House" quilts have received, people might be equally enthusiastic over a series of "Somewhere in Point Roberts" quilts.  And might be particularly willing to buy such quilts if all the proceeds are going to the Library Building Fund.  If you like small quilts on your walls, it's a nice way to support your community.

Now what seems like a good idea may or may not actually turn out to be a good idea, but we are going to be trying out this idea on Saturday and Sunday at the A&M Festival.  We're going with five quilts for starters (prices ranging from $100 to $225) and you'll probably need to be using a check because you may not be roaming with that kind of cash and the Friends of the Library don't do credit cards (at least not yet).  But, consider....  In any case, come by and see them and tell me what you think.

Here's a sample, and you can see the other four quilts here.  PLUS, we will have a beautiful "Kaleidoscope" quilt, made by local quilter June Christie for your delight at seeing and joy at purchasing.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

So, About Last Saturday's Market

It was probably the busiest one we've had so far.  Unfortunately, the Co-op wasn't there with their truckload of produce, which would have made the vendor side of it more opulent, but there were two others selling plants and one woman selling gorgeous bunches of kale and chard and bouquets of roses of great color.

The cottagers from other places (mostly Canadian, but I did talk to a few Americans who come up for small bits of the summer) were making a great presence (and were very generous in their support for the library: both with time talking about it and donations).  It was sunny and I remembered to bring a hat, although I forgot not to wear black pants and shirt. I met a guy from California who reads this blog (!) and a couple from Canada who remembered meeting me at a quilt show some years ago.   It was all friendly and easy and busy.  Indeed, the Friends of the Library sold enough books to restore one's belief that people read all the time and thus never watch TV or participate in the time sink called a computer.

I think (having participated in the Saturday Market over the past three years) that it has some chance for viability.  I wish it had more vendors but it's hard to sell things that cost more than a few dollars and we just don't have that many people producing enough excess produce to populate the tables.  Soon, plums and apples, but even that isn't enough variety.  If I could get my squirrel population to NOT bury all my walnuts the minute they ripen, I could offer green-shelled walnuts.  The thing is, I doubt if most people are any more interested than I am in dealing with the permanent brown-stained hands that walnut harvesting offers.  You have to give it to the squirrels on that ground: they're willing to do the messy work and as a result they get the walnuts.

So too the market: there's a certain amount of messy work that has to go into putting such an event together and we're pretty happy for the results.  We are, at the very least, doing a pretty good job of entertaining all the visitors given that on Saturday alone there was the the Market, a barbecue at the golf course, a concert at the church, and an outdoor movie at Brewster's.  Not to mention the shopping at the International Market where the shelves were pretty bare by the end of the weekend.  Happy summer.