Sunday, October 27, 2013

Scott Walker Complains and My Response

Some people have suggested I just let this issue drop.  After all the attack is more likely to help me than hurt me but here's how I see government - we each get elected to represent the people and to that end I will work with the other electeds.  I don't have to like them but it is my job to work with them, because fighting them is useless.

The kind of attack and personal animosity Mr. Walker has displayed shows his disdain for the voter, because, after all, 26 thousand voters supported me in 2009.  By fighting me on every front he says 'screw you' to every voter who asked me to work on their behalf.

I have aired this dirty laundry because I have some basic rules, one of which is 'don't burn me and I won't burn you' but Mr. Walker feels differently and for his own selfish reasons.

The people of this county have long deserved better representation.  For the first time in decades the Port of Bellingham will have a different kind of leadership and it won't be based on good ol' boy cronyism.

The entirety of my comments did not make it through to Mr Stark at The Bellingham Herald, here they are.

Oct 26 at 12:42 PM

McAuley responds to Walker
 

Mr Walker’s words are in quotes, some words are in bold and others are not, that is as he wrote it. I didn’t leave in every word he wrote, since much of it isn’t relative to the point being made. I did, however, pull out the points, which are quoted verbatim here and responded to in kind.

 
“…the recent Herald article making the current commission look like old buddies is a joke.”
 
True, we are not buddies.

 

 “McAuley voted against the decision to allow a hotel to be built at the Bellingham Airport…”

True.

 

There were two sites available for a hotel, one with freeway frontage and one just south without, but both on Mitchell Way  and adjacent to the terminal parking areas. Mr. Walker was the senior member of the negotiating team representing the port. 
 
When appraisals on the two sites were presented the properties were valued exactly the same, which I questioned.  The freeway frontage property was preferred by every proponent because, as Mr Walker himself stated, it has thousands of cars in front of it and there is basically free advertising of the brand. 
 
Also, the frontage site has somewhat mature, native landscaping.  The hotel will remove all of the vegetation to the edge of the state right of way along I-5 and regrade the site. There is no landscape plan in the agreement that has been presented to the commission that addresses my concerns.
My concerns:  the appraisals should have valued the land with freeway frontage at a higher valuation and there needs to be a robust landscaping plan for the property. 
 
Landscaping similar to the Tualalip Casino parking areas would be acceptable to me. 
 
As for the valuation, Mr. Walker stated that the site provides the hotel brand with free advertising and yet the public was not compensated properly for the more desirable property, in this case the land should have a higher value. 
 
If the two sites were equal then why did no proposal choose the other site?
 
Mr Walker would like you to believe I just voted “No” without explanation.  The record is clear and I made myself clear to the proponents, who left that particular meeting assured that I like the project I just didn’t like the deal Mr.  Walker’s selection committee put together.   
 
 If you like, I can get a transcript for any person wishing to hear my exact words.
 
 
“McAuley voted against the partnership with Western Washington University……. 

False and not even close to true.    

I voted against giving 6 acres of land to Western Crossing, which is not Western Washington University.
There is an incredibly important distinction between WWU and Western Crossing which Mr Walker conveniently fails to describe .  Western Crossing is a development entity with a handful of university and port board members representing the port, Mr Walker is a board member.
 
 Western Crossing exists to take advantage of public/private partnerships so that the private sector can construct the buildings and the university guarantees the owner a lease for a certain period of time.  It’s a bit more complicated than that but, suffice to say, I support the arrangement – it’s good for the builder and the university.  
 
Now, regarding Western’s waterfront plans.  I have been unequivocal on this since 2009, where, in that election I stated that WWU needed to present a better plan.  I haven’t shifted positions.

I voted “No” earlier this year against a grant of 6 acres of waterfront land via a very convoluted partnership between the port and Western Crossing.  I didn’t support the land grant in the center of the former GP property because, as of the time of that vote, WWU didn’t have a plan for using that property.  Furthermore, they pulled the old plan off the university president’s web pages, which is the only location it had ever been for several previous years.   

When the vote occurred to grant this land to WWU’s Western Crossing development arm, of which Mr. Walker is a member (he is also a member of another WWU board), Western Crossing’s plan did not exist online any more. After the news reported my position against the land grant, the White Paper reappeared but it was the same old ‘position’ paper, which is not a plan.  And it’s not funded. 

The Western Crossing board, with guidance by Mr. Walker,  made a ‘down-payment’ by pledging to sell a piece of land at the corner of Bakerview and Hannegan roads.  That property has an appraisal but that doesn’t means it’s worth that amount.  It could be less, it could be more, but I can’t recall a single time in the last 4 years the port granted a piece of property or even a retail location to ANY entity without hard money in play.   

All the public has here is a promise by Western to sell that land, transfer the funds to Western Crossing and apply whatever money from the sale to the waterfront –  I drive by that property on Hannegan and Bakerview twice every day and there is no for sale sign on that property. 

