Saturday, April 30, 2005

Remembering early 1980s tourism seminar for economic development in Bellingham

Picture snapped in Leavenworth, WA.

It was mid eighties recession, in Bellingham, WA.

I remember a rousing seminar at Holiday Inn Ballroom. On stage, this dynamic guest of honor from Leavenworth, WA.

He sensed, Bellingham people were hurting, needing money. Businesses, Churches, volunteer organizations, governments, schools, families, all. Thirsting for the ball.

Tourism, he said. You've got I-5 slicing through your town. Let's not frown. We can slow it down. Make em stop, spread their money around.

Proclaim your uniqueness. Recite the motto. Proclaim your uniqueness. Rousing group dynamic. This isn't hollow. Audience follow. Room standing. Chorus thundering. Exit signs rattling. Wait staff wondering.

You've got Mount Baker, the bay, history. Don't keep it a mystery.

Bellingham, just Before Canada. Let's try, "Bellingham BC."

Sing along. Bellingham, Bee See. Bellingham, Bee Seen.

And when they ask, is this "before Christ?" Start that conversation. Best in the nation. Anything for a twist. We're in the minst.

It was a rousing presentation. Standing, stamping, ballroom rumbling. No one mumbling. Give it a boost. You're ruling the roost.

Over in Leavenworth. Speaker said, "Here's how we did it."

It was just another clothing store, but we sported Bruce, the Moose. Hunter's trophy, by the door. So the people came to the store. Pet the nose. Everyone knows, Bruce the Moose. It became a town tradition. Everyone, sing along, Bruce the Moose. Kids got into the act.

Now, let's break up into small groups.

Inventory your assets. Possibilities.

Snow architecture festival? Mt. Baker area? Remember the Slush Cup?

How about this? Even a dorm dining hall, at Western Washington University, has panoramic view of the bay; Viking Commons. Worried look on group facilitator's face, "but, how's the food?"

Yes, the bay view is great, they didn't name Bay View Cemetery for nothing.

Why Bellingham even gets television, in French, from Vancouver, BC., Canada. On UHF, rabbit ears (remember the early eighties). Great place to practice your French. I see no one's sitting on that bench?

What, people leaving the room? Let's try harder for that boom.

How about, "A Saint Patrick's Day Parade" in Downtown Bellingham? It's not a charade.

Now, let's get back together in the big group.

On stage again, wipe the brow. Here's how. Pet the nose. Here goes. Test the microphone. Squeeeeeeeeeeeal, Ouch! Could someone turn down the speaker? 1, 2, 3 Tap, tap. Here at Holiday Inn ballroom.

Seminar dragged on a bit longer, made the local economy stronger.


Months later, a friend watched Bellingham's Saint Patrick's Day Parade. They talked the "big" radio station into coming to their aid.

Green shirts, green hats, green pants, But didn't allow rants. Poodles with green collars, green leashes.

"Bland," said friend.

Mostly about the green in the wallets. Tradition didn't last that long.

Then there was the big newspaper article about another seed nurtured by that seminar.

This relative of a local artist named Bergsma got inspired. If I remember correctly, here goes...

He ran out the door early. A few may have thought he was squirrely. He had a hunch and didn't even stay for the seminar's lunch. Instead, Leased a space near I-5 Lakeway Drive Exit.

I'll bet they never heard these jingles that crossed my mind, however.

"Bergsma Gallery." "Spend your salary." "Landscapes, beauty, more." "Even on the floor." "Visitor's center next door." "Just off I-5 at Lakeway Drive Exit." "Stop in for the show." "I'll take two Bergsma's and a coke to go?"

So that was revving up our motor some twenty years ago. Was Bellingham, grasping at straws? Waiting for thaws? And now, we're in the minst of a housing boom. Economy is cooking.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Thanks, Don for the good comment to my last post. Yes, Bob Keller's guest column in Bellingham Weekly 4/29/05 is very good. There may be more important places to preserve with limited conservation dollars than the 100 acre parcel near Fairhaven.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Chuckanut Ridge. Large new subdivision or 100 acre woods?

Land that hasn't yet been developed, but is privately owned. Buying it for open space would be expensive.

Covering it with houses would be difficult due to wetlands and much opposition from neighbors.

