Smoking Gun: Fraud and DeceptionPermalink +
Mon, Nov 18, 2013, 3:18 pm // Guest writer
Submitted by Doug Karlberg.
Abraham Lincoln said, “Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail. Without it, nothing can succeed.”
The Port of Bellingham has lost the public’s sentiment, and it must be regained. The dysfunction at our port has festered far too long. The public owns the port, but for decades only two commissioners and a loyal staff have controlled it. The public needs to retake control of the port.
The port’s narrow and self-centered outlook endangers the future of our waterfront and desperately needed jobs that it can support. The port, with the city’s help, wants to sell real estate instead of promote jobs and is now poised to wreck our capacity to support good paying jobs for the foreseeable future.
We can fix this, but first a stroll down memory lane to understand how we got here.
Our port tends to have commissioners for life. This wasn’t always true, but since the mid 1950s, commissioners have tended to remain in office for long, long times, decades in many cases. It may just be human nature, but when people remain in public office too long there can be negative effects.
The Port of Bellingham was for years the Port of Zuanich (44 years) and Asmundson (35 years). Then it became the Port of Walker (21 years) and Smith (16 years). With a three person commission, any two commissioners can effectively control our port.
Port meetings are held during weekday work hours so the public hardly ever attends. A chronic lack of public perspective feeds a creeping imperialistic control of this public founded and funded organization. Under the three-commissioner system, two port commissioners can do whatever they want. Theoretically, they constitute a quorum and should not meet to discuss port business without public notice. In practice, the efficiency and lack of debate attendant to the execution of the port’s business belies their attention to these details. Staff comes and goes, but all know who has the power at the port, and who not to cross.
Secure in their incumbency, the port commissioners decided in 2004 to condemn and seize Georgia-Pacific’s (G-P) treatment lagoon (the ASB) for the “public purpose” of a marina for large yachts. This seizure fractured the community. G-P was long a mainstay of the local economy and a major employer. Even though they were obviously winding down the operation, many felt that such heavy-handed treatment was unwarranted and unwise. The ongoing tissue operation and the co-generation plant were still using the ASB. What were these facilities expected to do?
Equally important, for nearly ten years G-P along with 14 agency stakeholders had been negotiating a robust clean up of the waterfront. G-P’s scientists, the Department of Ecology (DOE), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Wildlife, Fisheries, environmental groups and others had worked cooperatively to come up with a plan that all agreed on, one which would have cleaned up the waterway completely.
G-P was anxious to start the clean up, get it done, and sell the land.
It was a serious clean up plan supported by all who had studied and worked for years to develop and compare nine remedial alternatives (archived page with some bad links). The DOE and EPA were willing to sign off. This was not the design of a bunch of Southside carpetbagger greenies, as Port Commissioner Smith enjoyed characterizing them.
In just one month, the port flushed ten years of hard work down the toilet and adopted a plan that accomplished the least possible clean up. The most affordable way to clean up the contaminated sediments next to G-P was to store the dredge spoils in the ASB. Any large clean up requires a disposal site, but the port seized G-P’s intended disposal site for a marina. The years-long good faith effort, ready for signatures, was junked because the port wanted a yacht basin to complement the upscale condos they envisioned for the waterfront.
The shipping channel would no longer be cleaned up. Under the port’s plan the channel would be abandoned and ‘capped’, reducing its depth. This channel extended from the full depth of Bellingham Bay, past the port’s International Shipping Terminal, along much of G-P’s length, to the shoreline at the Waterfront Tavern and the Granary Building, where Citizens Dock once stood. This channel has been used for commerce extensively since Bellingham was founded. After capping, the channel will be limited to small craft and kayaks.
How polluted is the Whatcom Waterway? It is bad. Everything from the pulp mill site drained into the shipping channel for decades. The fishing fleet used to moor boats in the channel for a couple of days before hauling out for bottom work. The toxins would kill everything growing on the hull, making cleaning easy. I wouldn’t eat any of the fish out of the shipping channel, even after it is capped. This channel will probably need permanent signs warning against fishing, crabbing and clamming.
Throwing monkey wrenches into the public’s clean-up plan made marshaling public support for the ASB marina critical for the port. They hired a consulting firm to study five potential sites for a future marina, including the ASB. This report was delivered to the port and released to the public in advance of the final G-P purchase decision.
However, the report was altered to mislead the public. The report rates the ASB as the most economical site. This finding was needed to support the ASB marina plan. It was crucial to justifying both the G-P site purchase and the condemnation of the ASB. This document is now evidence.
For a time, this file was publicly available as a Word document online. It included embedded Excel object information. The document’s description of each site includes an embedded Excel spreadsheet table. If you have MS Office, you can double click on any table in the Word document and a spreadsheet will open in Excel. The Excel file includes tabs for all five sites. In four of these tables, the ASB tabs are identical and show costs of $50,731,417. However, the Word document table for the ASB lagoon shows costs of only $33,939,485. It is clear that the Word document description of the ASB site was altered after the authors embedded the Excel information. The Excel object information shows the ASB site having the highest costs. The document is a proverbial “smoking gun.”