To add insult to injury, I met shortly after that vote with a university VP engaged in the waterfront process.  I said that I would like to push the commission to get the Boardmill building remodeled and Laurel St reopened to support Western’s efforts to establish a presence on the waterfront.    Why did I do that?   

Well, the Boardmill is in Western Crossing’s 6 acres, it’s has great reuse potential, they wouldn’t need to pay for a whole new structure or deal with the delays getting one designed and permitted and it would get them down there sooner.  I may have lost the vote but I’m not against WWU, in fact I’ve been the most vocal commissioner on getting them to light a little fire under themselves and get a move on. 

Oddly, the particular VP I was talking with, and our executive director was at this meeting so it’s been witnessed, looked at me as if I was way off base.  I asked him if my proposal to get WWU in the Boardmill would work, he responded, puzzled that I suggested it, by telling me that “everyone” working on the project keeps pushing WWU north into the 11 acres site in the RFP, adjacent to the Western Crossing land. 

His answer surprised me. I mean, the commission voted to grant 6 acres of land, with an existing, perfectly reusable structure on it, no less, that Western could put to use in less than a year and at the same time Western is being asked to locate closer to the Granary in a brand new, privately built and owned structure to ‘help’ get the Downtown Waterfront established.  

Fine, OK, so WWU anchors the Downtown Waterfront next to the Granary, then when exactly is the 6 acres going to be developed? And if Western is expected to lease space in the Downtown Waterfront north of the Western Crossing land grant, then why do they need 6 acres when they have no plan for the 6 acres?  It’s been 8 years, for crying out loud, how much longer do we have to wait?   

The entire deal is sketchy and convoluted. Not only that, but in the past 4 years this port has turned away less sketchy deals.  So what gives? 

I support Western, I want them to use our waterfront to, as I have told the leadership there, ‘knock it out of the park’.  To date I have seen only a very, very odd land deal and a years old white paper with vague ideas written on it.  

So, community, help me out here, let Western know what you think about how they can ‘knock it out of the park’ on Bellingham’s waterfront, something that makes a statement worldwide, that they can be proud of and use as a tool to attract talent and students.

That’s what I’d like to see happen anyway. 
 
“McAuley voted to stop final negotiations for an environmental permit to allow cleanup [in the Whatcom waterway]…”           

True. 

“…he wanted to start over!”           

            Not even close to true.   In fact, the tweaks I propose can be easily incorporated into the plan and, because they actually make sense for our marine trades AND the environment, Ecology should welcome them. 

However, the cleanup plan, which predates my time on the commission, belongs to commissioners Jorgenson, Smith and Walker. 
 
In that plan, the waterway will be mostly capped, there will be a channel for barging to the C St Terminal (best known as Colony Wharf), a crane pad for loading barges will be created, the shoreline at the  C St Terminal will be cut back and a new sheetpile edge created.  Also, there is to be dredging at the Shipping Terminal where the black Horizon Lines ship is moored. 

My opposition on this terrible plan is based on the following. 

1.       Port staff fanatically bundle projects together which means if anything needs to change it cannot without throwing the entire project out.  Tying the Shipping Terminal dredge to the inner waterway dredge makes sense but if there is a problem with the plan at the sheetpile wall or crane pad area the plan cannot be easily rearranged without putting the Shipping Terminal dredge at risk. 

So when I suggest we need a better sheetpile wall, which is change to the plan, that somehow means we can’t dredge the Shipping Terminal half a mile away. I’m not just making this up, staff reported this and I can get you the transcript from our meeting.

 2.      Several weeks ago a Bellingham Marine Industries barge loadout was interrupted by shallow water, that barge sat on the bottom for half a day. This risks the vessel, costs money in delays and creates environmental hazards that the Department of Natural Resources is very, very interested in.   

According to the folks who work down there, the water depth where that barge sat on the bottom is a minus 8, clearly not deep enough to support commerce.  After the ‘cleanup’ the water will be….minus 8.  What?  We have a plan that cost $5 million that won’t improve the water depth even though the dredge will be done?   

How does that make any sense? 

3.      There is one and only one location in this county to drive wheeled vehicles onto or off of a barge, it’s called RO/RO (roll on/roll off).  That ramp is at the C St Terminal.  When this plan came in front of me I noticed that the ramp is to be removed and replaced with a crane pad capable of supporting up to 250 ton lifts.  So, what happened to the barge ramp?   

Initial, verbal, staff reports by 2 senior staff led me to understand that there are only a handful of barges that use that ramp and that activity can easily be accommodated by a crane at the crane pad.    Truth checking that with Colony Wharf staff who have operated and maintained that barge ramp for several decades showed that initial staff reports were grossly in error.   

In fact, just ONE barge loaded with gypsum (a necessary ingredient in every batch of concrete here in Whatcom County) will need access to as many as 50 trucks that can haul 30 tons of the product up to the concrete plant on Marine Drive.  So, one barge, just that ONE barge arriving once, sometimes twice per YEAR, has shown me that staff got it wrong, that gypsum barge can’t affordably be unloaded by a crane.  

