Sunday, May 29, 2016

Cross Bellingham bike route reroute around Options High School seems okay with me

I first became aware of plans to build a new school building and it's possible effect on a bike path from Facebook friends as some neighbors in that area were concerned about the plans. Yes, population keeps growing. Immigration happens and Bellingham is growing. New schools and so forth are being built. Studying the issue a bit, I come to the conclusion that I often come to. With planning, new buildings are not always bad. The bike path can remain with it's route altered. Other neighborhood fears about this growth do exist, of which the bike path is just one symbolic topic, but, personally, I don't see much cause for alarm about this new building. I'll admit I don't live directly in that neighborhood, but I do support peaceful means of transport across our city.

Letter (email) I wrote to city officials about this news.

I have been hearing about plans to build a new building for Options High School east of Bellingham High School including plans to vacate the bike path east of Bellingham High School. I hope the connection of this cross town bike route can be maintained even though I realize that the specific route might change.

The cross town route I am thinking of connects South Bay Trail to Railroad Trail. It is a combination of trail and fairly bike friendly road. Basically going from south of Fairhaven District along South Bay Trail to Railroad Avenue. Then across the new bike bridge from North end of Railroad, then past Bellingham High School to along Kentucky Street. Then across James at a flashing crosswalk to turn north again on Nevada. Then under Alabama Street (avoids having to cross Alabama) to trail head for Railroad Trail.

I notice lots of use for this route so I hope it can be preserved. I'll admit even without the Bellingham High Bike Path, I sometimes use Grant Street to make the connection between Ohio and Kentucky. I hear that even Grant Street may become more narrow and/or busy with the new school plan.

Even if changes have to be made, I hope you can find a way to preserve the connection of this cross town bike route in that area.

Old route that is being moved. I've mapped it out on both streets and paths.

City plan for changing route included in their response to my letter.

Response I got.

Dear Mr. Ashworth,

Thank you for your interest and concern regarding the realignment of the trail between Kentucky Street and Ohio Street. I am including an edited version of the map that you sent to illustrate to you how the bicycle and pedestrian connection will be retained, but will simply shift about 200 feet east to Franklin Street.

Here's a little background:

· The School District asked the voters to fund the reconstruction of Options High School in 2013 and it was approved.

· The School District had a pre-application with staff from many City Departments (Planning, Public Works, Fire, Police, Building, etc.) in October 2015 at which they asked if realigning the trail was a possibility and explained why it was needed. In addition to construction an actual school building for the 105 students that have been educated in 7 portable buildings for the past 22 years, the School District will be constructing a regulation-sized soccer field so that Bellingham High School can host soccer games. The 12 feet of the trail easement is need to meet the field specifications.

· For student security, it is not very appropriate to have a public pathway channeling random people into and through a high school campus where several hundred students are studying and playing. This does not happen at any other high school campus in Bellingham.

· There is an option to shift the trail to a half-block section of Franklin Street between Kentucky Street and Iowa Street, which is already being used by walkers and bicyclists as evidenced by the worn pathway between the existing trail and Franklin Street. The half-block of Franklin Street will be marked as a Bike Blvd, the same as Kentucky, Grant, Ellis, and Young. The School District will construct a 10-foot wide sidewalk along Franklin Street on the east side of the new Options High School building, which will allow lighting to be provided, which does not exist on the trail. This will be safer and more comfortable for pedestrians.

The Bellingham Public Works and Parks Departments met with School District officials several times over the past 6 months and are recommending the relocation/realignment of the trail to Franklin Street. Rest assured, there will always be a bicycle and pedestrian connection here.

Chris Comeau, AICP Certified Transportation Planner.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Army Corps of Engineers rejects second coal port north of Bellingham. First coal port is in Canada.

Coal train crossing Nooksack River in Ferndale on it's way back from making coal delivery at Robert's Bank. An already existing coal port just north of Canadian border.

Army Corps of Engineers has delivered what could be a fatal blow to the Gateway Pacific proposal to build a coal port north of Bellingham. The Corps ruled in favor of the Lummi Nation which feared that the port would interfere with their treaty fishing rights. Herald article.

Good news for environmentalists as there was lots of opposition to the coal port proposal. This opposition included concern about continuing to build up fossil fuel infrastructure in the face of the global warming situation.

