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Archive for September, 2010

Community Meeting Summary 9-21-2010

Tuesday, September 28, 2010 @ 10:09 PM
posted by mike

Highlights included legal update, gov’t relations, media initiative, & community call-to-action

Board Members in Attendance: Stuart Rich, Mark Sexton, Fred Kinney, Dale Kinsley, Mike McKenzie, Lisa Wochos (ex-officio)

County Councilman Ken Mann attended, carrying his 2-month-old son Atticus. The Board introduced Councilman Mann and thanked him for making the trip over. Later in the program he responded to questions from the audience.

Legal Update

Stuart Rich, president, explained the ferry dock lease negotiations status between Whatcom County and the Lummi Nation, stating that both parties have agreed to mediation. However, the mediator had yet to be chosen. PLIC’s position is that the mediator should be someone well-versed in both federal and tribal law.

Stuart reported that after extensive research, GTH concluded that the County has valuable legal rights regarding the Gooseberry ferry terminal on two issues:

  1. The consent degree (the old lease), and
  2. The Right of Way (“Road to Lummi”) established in 1928-1929.

The County has agreed to a briefing in executive session by GTH on these legal positions in the near future. Stuart said GTH advises the PLIC Board to hold the strategies confidential at this time, sharing them only in executive session with County officials so that it can be used productively as part of the lease mediation.

Stuart reported that County Executive Pete Kremen said at the last County Council meeting that he had spoken with legislative aides from Senator Patty Murray’s office and asked for federal financial assistance.

The County Council also passed a resolution supporting a joint request by the County and Lummi Nation for a $16 million appropriations bill for road improvements on Slater and Haxton roads, and at Gooseberry village.

Stuart also stated that we are at a very critical phase in the negotiations and it is important to get the Lummi Island story (our need for a positive resolution to this impasse) out to the government and the community at large. He asked the PLIC membership and community at large to help make this happen.

When asked what the mediation process would look like, Stuart answered that the mediation would be advisory-only and not binding like some arbitration is. Mediation is a process that takes time and most likely will continue well into next year.

Asked if the Lummi Nation’s October 15 deadline remained effective to shut down ferry service if an agreement isn’t in place, Stuart said it had not been withdrawn at this time.

Government Relations

Fred Kinney commented about an article on Crosscut.com in which the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Deputy Director in Seattle said they were not going to get involved because they had very little property held in trust. Fred said that it is true that the BIA holds very little in trust, but what is held in trust is the tidelands that are a focal point in these negotiations. To ignore the County’s request for involvement is “unconscionable,” Fred said, and PLIC will work on getting BIA’s involvement and urge government officials to do the same.

Fred reported that PLIC board members met recently with a number of County Council board members–Kathy Kershner,  Sam Crawford, Ken Mann, and Barbara Brenner. Rob Rich met with top legislative aides of our Congressional delegation in Washington, D.C.  Mark Sexton visited with Sen. Patty Murray in Bellingham.

PLIC will continue to develop a relationship with our delegation and request federal financial support for the County and Lummi Nation tied to a long-term lease for Lummi Island ferry service.

Communications

Mike McKenzie reported on a PLIC initiative to raise consciousness about the Lummi Island story – an island caught in the middle – that holds potential appeal for journalists. He mentioned local, regional, and national news outlets that have received a story outline, fact sheet about Lummi Island, and timeline of the ferry issue. The Associated Press in NY and The Seattle Times expressed immediate interest. The Bellingham Herald sought PLIC for comment on its last story about the ferry.

King5-TV News from Seattle video-taped a feature on Lummi Island in August, coordinated by islander Terry Terry, including an interview with PLIC VP Mark Sexton. KVOS-TV Channel 12 in Bellingham aired a 6 ½-minute feature three times recently, and we link to it on www.PLICferry.org. It included interviews with PLIC officers Stuart Rich and Mark Sexton, fire chief Duncan McLane, and reefnet fishing/former postmaster/longtime resident Jerry Anderson, and much outstanding footage of life on Lummi Island and the ferry.

(A few days after the community meeting The Bellingham Herald ran an op-ed article submitted by Stuart Rich.)

Mike urged islanders to use the info@plicferry.org email to share ideas and thoughts with PLIC board members. He said that the www.PLICferry.org website has been developed as a factual source of ferry negotiation information. He urged those in attendance to continue to use the Lummi Island Ferry Forum for healthy conversation and communication on ferry issues.

Community Call to Action

A. The PLIC board drafted a petition to be signed by Lummi Islanders and presented to County Executive Pete Kremen. Rhayma Blake presented this petition to the audience:

1) We urgently request Whatcom County and the Lummi Nation to immediately select a qualified impartial mediator and begin mediation to avoid the Lummi Nation’s ferry shutdown deadline of 10/15/10.

2) We also request the Whatcom County Executive to prepare a contingency plan for uninterrupted Lummi Island ferry service and to keep Lummi Island residents informed.

Discussion followed and a straw vote of the large group of attendees tabled the circulation of the petition as not necessary at this time.

Councilman Ken Mann offered to take up the October 15 issue with the county administration to see if this deadline could be officially rescinded as part of the agreement to mediation. He said that, after attending the most recent negotiation session, he does not anticipate a quick resolution to the negotiations.