And that’s just the gypsum barge, there are many, many barges that need this ramp all throughout the year.  So why did the plan not include a ramp replacement?   

When I questioned this, staff scrambled to find a ‘change’ that would be acceptable to the permitting agencies and, I’m told but it’s not proven yet, that they have a workaround that pushes barges even further offshore. That workaround adds cost and complexity to the project.   

I won’t speculate on why staff didn’t include basic, necessary infrastructure in the plan given that that is the port’s role but the plan was established under the watchful eyes of Mr Walker.

4.      Staff reported to the commission that state agencies forbid a locally based landing craft type of barge that carries product to Alaska from using the C St Terminal area where for years that craft has been pulling up to the shore, dropping its ramp and loading up for Alaska.   

Staff were wrong, I verified this myself with the state’s natural resources management people in charge of this area.  It is perfectly legal for that barge to load out where it has for many years.   

The bad part, however, is that port staff told the commission that the barge couldn’t load out there, so when Bellingham Marine Industries asked to lease the adjacent land, cutting off access to that loadout area, the commission wasn’t worried about hurting that business. After all, according to staff, they were operating illegally, right?  
 
Wrong.  

Staff was dead wrong and based on bad information I voted in favor of leasing land to BMI that now cuts off access for that landing craft barge. 
 
Yes, I am upset.   

5.      The port asked the federal government to deauthorize the inner waterway just upstream from the Shipping Terminal so it no longer has federal status.  I saw that as a positive action because it meant more local control with fewer federal strings attached. 

In the ‘cleanup’ plan the channel will only go as far as the traditional boat haulout at Colony Wharf, even though there is a very real need to continue the dredge further upstream so the boats bringing crab to Premier Harvest, literally next door to Colony Wharf’s haulout, aren’t stuck in the mud – I am not making that up, the boats hit the bottom.  

Mr Walker’s response to Premier Harvest was to suggest they rent a port owned building in Fairhaven, which they are now doing, because the cleanup plan won’t provide a channel for waterborne commerce to a commercial building that relies on water access to unload crab from the crab boat.   

There has been a channel in front of the Premier Harvest building since the birth of Bellingham, and now, with local control firmly in hand, the Port of Bellingham commission has decided that it will be allowed to silt in.  So much for “fulfill[ing] the essential transportation needs” of Whatcom County, as stated in the Port’s mission statement. 

6.      Both BMI and The Landings at Colony Wharf oppose the plan. 

7.      The sheetpile wall is so weak that it’s being designed with breakaway cleats so a surging barge won’t pull it over. 

8.      Even though the land use allows for work right to the water’s edge (zero setback) I can’t even park my work van, a GMC with a 14 foot box, next to the sheetpile wall because it weighs too much.  So, why ask the city for a zero setback then not build a wall strong enough to park the most basic truck next to it? 

9.      The plan pulls the shoreline back nearly 40 for a 1000 foot stretch of shoreline.  So, the port is supposed to build infrastructure and we do that by removing almost an acre of waterfront edge? There is no requirement by any agency to pull that edge back, it was built into the plan from the beginning and the agencies supported it, that’s not that same as them requiring it. 

10.  The plan assumes, but does not guarantee, that the port will put in a travel lift pier similar to the same as done at the Sea View North site (formerly WeldCraft). That project was a multi-million dollar effort and allows Sea View exclusive use of the most modern haulout in Bellingham Bay.
 

So, what’s my plan?   

1.      Dredge more, cap less in the waterway.   Minus 8 isn’t even close to deep enough. 

2.      Provide a channel so that commercial boats can continue accessing the fish processing (now crab) plant as they have done, until now anyway, for over a hundred years.  

3.      Keep the shoreline where it is, it’s not harming the environment any more by remaining where it is.  Pulling the shoreline back doesn’t add habitat, either, since it’s a heavily used barge and marine trades area.  We need that acre of waterfront to support commerce. 

4.      Install a stronger sheetpile wall so that something weighing more than 100 pounds per square foot can operate right to the water’s edge.  And maybe a barge can tie off.   The port fought dearly with the City over that zero setback so why not use it properly. 

5.      DO NOT build a new travel lift pier ‘someday’.  That is more costly, requires long permitting times and adds even more structure in a cluttered waterway.  

Instead, remove the existing barge ramp which is 100% over water now, dig the mud out under it’s old spot, sheetpile the ‘notch’ in the bank where the ramp was and give the sidewalls enough strength to support a travel lift. 
 

Here’s the beauty of this plan – NO new over water coverage meaning no permitting issues and we don’t have to dip into our ‘bank’ of overwater coverage allowance.  It’s cheaper than ANY alternative the port has offered, it keeps infrastructure from sticking OUT into the busy water way and it is much, much kinder to the environment.  If you need the ramp, it’s a simple carry by the travel lift to set it in place and you can then Ro/Ro the barge.    