The $21,612,932 discrepancy in favor of the ASB site, in favor of this whole unsavory waterfront boondoggle, is at least misleading and probably fraudulent. I contacted port staff for an explanation and they refused to respond. However, the online edition of the Word document immediately disappeared from their website. But not before I saved a copy!
(Note: Changing tabs with the table open in Excel can alter your copy of the document if you save the changes. To preserve the document, simply don't save changes.)
Today, searching portofbellingham.com for “marina site survey” returns a single, unsearchable PDF: The minutes of the May 19, 2009 port commission meeting in which a Mr. Stahl reports that “the Makers 2004 Bellingham Bay Marina Site Survey identified the ASB as the preferred location for a marina within Bellingham Bay.” That is not true.
These behaviors evidence a pattern of deception underlying the very essence of the waterfront plan we just adopted. This is categorically unacceptable for a public agency. It is illegal behavior that should be punished. It is cause to reconsider the entire waterfront plan before plunging the public into incomprehensibly expensive commitments.
The report includes another doozy. The consultant states that North Puget Sound will urgently need 3,100 new marina berths by 2010. Nearly four years after this dire prediction we know the prediction was bunk. Demand for yacht moorage dried up when the economy tanked. Building the marina will obligate Whatcom County taxpayers to repay nearly half a billion dollars. Would you bet a half billion that four hundred 60-100 foot yachts will want to come to Bellingham?
The marina study ignored other obvious factors. The Lummi Nation is planning a marina. Their location is closer to the northern San Juans and especially better for many fishers, most of whom are already weary of the port.
Mucking out the ASB is estimated to cost $43 million. The port is desperate to justify this expense to build a breakwater worth maybe $6 million. Alternatively, we could fill the ASB and sell the land for $10 million. We could actually clean up rather than cap the waterway and retain options for both commerce and safe fishing on the new waterfront. It would save millions in disposal costs and millions more not constructing an unneeded marina. But the port and city have worked together to hide the true costs from the public by concealing the marina in the No-Action alternative and by evidently falsifying crucial data. Even the DOE (document linked below) originally commented that the port’s strategy, “deprives the public and other interested parties of the opportunity to have meaningful input to the complete planning and development process.” That has proven true. It has allowed the port to bamboozle its citizens and the city while crafting their vision out of whole cloth.
Meanwhile, Greenberry last year leased 10+ acres from the port and spent $200 million locally. Even the port’s phony inflated numbers would require 20 years for the ASB marina to generate that much economic impact, using four times the area (37 acres) – if there were enough mega-yachts to fill the slips.
We seriously need to pull the plug on the port’s corrupt waterfront plan and make immediate changes to bring the public back into this process. Port meetings need to start happening in the evening when people can attend, like city and county council meetings. The commission must be expanded by two at-large positions to increase candidate access and reduce entrenched incumbencies. When agencies lie to their constituents, it is time for radical action. Investigating this fraud is the place to start. Who falsified these records? Who helped? On whose orders? It's deposition time!
The evolution of the waterfront plan has increasingly ignored public sentiment. This has become a common refrain from all who have tried. We need to back up, adopt an honest and open framework that can produce a plan consistent with public sentiment.
Without that, we cannot succeed. On the waterfront, we cannot afford to fail.
Attached Files:-> Read what the DOE thought of the Port hiding the marina in the No-Action plan
Related Links:-> See the Smoking Gun for yourself (2.2MB .doc)
Thu, May 26, 2016, 5:23 am
1 comments; last on May 29, 2016
Mon, May 23, 2016, 5:21 am
Sat, May 21, 2016, 4:32 pm