I've read that developers plan to cluster the housing into duplexes, townhouses and so forth to build around wetlands and allow some open space to remain. Trails would be included and buffering along the Interurban Trail which passes near the property would be preserved.

Better than many existing neighborhoods.

Still, this isn't enough to satisfy folks who would like to preserve Chuckanut Ridge as open space.

One possible solution:

Build a few high rises in one corner of the property and leave the remainder as open space. That would be my kind of solution. Encourage non family and non car oriented folks who can live in small units. Provide bus service. Cluster the housing into mostly high rises in one corner of the land and preserve much of the remainder for open space.

Would this work?

Probably not in this society; especially on the outskirts of the city. Usually high rise living is closer to the core of a city. Still, it's an idea, if more people lived and thought like me.

I'm not real anti development out there. I've never walked back in there to fall in love with those woods. Maybe I wouldn't miss it and development has to go somewhere as long as people keep having kids and moving here.

Still, in some ways, it's sad that population keeps growing and land has become so expensive.

One of a bunch of "NO" signs along Chuckanut Drive in south part of Bellingham, WA.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Condominium construction near downtown Bellingham, WA. Becoming a "city."

Friday, April 22, 2005

Bellingham / Whatcom County Rural Character; NOT

I came here from a much smaller community over in eastern Washington.


To me, Bellingham was a "big city."

It even had two Colonel Sander's Kentucky Fried Chicken places. Pullman had none, back in the mid 1970s when I came for college.

So much shopping in Bellingham. Hustle and bustle.

Pullman had practically nothing. Shoppers would go over to Moscow, Idaho for lower sales tax.

When I came to Bellingham, I thought I was moving to a city. Compared to Pullman, it was.

Now I find there are things I like about "city life;" like a better climate for gay people.

Working night shift, I also appreciate a city that doesn't close down at sundown. What happens if one wants to eat a normal meal during my working hours?

Some say ungodly hours?

Bellingham's got a ways to go, compared to 24 hour Vancouver, BC., but it's a lot bigger than Pullman.

In some ways, it feels like a big city with a small town mind set.

Some find it socially stifling, professionally stifling, yet still clogged with traffic.

The bad things about "small town" and "big city" life.

Stifling, limiting, but still hassled.

Pullman, on the other hand, is much smaller, and the rural area around the town - It really is rural.

Thousand acre wheat ranches. Roads with hardly a house in sight.

On Whatcom County roads one hardly ever looses sight of showboat homes everywhere. Mini marts galore.

Tiny Pullman was, and still is, kind of sophisticated for its size. A college town where WSU is located.

Bellingham has more than one college, but the college town feel is more diluted by tons and tons of commercial businesses all over the place.

Pullman has some new businesses now, but when I was a kid, one nearly had to travel to hustling Spokane in order to see neon.

Spokane, NEON.!

I enjoy living in Bellingham, but maybe I wouldn't if I hadn't sought out and developed lots of good friendships here.

Just about any place can be, in part, what one makes it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Condominium projects rise in Bellingham's Fairhaven District.

Also rising: attendance at neighborhood citizen forums on growth and planning.

Public mood changing against in fill? Maybe, but also likely just more and different voices coming to a meeting.

A belated geography lesson in the school.

500 neighbors, like angry bees, packed into a School cafeteria prompting one Bellingham Herald editorial to suggest this ...

Growth management plans that called for urban in filling, rather than county sprawl, were adopted in the 1990s. Perhaps public opinion is shifting away from the idea of in filling now that it is 2005 as people object to in fill in their neighborhoods?

I don't think that is the case.

People never speak with one voice such as, "we want in filling" or "we want sprawl."

Most people don't know that much about geography and urban planning. It hasn't had emphasis in American schools; K-12 schools. One of my geography professors, at Western Washington University, told me this, back when I was in school.

In filling and urban villages looked real good in the 1990s.

On paper.

When mostly "city planner junkies and followers, like me," showed up at the public forums.

It still looks good to me, but ...

Now that large buildings are rising, different people start coming to meetings.

More people.


Stirring up more muck in the pond. Different muck.

People are seeing buildings, construction, cranes, saying yikes!

Do they want county sprawl instead?