So, the port creates a lousy plan that port tenants don’t like, it is more costly in the long run, removes infrastructure, makes it harder to access the waterway and only offer promises to put the infrastructure back someday.  Of course I opposed it. 
 

Now for some good news, my modifications require only modest corrections to the plan, claims to the contrary border on out and out lies.  Since my suggestions don’t add any new in water work but do dredge out more sludge from the waterway then it’s a win for the environment, why would Ecology say, “No”, to that?  

Mr Walker should have been more engaged 8 years ago so that the marine trades who use the Whatcom Waterway could have informed the commission on creating a good plan. For example, the suggestions I offer were actually created by the owners and operators of Colony Wharf 12 years ago.  Since those folks have been there for many decades I consider them the local experts on how the area functions, yet the port staff, with no leadership from the commission, ignored the local experts and went it alone, designing a plan in conference rooms far away from the waterway.  

Bottom line: the port commission did not give good direction and port staff dropped the ball. That failure is going to cost this community good will and renewed anger from the marine trades on the waterfront, but it won’t cost millions to fix it.  However, if we don’t fix that plan it will cost many millions more than the fix ever did.    

 

“McAuley politicized the commission decision to replace executive director Charlie Sheldon.  He [McAuley] was an active player in prolonging a controversy that was notable only in the fact that public officials [Scott Walker and Jim Jorgenson] took action against a failed director.”   

            True, sort of. 

I don’t understand the ‘politicized’ terminology but if Mr Walker means I reached out to the community and asked for their support then I guess I politicized his work on removing Mr Sheldon.   

In an interesting twist, which Mr Walker fails to inform the reader, the day Mr Sheldon was officially ousted the commission chambers were packed to standing room only, with more outside.  I’m told that was a first in the history of the port.   And, this wasn’t just a crowd of bleeding hearts, it was the most wide representation of people from the left and right, from the environmental community and the chamber of commerce, and so on.  

The level of support for Mr Sheldon was so widespread it was unbelievable. But don’t just take my word for it, there is a video of the proceedings to prove what I say is true. 

Also, those ‘public officials’, as Mr Walker describes himself in the third person, failed to follow any public process. In fact, calls for Mr Sheldon’s resignation were done individually by Mr Walker and Mr Jorgenson on a Saturday while Mr Sheldon was at work tending to the aftermath of the fatal marina fire.
 


“…..in my judgment Sheldon was the worst port director in the state (75 ports).”

I, politely, suggest Mr Walker may want to retract that statement.

Mr Walker actively pursued Mr Sheldon.  During the hiring process Mr Walker made personal trips and numerous phone calls to Seattle to interview Sheldon’s colleagues.  Mr Walker was the most fervent supporter of Sheldon during all of our commission discussion regarding the hiring.  


Based on Mr Walker’s judgment and his “20 years” of experience I felt comfortable supporting the hiring of Mr Sheldon.  After his hire, I felt even more comfortable with my choice and Mr Walker’s recommendations. 

But then, Mr Walker changed his mind. 

Walker tortured Mr Sheldon publicly, making a spectacle of the port (it’s in the papers I don’t have to exaggerate)  and crippling Mr Sheldon’s chance at finding another position after he was forced to resign. 

Mr Walker ended Sheldon’s long and solid career in port management, Sheldon’s next job was as a regular seaman on a merchant ship.  If Mr Sheldon had been a regular employee he could have sued the port for how he was dismissed, and, according to human resources professionals I’ve consulted, he would have won that suit.


“After multiple proven charges, he was fired by a vote of 2-1.”

So untrue I’ll just call it a lie. Well, except for the vote part, it was 2-1.


“The public uproar was coordinated with McAuley in order to get the five commission expansion on the ballot.”

Again, so untrue I’ll call it a lie.
 
The most fervent supporters for 5 commissioners, John Servais, Tip Johnson and Ken Hertz among them, are mostly supporting Ken Bell this time around. 
 
“He [McAuley] introduced the proposal [for 5 commissioners]…”

True.  And Mr Walker voted in support of my resolution.

I read a poorly written resolution into the record which would put the 5 commissioner question to the public for a vote.  It was later rescinded and replaced with a more carefully written resolution.  I take the blame for being unprepared with a proper resolution.

In 2009, at the City Club forum, where I sat next to my opponent on the dais set against the north wall of Northwood Hall, the port candidates were asked if they would support a 5 member commission. My answer was clear and plain: if the people wanted it, I would support it going on the ballot. 

Mr Walker wants you to believe that I have done something wrong when what I did was keep my word.

The people asked for the question on the ballot, I represent the people, I brought it to the commission.  Simple as that.

Mr Walker voted in favor of putting it on the ballot, and now he tries to smear me even though he also voted in favor – what’s up with that? 

So, I kept my promise. I worked with the commission to bring an acceptable resolution to a vote – which got commission support.  It went on the ballot.  I did my job representing the people as a Commissioner, just as I was asked to do. 