11 comments; last on May 26, 2016
Wed, May 18, 2016, 4:46 pm
2 comments; last on May 24, 2016
Tue, May 17, 2016, 7:45 pm
2 comments; last on May 18, 2016
Mon, May 16, 2016, 5:20 am
Sat, May 14, 2016, 9:34 am
2 comments; last on May 15, 2016
Mon, May 09, 2016, 12:10 pm
4 comments; last on May 09, 2016
Sat, May 07, 2016, 10:47 pm
3 comments; last on May 24, 2016
Tue, Apr 26, 2016, 7:04 pm
4 comments; last on May 03, 2016
Tue, Apr 26, 2016, 3:46 pm
1 comments; last on Apr 27, 2016
Thu, Apr 21, 2016, 8:40 pm
3 comments; last on Apr 24, 2016
Wed, Apr 20, 2016, 8:01 pm
1 comments; last on Apr 21, 2016
Tue, Apr 19, 2016, 5:14 am
Mon, Apr 18, 2016, 11:55 am
6 comments; last on Apr 19, 2016
Wed, Apr 13, 2016, 10:43 pm
5 comments; last on Apr 14, 2016
Wed, Apr 13, 2016, 9:09 am
3 comments; last on Apr 14, 2016
Mon, Apr 11, 2016, 1:06 am
11 comments; last on Apr 23, 2016
Wed, Apr 06, 2016, 9:18 pm
5 comments; last on Apr 09, 2016
Wed, Apr 06, 2016, 1:14 pm
5 comments; last on Apr 07, 2016
Mon, Apr 04, 2016, 8:17 pm
2 comments; last on Apr 05, 2016
Mon, Apr 04, 2016, 5:25 am
2 comments; last on May 24, 2016
Fri, Apr 01, 2016, 3:49 pm
3 comments; last on Apr 02, 2016
Wed, Mar 23, 2016, 2:37 pm
Wed, Mar 16, 2016, 8:26 pm
Wed, Mar 16, 2016, 12:19 am
4 comments; last on Mar 24, 2016
Tue, Mar 15, 2016, 12:04 am
2 comments; last on Mar 17, 2016
Mon, Mar 14, 2016, 1:53 am
Sun, Mar 13, 2016, 1:06 pm
1 comments; last on Mar 14, 2016
Fri, Mar 11, 2016, 11:28 pm
2 comments; last on Mar 13, 2016
Wed, Mar 09, 2016, 11:20 pm
Wed, Mar 09, 2016, 2:20 pm
1 comments; last on Mar 12, 2016
Tue, Mar 08, 2016, 2:47 pm
Tue, Mar 08, 2016, 1:15 am
6 comments; last on Mar 12, 2016
Mon, Mar 07, 2016, 10:40 am
6 comments; last on Mar 08, 2016
Sun, Mar 06, 2016, 11:39 pm
1 comments; last on Mar 07, 2016
Tue, Mar 01, 2016, 3:40 pm
Mon, Feb 29, 2016, 11:55 pm
1 comments; last on Mar 01, 2016
Sat, Feb 27, 2016, 1:24 pm
Tue, Feb 23, 2016, 5:01 am
4 comments; last on Mar 01, 2016
Thu, Feb 18, 2016, 5:01 am
16 comments; last on Feb 22, 2016
Sun, Feb 14, 2016, 8:54 pm
2 comments; last on Feb 19, 2016
Tue, Feb 09, 2016, 5:02 am
5 comments; last on Feb 10, 2016
Mon, Feb 08, 2016, 6:26 am
Fri, Feb 05, 2016, 12:45 pm
4 comments; last on Feb 12, 2016
Wed, Feb 03, 2016, 5:49 pm
4 comments; last on Feb 04, 2016
Wed, Feb 03, 2016, 2:53 pm
Mon, Feb 01, 2016, 4:00 am
2 comments; last on Feb 04, 2016
Sun, Jan 31, 2016, 12:04 pm
3 comments; last on Feb 04, 2016
Mon, Jan 18, 2016, 6:35 am
1 comments; last on Jan 20, 2016
Tue, Jan 12, 2016, 12:18 am
1 comments; last on Jan 13, 2016
Wed, Dec 30, 2015, 1:15 am
Tue, Dec 29, 2015, 12:06 pm
4 comments; last on Dec 31, 2015
Fri, Dec 25, 2015, 11:31 am
2 comments; last on Dec 25, 2015
Mon, Dec 21, 2015, 3:14 am
Sat, Dec 19, 2015, 12:11 pm
1 comments; last on Dec 20, 2015
Mon, Dec 14, 2015, 4:58 pm
Wed, Dec 02, 2015, 9:31 pm
3 comments; last on Dec 06, 2015
Mon, Nov 30, 2015, 6:29 am
Mon, Nov 23, 2015, 6:41 am
7 comments; last on Dec 27, 2015
About NWCitizenDonations maintain site
Thru the years
Election LinksJeff Strung / WA Auditor
Mike LaPointe / US Congress
League of Women VotersCalendar of Events
Videos of Districting Committee
Local Online NewsBellingham Herald
Bham Business Journal
Bham Politics & Econ
KPLU fm radio
Western Front - WWU
Local CausesChuckanut C. Forest
City Club of Bellingham
Community Wise Bham
Futurewise - Whatcom
Lummi Island Quarry
N. Cascades Audubon
NW Holocaust Center
Powder River Basin R. C.
Salish Sea Org.
Save the Granary
WA Conservation Voters
Whatcom Peace & Justice
Our Governments- Whatcom County
Port of Bellingham
US Supreme Court
US The White House
NWCitizen 1995-2007Early Northwest Citizen
Weather & ClimateCliff Mass Weather Blog
EPIC World Photos
Nat Hurricane Center
Two day forecast
Watts Up With That?
Local LeisureAdventures NW
Good Web SitesAl-Jazeera online
Change The Mascot
Edge of Sports
Foreign Policy in Focus
Julia Ioffe/New Republic
Middle East Times
New American Century
Personal bio info
Portland Indy Media
Project Vote Smart
Stand for the Troops
Talking Points Memo
The Crisis Papers
War and Piece
Quiet, Offline or DeadBellingham Register
Bhm Herald Politics Blog
Citizens of Bellingham
Cordata & Meridian
Facebook Port Reform
Friends of Whatcom
Get Whatcom Planning
Intrnational Herald Tribune
N. Sound Conservancy
No Leaky Buckets
Protect Bellingham Parks
The American Telegraph