Not likely.

A lot of people haven't yet thought that far ahead.

They aren't connecting the dots.

Not connecting between the dots of population growth, sprawl or in filling.

These things city planning junkies think about more frequently.

Folks are just waking up, in some cases. Starting to connect the dots.

Geography hasn't been discussed enough, in the schools, during regular school hours, but it is sure coming up now. More concerned neighbors come out of the woodwork and start interacting with planners, about geography issues in places like that Fairhaven School Cafeteria. As the effects of population growth and prosperity appear in the cityscape more join the dialog.

Geography is now being discussed in a school.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Old Power House For Bellingham Street Cars

On Champion Street.

Some transit history memories.

As I was out walking in my neighborhood this backside view presented itself.

A friend was amazed it hasn't zuppified yet. No zesty coffee shops, ritzy art studios for wealthy faculty spouses.

An island of authentic life, preserved by the pragmatic storage of construction equipment, building those urban showcases elsewhere. Whatcom Creek Gurgles past.

I remember, years back, when this place had a low rent space for something called "Blackberry Printing Co-OP." Early 1980s when their motto was, "Freedom of the press belongs to those who OWN it, or SHARE IT." Emphasis on "share" for Blackberry's idealistic co-op members.

That was the days before Internet technology empowered so many little folks onto the World Wide Web.

What ever happened to Blackberry? I don't know.

Long before those days, this was the industrial heart of Bellingham's electrified street car system. Local historians give slide presentations about the cars that went nearly everywhere.

There was even a funeral car.

What happened to Bellingham's electric transit?

As in countless other cities, the automobile took over.

Conspiracy theorists say the oil companies plotted this, but I heard another twist on the story.

While I was bicycling across America, down a long lonely road in eastern Montana, the radio waves from Canada were keeping me company. Canadian National Broadcasting had a radio documentary on the demise of street car systems.

Public perception was to blame.

Old transit was seen as "The Big Guys." "The Crooked Guys." "Gruff Old Drivers." "City Hall."

The Automobile was new. Seen as "Empowerment For Individuals."


"Don't rely on transit bosses." "Take charge yourself." "Drive your own car."

Transit fell into disrepair. Then oil companies bought, in some cases to try and salvage bankrupt systems, in other cases to dismantle and recycle used equipment.

Governments also took over dying transit systems.

I once heard that the owner of a private bus system, here in Bellingham, was going broke. Went before city council in 1960s and said, basically, "It's all yours or I'm shutting down." The city took over and birthed present days of "taxpayer subsidized transit in Bellingham."

I came on the scene, as a college student, in mid 1970s. My dad impressed that Bellingham Transit was only "a dime a ride." Sales taxes, of course, paid most of the cost.

Also there was, supposedly, the oldest continuously operating bus line in Washington State. It was still coming into Bellingham.

The Lynden Stage.

Started as horse and buggy. Went between Bellingham and Lynden each day.

Someone told me, "the old guy still drives the bus because the wife can't stand to have him around the house."

Riding in a friend's car, we got behind the Lynden bus one day.

Black smoke curling out the tailpipe. My friend said, "sure needs a ring job."

Not long after that, Lynden Stage was discontinued.

Also Bellingham City Transit was folded into Whatcom Transit Authority. "The WTA."

Runs have been extended out to Lynden and a few other county locations.

It's 75 cents per ride.

Nothing more said about the street car power plant, but it hasn't been yuppified, yet, at least.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Pioneer Plaza

In Ferndale?

Another big center planned for Whatcom County. The above photo is not Pioneer Plaza as it hasn't been built yet. Photo shows a plaza at Western Washington University.

Around the time I graduated from Western, I thought the concept of a campus could be applied to a town for permanent residents. A "plaza city" complete with the gym, campus union building, and central heating system.

Dorms for transient students could be replaced with apartments and condos for permanent residents.

There could be shopping, parks and offices.

The academic program would be replaced with some sort of employer; such as a factory.

During college, I designed a "city in one building" as others were doodling in their class notes. My concept of a "campus city" was mentioned in May 1980 Council-Grams, a journal put out by National Council of Teachers of English.

Anyway, a similar planned unit development has been proposed for Ferndale over the years. Maybe not quite like my idea, but something with more variety than just a shopping center or residential subdivision.

Can something like that survive in this area?

Good question.

Since my college years, I have also marvelled at the amount of retailing in the greater Bellingham area. Seems like more stores than people. Of course I am from a much smaller town with few shopping alternatives. Bellingham seemed to be adding new centers and shopping everywhere.

With local industries laying off folks, I wondered, "where do the customers come from?"

Somehow many of these businesses thrive.

More recently, I concluded that the massive run up in California home prices is having a spill over effect in our local economy. Enough independently wealthy "recent home sellers" are moving into this area to keep up the consumer spending even though there doesn't seem to be much in the way of job producing industry.

Of course a big center like Pioneer Plaza could bring in it's own money generating industry, for instance if something like a Microsoft were to locate in it's office complexes.

Then there are the folks in this area who don't wish to see growth here. That's another commentary.

Anyway, it is interesting to see how this proposal will play out.

Notice, on the picture of that plaza at Western, the sculpture of people lifting a stone.

Can our local economy, region, world hold up to all the new people and things planned?

Of course one big center with the jobs, residents and recreation close by would be better for the environment than having to commute to things; that is if the people are being born and coming anyway.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Thin green lines along a Whatcom Creek bike path near Cornwall Avenue, Bellingham, WA. Silhouetted against the ever present background of businesses, warehouses, homes, cars, whorehouses?

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Tombstones for sale.

Selling to the end. It's the end game.

Out walking around the neighborhood. With camera. Fussner's Monuments near by.

People thinking, "death, taxes."

A friend in grocery line resents paying uncle Sam and the war.

I don't mind paying Uncle Sam's matching grant for bike paths, however.

Then I say, "good way to cut taxes is to not make much money." "Lower tax brackets."

Got home to a phone call from another friend excited about the upcoming conference, in Seattle.

"Take Back Your Time" conference.

All about shorter work weeks.

More time for creativity, maybe less money.

We only have so much time to spend, in this life at least.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Technology triumphs when tax simplification fails

For years, we have been hearing about "tax simplification."

One radio talk show host mentioned some 1,500 page document entitled "Tax Simplification."

1,500 pages, simplification? he ask.

Our society is just too complex. It is doubtful that the political process could ever boil everyone's divergent needs, exemptions, exclusions, what ever, into a simple process.

When people and politics can't solve a problem, technology often provides the fix.

E-filing one's income taxes on-line.

It's a lot easier.

When one files on-line, much of the complexity is "crunched" by computers behind the scene.

Number crunching other people's complexities away.

Imagine, a form tailored to just me.

It's already here.

Just answer questions to whittle down the forms. The answer isn't that hard, it's usually "no."


I don't have ...

A farm,

No, I don't have a business.

Kids, selling a house, blind, veteran, in a combat zone, claiming educational credits, recently divorced, married, remarried, paying alimony, had the vault from my bank fall on my head, what ever; bla, bla, bla.

No, No, No.

It's no.

No isn't too hard to say.

Any small amount of these things isn't too bad.

It's just when all of society's complexities comes at you, on one form (stack of forms), it is a bit much.

Just a handful of "yes's" doesn't create too much complexity.

The computer can tailor that filing experience to each individual. Reducing clutter.

Eventually, the computer eliminates the complexities of other people, and just retains my own complexities.

Yes, I do have a small amount of money in a mutual fund, for instance.

The system tailored to my situation.

It becomes a matter of just gathering one's statements, from mutual funds, W2s or what ever.

Then, plugging the numbers in where the computer says to do so.

It still pays to keep things organized, however.

Tax simplification has been, to a large extent, accomplished by technology.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Sculpture of cross outside Assumption Church in Bellingham. Notice bird having dinner before flying away. Shards of glass are part of the sculpture. At base, it says sculpture was installed year 2000. I walked past after hearing news of Pope's death. Bell was ringing.

Friday, April 01, 2005

I've been on the web for ten years

Sometime around April 1 1995 I put up my first web site about bicycle touring, photos and alternative living. In 1999, it moved to my current donaim name

This blog and my Yahoo group were added more recently.

Before being on the web, I was making more trips to a local copy center and the post office.