However, as a private citizen voter I voted no on my ballot last fall..

Whoa! Say what?  I personally did not support 5 commissioners and until we get some basic structure, like Robert’s Rules of Order, established I don’t think adding more commissioners is going to help anything.

So, I kept my word, I did the people’s work even though the people’s work and my opinion didn’t jive and somehow Mr Walker says I failed.  I have some very strong supporters because of this; I didn’t let my own opinion get in the way of my public service, those supporters don’t like how I voted as a citizen but they know I did my job as a commissioner.


By the way, I asked the commission to adopt Robert’s Rules of Order after the public hearing when we fired Mr Sheldon. In that hearing I utilized basic, well established parliamentary procedure in my arguments to stop the commission.  Mr Walker, sitting directly to my right, at one point looked to the port’s legal counsel and asked if we had to follow Robert’s Rules.  Counsel said we had the authority to follow any rules we establish.  That’s on the video, too.

So, later that year I presented a resolution verbally to establish that the commission follow Robert’s
Rules in case we had another problem meeting, that way we could have a fair hearing where each commissioner had appropriate opportunities to speak and make a case – the commission refused to support my resolution.

The Port of Bellingham commission is probably the only elected body I know of that doesn’t use Robert’s Rules, even my old neighborhood association uses Robert’s.


“McAuley has publicly stated that when he and Renata Kowalczyk as running mates are elected, they will fire four current Port of Bellingham employees.”

So blatantly untrue, I will be having ‘words’ with Mr Walker the next time I see him.

I don’t have a running mate. Ms  Kowalkczyk and I have only handful of the same donors, have only been to one event all year held for just the two of us without other candidates and share no part of our campaigns.

While I have known Ms Kowalczyk for a couple of years, we do not socialize outside of common group interests, such as economic development conferences, and I have informed her that should we both get elected we would be barred from meeting outside of official port meetings. 

As for staff firings, the commissioners cannot fire staff.  We have absolutely no authority under the law to do that so that’s just, well, that’s just a lie Mr Walker wants you to believe.

However, I have publicly stated that the port improperly staffed the waterfront planning process, utilizing unqualified personnel to design a plan that is outside of their experience and education. Given that much of the waterfront is a development project, I asked former director Sheldon to reassign staff and hire a new person with development experience to lead the waterfront planning process.  That proposal got no traction. 

“This is outrageous behavior to threaten the jobs of public employees for political reasons.”

Mr Walker….really?  Do you really want me to go there?  Well, you started this, so here goes.  

I seem to remember a conversation you and I had in the little conference room with the glass wall upstairs at the port offices. That conversation was witnessed by staff who suggested to us, through port counsel, that we not meet like that. Do you recall that conversation? The one where you were openly sharing your experience about being a commissioner and offering guidance to me, the new commissioner?  

So, maybe Mr Walker doesn’t recall that conversation, even though I can find several people who remember we were there and port counsel surely recalls suggesting we not meet even informally to ‘chew the fat.”  So I guess it’s my word against his on this one since people saw us talking but no one actually heard us. 

Anyway, during that conversation Mr Walker told me a story where the first act he performed as a commissioner all those years ago was when he walked into a senior staffers office and told them they might as well quit because he was going to make their life, and I quote, “a living hell.”  He was quite proud to describe the entire thing in detail. 

And, since a commissioner can’t fire an employee, note my reference above, all Mr Walker could do was make that staffer’s work life difficult.  The employee quit according to Mr Walker’s story.

To tell you the truth, I was actually impressed that Mr Walker would take the commissioner’s job so seriously that he would act to force out staff he didn't like. Deja vu all over again?   Now, however, to claim that I am proposing to do exactly what he did, even though I have not, requires some pretty selective, as well as creative, recall.  Shame on you, sir.

“McAuley and Sheldon engineered the public subsidy [to commercial fishing businesses]…”

Not sure about the “engineered’’ part but considering Mr Walker voted in favor of a more regionally competitive commercial moorage rate, I think he should take a little credit here.  I mean he voted yes, after all.         

                                       
“Thousands of dollars have now been contributed to McAuley and Kowalczyk's campaigns….”

True.  $4000 to be exact.

The CFA executive board interviewed port candidates, as has just about every board in this county, I might add.  They chose 2 candidates to endorse.  The board then reached out to its more than 300 members to ask for donations to those 2 candidates.  To keep it easy for the members they suggested that contributions be made to the CFA and their newly formed Political Action Committee (PAC) rather than make out 2 checks. This is commonly called ‘bundling’.

There is a list of every single contributor to that effort, there is no “big donor” from out of town or with a special interest; if you’d like to see the list, just ask.

The Commercial Fishing Association was formed in 2010 at my urging, but that’s the only credit I get here, these folks have made tremendous strides. A few, very dedicated men and women got together to form a group because, individually, the old port commission was ignoring them. 

CFA’s are not new, but they are powerful.  They exist in every state with a fishing fleet and they give voice to the fishing community.  Each CFA is structured a little differently, but they all have the same interest, create a sustainable fishing economy that supports themselves, their community and ensures its survival for future generations.  That sounds pretty good to me.

Fast forward to 2013. The CFA here, now 4 years old, has emerged as a powerful political force. It happened because we had a port commission who relied on harbormasters to manage the issues rather than get involved themselves. 

The $4000 contribution made to my campaign from the CFA is directly from over 200 fishermen and women.  Now, these aren’t just a bunch of yokels with a fishing rod, these people represent over 200 small businesses – I’d call that a good bit of support from the business community on the waterfront.


“I know from many years in politics that not everyone getting this email will agree with me.”
     
  True.

“That's all I can do: tell the truth.”

            I’ll let you decide that one, dear reader.



Mike McAuley

Monday, June 24, 2013

Commission takes a bad vote on Western Crossing

I've long supported a strong partnership with WWU.  I have been pushing for a clean-tech campus on Bellingham's waterfront with Western as an anchor in partnership with the private sector. That is why I was disappointed with Western Crossing's board pushing forward on gaining control of waterfront property at this time.   I'd like to explain my vote and value any feedback you had.

I voted against Western on the waterfront, in the currently proposed location, for three reasons:

1. As of yet, Western does not have a concrete plan nor funding. They have had a decade to come up with a plan and it is concerning to me that they do not have one - in fact, all Western Crossing has is rough visions (see link below). The Port should have done an RFP for the property to let the private market help determine the best and highest use for this parcel.  That is the process being used on property adjacent to this one and is consistent with the master plan.

2. There is a clear conflict of interest. One of the port commissioners serves on the Western Crossing board and the Western Foundation Board. That commissioner should have recused himself before this vote.

3. It's important to be consistent in all of our dealings. Without having a plan, or an RFP process, or fitting in with the Master Plan, we set a dangerous precedent for giving exceptions down the road.

If Western was and is the best and highest use for that parcel, they would win in an RFP process. I call on my fellow commissioners to revisit their vote and do an RFP so that the best proposal for our community and the long term can be determined.

This vote tells the community that the port commission has double standards, that we can ignore procedures and plans, that we can tell one group of local investors they *must* go through an RFP process and another group with no plan or funding that they do not.   This is exactly the sort of reason Whatcom County voters lost faith in the port.

http://media.bellinghamherald.com/smedia/2013/06/19/12/08/TKQTT.So.39.pdf#storylink=relast

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Time to reopen Laurel St to the Boardmill?

I recently took a very detailed look at the old Boardmill building on Bellingham's waterfront.  After my own inspection, I now believe that we have at least three buildings that can readily be put to use with modest investments: the Egg Co-op/Granary, the Boardmill and the Lignin building.



The Lignin building (gray roof, pale walled in the upper right of the image above) is partially used now, has great access to Cornwall Avenue with 53 thousand square feet of prime, dry, free span warehouse.  It needs the sprinkler system tested and electricity re-installed    There is debate about the railline moving back to the bluff but until that happens, which I have no reason to believe it will happen in the next few years if ever, that building sits ready for service.

The Egg Co-op/Granary will need a few millions to properly meet visual and code standards, but at least 2 local groups stand ready to make that happen.

The Boardmill is particularly exciting, however.  In the image above, the Boardmill is the long, low building just below the very tall, skinny Digester in the center.  Now, it looks a little rough to the untrained eye but is in need of only simple cosmetic upgrades and repairs. Those upgrades will by no means be cheap, potentially running above $1 million.  Those upgrades will, however, be unbelievably lower in cost than constructing a new building.

The Boardmill sits adjacent to the Laurel St. right of way.  The building is not out of place in any future development scenario if we choose to keep it.  The structure is solid, dry and the best part is the incredible second floor that is wide open to ceilings approximately 30 feet over head.  The building is so stout that the original gantry cranes on the second floor can still be used from one end of the building to the other.

Also, the structure originally had huge windows in the upper floor walls that are filled in with wood framing and plywood.  These windows, approximately 18 feet by 18 feet, once replaced, will flood the upper floor with so much daylight there would be almost no need for artificial lighting.  The structure could also produce a nice return on an energy investment with a solar array on the roof  from local Itek Solar (itekenergy.com), including awnings utilizing panels from Marysville based Silicon Energy (silicon-energy.com).

The value in the Boardmill building stems from its location, its high adaptive reuse potential and the simple fact that it is a neat structure with a unique form that we can use to attract high tech research and development type companies. There is a working railway crossing and ample parking adjacent to the building.

The Egg Co-op can be the initial anchor on the north with the Boardmill anchoring the south while the spaces between can be carefully filled in.  The key is in ensuring that we get a through street constructed right away to connect Roeder to Cornwall - this would be Granary to Bloedel to Laurel. While the Granary/Bloedel/Laurel corridor provides basic public access as a throughway  it also opens the area for development and access to the industrial land around the shipping terminal - there is no reason to wait.