B. Rhayma Blake asked the members to stay informed and represent the island by attending county Public Works meetings and County Council meetings. Volunteers were requested and will be mobilized.

C. Mike McKenzie announced the formation of a group of PLIC Goodwill Ambassadors, islanders who will voluntarily spread the word about the ferry issues and developments with neighbors and friends to increase public dialogue and awareness. Persons who signed up received informational to act as Ambassadors.

D. Also, a volunteer sign-up was solicited comprising persons who will write targeted-topic letters to government officials, using bullet-point topics provided by PLIC to compose letters in their own words. This method keeps mailings specifically centered on the actions necessary to keep the ferry issues forward moving.

E. Dave Wing, membership coordinator for PLIC, reported that PLIC membership stood at 465. He has developed a mailing of 216 new brochures to islanders who have not been contacted previously. (The mailing went out 9/27. He requested volunteers to help with this mailing.

From the audience, Jim Dickinson announced that he has submitted a proposal for the creation of a Ferry Advisory Board to represent islander needs as the ferry ages and negotiations continue. Details can be found at www.lummiislandferryforum.wordpress.com

Stuart announced the next PLIC General Meeting tentatively for Monday, October 11 at 7:00 p.m. at the Grange. The meeting adjourned.

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Lummi Island ferry story on local TV & in Herald

Thursday, September 23, 2010 @ 12:09 PM
posted by mike

A couple of weeks ago, a writer/producer for KVOS-TV Channel 12 in Bellingham arrived on Lummi Island, camera and tripod in tow, on a stormy Tuesday.  He shot scenes and interviews for what he termed “the essence of the story” of Lummi Island as a community caught in a web of government hang-ups that threatened its long-running ferry service.

That story, “The future of the Lummi Ferry,” 6:37 in length, aired three times on Channel 12’s “Experience Northwest” television magazine program. It now is viewable on line here.

The interviews include subjects of health, safety, and emergency services with Lummi Island fire chief Duncan McLane, reefnet fishing with a veteran of six decades of reefnetting, Jerry Anderson, and topics of concern with PLIC board officers Stuart Rich and Mark Sexton. The story includes many island scenes.

The water was so rough that day in Legoe Bay that it drove the fishers off the reefnet gears by mid-morning, and the feature used multiple shots of the bay and Hale’s Pass to illustrate the effects that weather and waves could bring to bear on islanders’ transportation if it traveled to Bellingham Bay.

Meanwhile, PLIC submitted an op-ed article to The Bellingham Herald, and it appeared in the print edition Thursday, Sept. 23. It is now readable on the Herald’s Web site here.

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PLIC’s Busy Summer

Saturday, September 18, 2010 @ 08:09 PM
posted by mike

During the summer that is drawing to a close with a community meeting September 21, PLIC’s board of directors and several other volunteers of this non-profit, non-partisan neighborhood alliance have remained very active on several fronts. To wit:

  • Expanded governmental relations nationally, regionally, and locally
  • Public relations and media interviews and distribution of materials regionally and nationally
  • Membership growth and community outreach
  • Extensive historical research into ferry operations costs and legal documents
  • And citizen participation in the county government processes

All activity has been guided by community-wide input and by legal counsel, geared to raising the voice of Lummi Island as it faced a ferry shutdown deadline (Oct. 15) for the second time in 6 months.

Throughout these endeavors, PLIC has remained arrow-true to its mission and goals of a negotiated settlement for a long-term ferry lease (25 years, plus 25 year renewal) for Lummi Island ferry service to Gooseberry Point. PLIC has publicly favored negotiations from day one, with a stated vision for sustaining ferry runs at or near current service levels and at a cost that is based on established county government budget guidelines and fair-market value for the lease.

On August 6, PLIC publicly recommended mediation as the best means for ending the impasse in negotiations and finding fair and equitable solutions.

In a concerted effort to forge positive and forward-moving governmental relations, islander Rob Rich represented PLIC recently with strategic talking points and requests for Congressional delegation aides in Washington, D.C. He met at the offices of Sen. Maria Cantwell and Rep. Rick Larsen. PLIC VP Mark Sexton spoke with Sen. Patty Murray in Bellingham.

Last week, PLIC board members met with four members of Whatcom County Council and spoke to the other three to express concerns, offer informational assistance, and request actions. PLIC has had representatives at all County Council meetings and several sub-committee meetings.

During the last month, officers on the PLIC board were among many islanders interviewed in television programs produced by KING5 News in Seattle and by KVOS-Channel 12 “Experience Northwest” (to be aired soon), and in the Bellingham Herald.

PLIC has sent regular submissions to local and regional media during the last two months, and targeted specific state and national media with the Lummi Island community story – i.e., an island facing a shutdown deadline and stalled negotiations for its only public transportation access to the mainland.

At every turn PLIC maintained its non-partisan stance, dedicated to gathering information and making known the history, precedents, legal research, interests, wants, and needs of Lummi Island residents and property owners, and community stakeholders at large, both on and off the island, including Lummi Nation.

PLIC joined our entire community and county in public appreciation for the ongoing efforts of Lummi Indian Business Council and Whatcom County government in reopening the doors for negotiations with the assistance of a neutral mediator. