hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Fixing Things on Utopia

I suppose, in Utopia, nothing ever breaks or, if it does, the Utopians have a ready-to-hand set of highly trained mechanics of all sorts who just fix it up.  Here in Point Roberts version of Utopia...well, not so much.

Here's how we deal with this mostly: If neither Ed nor I know how to fix something, it's likely that we'll figure out how to get along without it, or we'll just replace it.  I don't mention that latter option with any pride, but still, the prospect of figuring out where in lower Vancouver or in Bellingham you will find a repairer--either bound to involve an hour or two of driving--just leads you into break-and-replace mode.

But if it's something pretty pricey or that we cannot do without, then we are obliged to ferret out a repairer in this near world.  Sometimes, you can find somebody in P.R.  E.g., Neilson's keeps a list of people who do work of various sorts, including repairers.  But it isn't exhaustive.  For example, if my clothes dryer ceases functioning (it is old and i got it free 12 years ago), which is likely, I will turn it into a planter and wait for the next dryer on Point-Interface because there's not a dryer repairer here to my knowledge (other than casual home repair knowledge).  If my fancy, front loading washing machine which is only 18 months old goes down, there is definitely no one here who will know how to repair it and I will have to figure out how to get someone from Bellingham to come up here.  I may just quit washing clothes.

This comes to mind because this past week, two of my workhorse sewing machines at least temporarily retired from their labors.  I was led to a nice retired sewing machine repairman right across the border for the first one.  In 25 minutes, he had sent me on my way with a fixed-up machine and a firm refusal to charge me anything.  May good kharma be coming to him for a long time for such a generous gesture.  The other one required one of those long drives and will doubtless cost much because a special metal part is going to need to be replaced.  The repairman is a long ways away and the work goes to him in shifts.  I take it one place and then someone else picks all the work up every so often and takes it to him North Vancouver.  And then, when fixed, it all repeats but heading south.  This is not a 25-minute repair experience.  It may be gone for several weeks or more.

Utopia would be better, but I'm grateful that I have any repair hopes here, because I am certainly not expected to go through life without a functioning sewing machine.  That's a fundamental belief!  But this problem is one of the continuing downsides of living in a small and isolated place.  You simply can't have everything.  It is so hard to ultimately grasp that.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Hard to Argue with These Pics

All taken today in Point Roberts: it's gotta be spring if this is all happening: crocuses in the berms on Tyee; snowdrops in Rose's yard; tiny dwarf Dutch iris in front of Brewster's front porch.  Despite the fact that the wind was blowing hard, it was raining and the sun was barely around.  Come back, snowbird travellers: all is forgiven.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Cat Confounds Its People

I mentioned the coming of the cat last December.  It has gone well; she has (slowly) acclimated to the idea that she lives with us and this past week was even willing to show herself to our visiting family members.  Up until then, the issue of whether we had a cat simply depended upon our friends' and families' willingness to believe that we did because we said we did.  No sign of said cat ever seen by any of them.

Now, the cat has truly confounded us.  Today, Zoe (the cat) was wandering around in the bathroom (whose door I had not closed tightly) and came out with a thick pony-tail rubber band hanging out of her mouth.  We were eating lunch and she came up to Ed and dropped the rubber band at his feet.  He went to pick it up and she tried to grab it back but he was (unusually) faster than she was. He threw it across the room and she raced off to get it and then came back and dropped it at his feet.  They fought over possession of the rubber band, again; Ed threw it again, and off she went.  Even when she didn't exactly see where it went, she searched for it at length until she found it.  For a half hour, they kept this up (she did stop fighting with him for possession after the 3rd or 4th throw).  So, the cat plays fetch.  But apparently only with thick rubber bands.  She has never done anything like this with the (admittedly) small number of cat toys we possess.

Now she is yowling.  She doesn't want to quit and ed wants to do something else...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What We Pay For

I was cleaning up my desk a few minutes ago (I'm easily distracted, obviously) when I ran into some notes from a meeting last year.  One of the items was about property assessment and Whatcom County property taxes.  The reason I kept the notes is because it gave me the relative costs of various P.R. districts in terms of what we pay the districts for direct services.  But it was 2011 figures, so now I've had to look up the 2012 numbers and my desk is worse than it was before I started to clean it up.

We have five districts (Water, Cemetery, Hospital, Fire, and Park and Recreation).      The Water District does not receive a levy since users pay directly for the water costs.  The other Districts all have to go to the voters every so often to ask for funds to keep providing services and those costs show up as a levy rate against the assessed value of your house on your property tax bill.

Thus, if your house's assessed value is $100,000, you pay almost $90/year for the Fire District's services; $1/year for the Cemetery District's work; $40/year for the Hospital District's provision of clinic services; and $10/year for the Park and Recreation District's work (largely maintaining the Community Center and Baker Field).  (I've rounded these numbers to make it easier to keep in mind.)

If your houses' assessed value is closer to $300,000, then it's about three times those numbers, and so on.  In any case, it's really not very much.  The Fire District, until a couple of years ago, got only half as much as it does now.  In either case, it's a small amount of money per house.  And particularly considering what we get for the money.

If you were the owner of a modest, $100,000-assessed-value house here, would you pay $90/year to make sure that someone qualified responded to a 911 call for a fire or medical emergency?  Would you pay $40/year to make sure that you'd have a trained medical professional to see you for non-emergencies?  Would you pay $1/year to have a community cemetery?  Would you pay $10/year to have the Community Center available for meetings and events, for Seniors Services, for the Library?  I'd think most of us would pay more than that, and if we have bigger, fancier houses, we do.  But still, not a lot of money.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

About the New Dock

Somebody recently wrote a comment on an old post asking when the new dock is going to be coming our way.  I checked with CAC chair Arthur Reber and the word is maybe August 2013 it will be operative.

The Commissioners Laugh!

Last night's Fire District meeting provided some narrow contrast to the high-tension string of meetings over the last six months in that there was some good-natured laughter among the Commissioners and their various employees.  Even jokes.  Perhaps a return to a more-nearly-normal status of human sociability.

On the other hand, some things remain the same.  In one agenda item, they discussed (you could say exhaustively, but since they didn't have much to say, maybe just exhaustively for them) whether the public comment period should be at the beginning of the meeting or at the end.  (Note that a few meetings back they voted to have it at the end; last night's agenda item was about moving it to the beginning.)  Mr. Meursing carefully solicited the opinion of every person there--except, of course, the six members of the public in attendance.  And no one who was asked really had any reason to put it in either place.  Of course, the real argument would be that if it is at the end, the public would be able to comment/query on the meeting they had just sat through.  But I suspect Mr. Meursing does not want to hear any such comments/queries.

And I say this because (at last night's meeting, comments were still placed at the end), when I asked to speak, I began with "I have a question and a comment."  At that point, Mr. Meursing interrupted me, saying, "Mrs. Ross, this is a comment period; no questions are permitted."  So, I was obliged to rephrase my question as a comment:  I offered the information that some people in the community might be wondering what had happened to the County Auditor's audit of the Fire District for the years 2011 and 2012 and its final report.  (Although I was not allowed to ask a question, the Financial Manager offered an answer: the information for the 2011 audit was submitted but the Fire District had not heard anything back yet.  A final report will be public information.)  And I commented that, since the Commissioners had spent some considerable time discussing what to do with an extra $60,000 that they had found available to them, perhaps they should reimburse the County Council for its generous gift of $50,000 to pay for former Chief Kiniski's paramedic training expenses. Dead silence followed that.

The pointlessness of the "Public Comment Period" was made clear when another member of the public suggested that the public would find it helpful if the District made a quarterly financial report available to the public that, after all, pays for the Fire District and its many expensive activities.  "Thank you," said Mr. Meursing, making it clear that the response to such comments would come some time after hell freezes over.

Other things happened, but you have to attend to see the whole show.  In any case, it was Another Fun Night with the Fire District Guys!

A Note:  My granddaughter, a college student currently taking a class on local politics/poli sci, asked me why I keep going to these meetings.  I thought about it. There is the bizarre story aspect of it, of course, but I found plenty to write about in this blog before I ever took an interest in the Fire District.  There is the fact that it is quintessentially Point Roberts in its tiny dictator patterns.  But that point has been amply made, I think.  More, it is simply the fact of bearing witness to what is being done in our names.  I object, and my only way of objecting is to go and to say what I see.  We are better than this, I have to believe.

And a second note: Chief Carleton appears to have taken over the running of the whole operation.  He seems to know what he is doing although (in my view) he has way too much money to spend freely as a result of the doubling of the levy a couple of years ago.  He may well be trying to turn this into a more terrific fire department than we need, but apparently we can afford it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Fire District Meeting Tonight

The Fire District monthly meeting is tonight, Wednesday, at 7 pm at the Firehall.  Usually, a notice goes out with Point Interface, but it hasn't done so this month.  However, the All Point Bulletin E-Edition listed the meeting in last week's email.  So, if you are an attendee, now you know.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Taking Your Gun to School

Point Roberts' rep in the State House, Jason Overstreet, has this week signed on to a proposed law to allow employees to carry concealed weapons in public schools.  This is largely in line with the NRA's position.  Somehow, I doubt if most voters in Point Roberts will feel they are being adequately represented by the Assemblyman on this matter.  Assembly Bill 1788, if you're interested in reading the particulars.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Healthcare in Point Roberts

I went to the Point Roberts Public Hospital District monthly meeting last night to see what they were up to.  This is the group that oversees the Aydon Wellness Clinic.  This has been an important transition period for the clinic since Ed and Virginia, who have been the backbone of the clinic staff since it began, retired a few months ago.  Alexandra Hunt has replaced Virginia as the main clinician and she was at the meeting to report on clinic work and needs.  Sounds like she's getting to be at home there, which is good for all of us who need her to be at home there.

Also a visit to the meeting from Alan Finston, who runs the physical therapy services (including massage) that are available at the clinic on Wednesdays and Fridays.  Plus there was discussion of the need for a community survey to assess how the clinic was doing from the public's perspective.  Getting the public to respond to surveys in P.R. is a real challenge.  So, put it in your head now to remember to respond when it comes to you.  It's important to have public input and you don't want to depend on somebody else to be 'the public' on your behalf.

The big news, for me, was that the clinic will be looking at its 10th anniversary this summer.  I could hardly believe that it had been with us that long.  Back when we first moved to Point Roberts, it was hard to explain to our away friends and relatives that we really had no medical services available here short of the fire department transfer to some far away hospital.  And now we have had this fine clinic for ten whole years and, though it has doubtless produced many challenges for the Commissioners and the staff, it has pretty much appeared to us outsiders as a smoothly elegant operation.  Our own personal experience with the clinic here at chez ross-park has been that they provide stellar service as a first-line provider.  Also, we think we're very lucky to have it and all the 'thems' that make it work.

Hearing of this anniversary at the meeting, reminded me also that we should occasionally remember all the work that it took to bring the clinic into existence: both organizing and fundraising and negotiating all the necessary twists and turns of bringing something as complex as a clinic where there was before NO clinic into existence.  That's all in the past, of course: the money's all raised AND spent, the negotiations are long since concluded, so it's easy to lose track of how much work it was.

But I find that remembering that work reminds me of how much public spirit there is here in the strange little town that borders make difficult to find* and how much willingness there is for people to make something new.  Such thoughts are good to have on a grey day.  I no longer remember who were the people who put the clinic together in the first place.  But I expect we'll hear about them this summer when that 10th anniversary rolls around and we can thank them then.
*A reader wrote me recently about having applied to a new U.S.-based home insurance carrier for insurance on his P.R. vacation home.  After some time of application and payment, the insurer informed him that the company was "cancelling my policy because their inspector could not find my home and I was located on a “remote Island” ."  That's what it feels like to all of us sometimes:  they just can't find our home because we are on a remote island.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Dare I Say It?

The sp*** word?  This morning, I find numerous garlic bulbs have put up about 2 inches of leaf that definitely wasn't there two days when last I checked.  And there is a tiny white crocus about to open to see what we've got out here.  And it actually feels kind of spring-like today.  Hope springs eternal! I think i'll plant some seeds indoors (sunflowers) just in case...

Sunday, February 3, 2013


Lisa is retiring (has retired by today) from the point Roberts post office.  I do think of the library and the Community Center as the heart of the community, but the post office is like some other organ...maybe the nervous system which does symbolic communication.  It's very important to us and, of course, the only reason that it hasn't been eliminated as so many postoffices in tiny town have been is because the post office here, as a financial matter, is primarily supported by Canadians who, it should be noted are not acting out of generosity but in their own interests.  And it's ok to act in your own interests, which most of us are doing most of the time.  There is a place for generosity, but I'll leave that discussion for another time.

In my earlier life, I lived in Los Angeles and came to own a hearty dislike of the postal system.  There was a daily mail delivery guy and he was doubtless okay, but I never actually saw him due to the location of the mail box and the location of me in the house and he mostly (no fault of his) delivered--in the pre-internet days--endless junkmail.  So, how I interacted with the USPO, as it was then called, was at the local office where people were hired to sit or stand and largely chat with one another while the 'patrons' (I loved the concept behind that word in this context) stood in ever-lengthening lines.  The employees couldn't find mail, couldn't figure out what you were asking about, or, in my favorite experience, couldn't sell you stamps because the employee in question had 3- or 4-inch long fingernails and was unable to pick individual stamps up.

I tried never to go near the post office if I could help it.

And then I moved to Point Roberts where the post office employees were always helpful, knew your name, spoke cheerfully, and conducted your business promptly and competently.  I thought I might have absent-mindedly moved to another country where the post office was a perfected social institution.  But it wasn't; it was just Point Roberts, where Shelly and Pauli and Lisa and Tom (and then Michael and Rimple and others to follow) did good work.  

Over the years, I have seen Shelly retire, and then Pauli, and now Lisa.  But I have confidence that they have themselves created the kind of culture that will be carried on.  Tom and Rimple: It's up to you, for starters.

Lisa, we will miss you.  But we really hope that we will not be missing the kind of gracious, good-natured competence that you always gave us.