We need anchor buildings in service, we already have them and we need them right now, not in three years when the rest of the region has eaten our lunch in the economic upswing.

As for Laurel St to the Boardmill?  It can happen in weeks if we choose to make it happen.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Greatest Good?

For the past few days I've been criticized by some folks for some of my positions.  I spend hours every day researching and finding information to make sure I know as much as I can about a decision I'll have to make but in the end I find a certain guiding principle very helpful:


"...where conflicting interests must be reconciled the question will always be
decided from the standpoint of the greatest good of the greatest number in the long run."     James Wilson, Agriculture Sec'y.  Letter to the first forester, Gifford Pinchot, dated 1 Feb 1905



Here's a link to the full letter.  It's actually a great read and quick.

http://www.foresthistory.org/ASPNET/Policy/Agency_Organization/Wilson_letter.pdf
 
 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

McAuley Votes "No" on Airport Hotel?

A response to a question posed on the Bellingham Herald.   

http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2013/04/02/2948706/port-of-bellingham-moves-ahead.html

...........................................................................

Because there were two sites, the other just up the street from the winning location, and both sites had the same appraised value giving the public (the port) the same potential rate of return at buildout, I weighed the project pros and cons differently than the commission overall.

Airport growth is a mixed blessing, but needless to say, it is becoming a problem for residents.  More, expensive traffic mitigations are being planned.  There is increased noise, of course. And we seem to have a hard time capturing the airport visitor here locally for more than a few hours which means they come here for the airport but don't really spend much money.  So I believe we at the Port need to start looking more carefully at balancing demands on the airport which didn't really need to be done when it was a sleepier little place.

We know the typical Bellingham International Airport (BLI) customer is value conscious, which was confirmed again by the people from IHG, the owners of Holiday Inn brands, who told us why a Holiday Inn flagged hotel makes the most sense at BLI.   That means airport visitors come to Whatcom County but they aren't really being captured by our local economy. 

A hotel at the airport won't do much to enhance visitor capture for the broader business base, either, because they will find long term parking, a room and a restaurant just a short walk from the terminal (the nearness to the terminal is a plus), which is itself just a mile from the nearest fueling stations adjacent to an I-5 on/off ramp.

Granted, and to be fair, any conferences held here should spill over into the broader economy but conferences are booked online not by a random drive by and the local amenities are the attraction for the conferees not freeway visibility. 

So, in light of the fact that there were two sites available, the outcome for the lease would be the same and the outcome for the service - rooms, conference space and a restaurant at the airport - would be the same I looked at the project in a broader context.   

The freeway site is forested, sloping, wet and offers a buffer along an already overcrowded freeway frontage.  The other is flat, mostly unforested, dry and sits on a corner at Bakerview and Airport Way, the only street into the terminal complex.  

The only advantage to the freeway site is the visibility of the structure to passing traffic, essentially an advertising opportunity and I don't fault the proponents for desiring that opportunity, I would probably do the same thing.  Yet a traveler now is not driving by and picking the first hotel they see when they get sleepy, but if they did, in this case that sleepy traveler will come across the Hampton Inn at the exit first, anyway. No,this hotel is aimed at the air traveler and small conferences where people will want better air travel access.  

So in that broader context of the project I didn't think it appropriate to assume the sites have equal value.  The freeway site has a difficult to price "locational" value based on it's visibility but there was no premium placed on the property by the appraiser for that visibility and, therefore, no improved value to the property owners, the citizens of Whatcom County.  

Also, the parking area for the hotel is designed to abut hard up against the highway right of way offering no opportunity to replace even a small portion of the lost landscape buffer.  Which means the experience you will have driving by this site on  I-5 will be same old, "me too" urban drive-by offering nothing at all new, local or interesting to the visitors the airport is attracting. 

Don't get me wrong, the structure will look nice for sure, but if the airport is bringing in 600,000 fliers and probably over a million total visitors we should be looking at offering a somewhat different, more unique experience for that visitor that they won't see by just driving another 35 minutes south, or in Everett, or Seattle, or Chehalis (where I grew up) or Vancouver, WA.  I believe that by offering a more unique experience we can capture that visitor for more than a night at a hotel 300 feet from the terminal they are flying out of and back to before they jump in a car and head straight to the freeway. 

It's difficult to be unique in a global marketplace, for sure, so to me part of the uniqueness in this case is the simple fact that our airport freeway frontage is *not* all urban buildout that looks like every other urban buildout on the I-5 corridor. It's not much, I know, but it's here already and it's free.   

Long story short, the airport can now support a nice hotel so, sure let's put one in and get that small, yet measurable economic development boost. But having two, equally valuable sites available, both with nearly equal access to the airport terminal, a provable demand factor for the product driven by the airport not our region and, in the end, an equal rate of return for both the property owners and the proponent I couldn't just ignore the downsides of the development. 