It seemed like a bad idea economically as well. Due to global warming and other alternative fuels, such as solar power and less carbon intensive natural gas, coal use should be in decline. Even coal use in China. Unless a way can be found to sequester the carbon emissions, growth of fossil fuel consumption is problematic. As for coal facilities, we do already have a coal port in this region. It's just a few miles across the border in Canada.

Several years ago, it looked like coal consumption in Asia was increasing rapidly. There was fear, I'd guess, that the capacity of the Canadian coal port wouldn't be sufficient to handle all the demand for shipping; especially if it were to prioritize Canadian over US coal.

Also, I'd guess there was interest in building a US port to say it's in our country and someone would be making money. It was also thought of as a source of local jobs even though not that many permanent jobs would be created. It would have created some construction jobs. There were a few labor union groups that supported the idea as labor doesn't necessarily always side with environmentalist interests. Also not all labor supported it. Some labor groups felt it could be used as a bulk commodity port for agricultural products as coal might be seen as just a way to get it started. A way to pay for capital costs, but over the long haul other bulk commodities would be shipped. This was a way that certain labor leaders reconciled the problems with the project. I remember this idea coming up on a local radio talk show with one union official.

Also, it seems like a stretch to ship coal all the way from Wyoming and Montana, by rail, along such an indirect route. Through Spokane, then down to Portland, Oregon and then all they way back north through Seattle and so forth to this area to then be placed on ships for transport across the Pacific. Of course I realize that oil has been shipped long distance, like that, for years. Still, the energy economy is in for big changes. This second coal port north of Bellingham was a bad idea.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Republicans must live with consequences of their beloved market forces as Donald Trump's marketing went viral

One Republican value that has lead to the rise of Donald Trump is faith in the market. In markets, marketing is a very important force. Donald Trump has been a master at that. His candidacy basically went viral. Money is one factor in marketing, but not the only factor. Much of the really big money weighed in against Trump, but Trump has lots of money also. Going viral and having the skills to play marketing like a violin holds lots of sway. That's a big part of the private enterprise system. Republicans tend to espouse this. Now they must live with it.

Marketing isn't necessarily a bad thing. It is a good thing, but in my opinion, for the best of society, marketing does need to be tempered by other things. Government is one of the other forces in society. We need to find the sweet spots in a balance of forces for the best of society. It's an inexact science for sure. Just saying "leave it all up the the market," like in an absolutist opinion, isn't going to find the balance.

Amazing day here in the part of Washington State called The Fourth Corner.

May 7 2016.

Donald Trump having an afternoon rally starting at noon at Northwest Washington Fairgrounds in Lynden while also at noon Amy Goodman is speaking in Mount Vernon. Amy Goodman, progressive activist of Democracy Now Radio fame. Speaking at Lincoln Theater in Mount Vernon.

At 4 PM Bellingham holds its annual Procession of the Species. Maybe there will be a funny elephant takeoff of the Republican symbol in that eclectic procession as some national media might be around.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Easiest to just use the bathroom of the sex you most look like currently

States that try to pass laws that one must use bathroom of the gender listed on one's birth certificate create a problem. Some transgender people are post operation and look more like the gender they are becoming than the gender listed on their birth certificate. Seems like the easiest solution, short of single occupancy facilities, is to use the bathroom of the gender you most look like currently. Determining what gender someone most looks like is best done by the people in the situation. Not easy to define at the government level.

Here's some more thoughts on the subject.

The binary system of men's and women's facilities was developed before we realized how fluid gender can be. Also before we took gay people into account. It was supposedly designed, I guess, to maintain modesty in separation of opposite sexes. New knowledge about our sexual natures is tossing a bit of a monkey wrench into that system. As that system becomes more stressed, or compromised, some folks fear that the illusive predator hiding under the bed will be able to take advantage of the situation. Not necessarily a fear of the transgender folks, themselves, but fear of what could happen as a system that so many folks got used to is being buffeted by the winds of change. Makes me think about a film I saw, when I was in high school, called Future Shock, by Alvin Toffler. As new information and change accelerate in society, a lot of people long for going back to what, I think, was described in the film as "Bonanza Land;" like the old TV show Bonanza.