With an equal upside for both sites, excepting the visibility, the freeway frontage site has a greater impact and, therefore, I couldn't support the project at that location.     

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Making the Case for Building Reuse

The link here is to a pdf that's 94 pages long,  the paragraphs below are just the executive summary badly formatted to read here but you'll figure it out  :-)  

The Greenest Building

Quantifying the Environmental Value of Building Reuse


Executive Summary
Until now, little has been known about the climate change reductions that might be offered by reusing and retrofitting existing buildings rather than demolishing and replacing them with new construction. This groundbreaking study concludes that building reuse almost always offers environmental savings over demolition and new construction. Moreover, it can take between 10 and 80 years for a new, energy-efficient building to overcome, through more efficient operations, the negative climate change impacts that were created during the construction process. However, care must be taken in the selection of construction materials in order to minimize environmental impacts; the benefits of reuse can be reduced or negated based on the type and quantity of materials selected for a reuse project. This research provides the most comprehensive analysis to date of the potential environmental impact reductions associated with building reuse. Each year, approximately 1 billion square feet of buildings are demolished and replaced with new construction. 

This research provides the most comprehensive analysis to date of the potential environmental impact reductions associated with building reuse. Utilizing a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) methodology, the study compares the relative environmental impacts of building reuse and renovation versus new construction over the course of a 75-year life span. LCA is an internationally recognized approach to evaluating the potential environmental and human health impacts associated with products and services throughout their respective life cycles.This study examines indicators within four environmental impact categories, including climate change, human health, ecosystem quality, and resource depletion. It tests six different building typologies, including a single-family home, multifamily building, commercial office, urban village mixed-use building, elementary school, and warehouse conversion. The study evaluates these building types across four U.S. cities, each representing a different climate  zone, i.e., Portland, Phoenix, Chicago, and Atlanta. A summary of life cycle environmental impacts of building reuse, expressed as a percentage of new construction impacts, is shown in the following figure (Summary of Results).


Key Findings and Analysis
Building reuse almost always yields fewer environmental impacts than new construction when comparing buildings of similar size and function. The range of environmental savings from building reuse varies widely, based on building type, location, and assumed level of energy efficiency. Savings from reuse are between 4 and 46 percent over new construction when comparing buildings with the same energy performance level. The warehouse-to-multifamily conversion – one of the six typologies selected for study – is an exception: it generates a 1 to 6 percent greater environmental impact relative to new construction in the ecosystem quality and human health impact categories, respectively. This is due to a combination of factors, including the amount and type of materials used in this project.

Conclusions
For those concerned with climate change and other environmental impacts, reusing an existing building and upgrading it to maximum efficiency is almost always the best option regardless of building type and climate. Most climate scientists agree that action in the immediate time frame is crucial to stave off  the worst impacts of climate change. Reusing existing buildings can offer an important means of avoiding unnecessary carbon outlays and help communities achieve their carbon reduction goals in the near term. 

This report sets the stage for further research that could augment and refine the findings presented here. Study results are functions of the specific buildings chosen for each scenario and the particular type and quantity of materials used in construction and rehabilitation. Great care was taken to select scenarios that would be representative of typical building reuse or conversion projects. However, environmental impacts will differ for building conversions that use different types and amounts of materials. Others are encouraged to repeat this research using additional building case studies; replicating this analysis will enhance our collective understanding of the range of impact differences that can be expected between new construction and building reuse projects.

This study introduces important questions about how different assumptions related to energy efficiency affect key findings. In particular, further research is needed to clarify how impacts are altered if a new or existing building can be brought to a net-zero level using various technologies, including renewable energy.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Big Black Horizon Ship on Bellingham's Waterfront

Earlier this week Joe Teehan on KBAI's Joe Show asked about the Horizon Lines vessel, Horizon Fairbanks, down on Bellingham's waterfront to which I gave a a very short answer so here's the long version.

In order to protect US shipbuilders and US workers the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 stipulated that shipping goods from  US port to US port would require a US flagged vessel, built by US citizens in the United states, owned by US citizens and crewed by US citizens.

Wikipedia has a pretty good entry on the Act here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merchant_Marine_Act_of_1920


The Horizon Fairbanks is maintanied by Fairhaven Shipyard personnel, she is 669 feet long and built in Mississippi in 1973.  

Her former names are the Sea-Land Marketer, Sea-Land Expedition and then Horizon Fairbanks.  

Horizon Lines pays just under $1000 per day to moor the Fairbanks in Bellingham.

The good news is she brings consistent business to Bellingham, the bad news is she's not working. So if she goes back to work I'm sure we'll miss the income but that means the economy on our coast is  much stronger.



Here's a couple interesting articles:


http://www.westernfrontonline.net/news/article_841ec3e2-8286-5f04-b062-531ba33f91c7.html

 http://www.shipspotting.com/gallery/photo.php?lid=852262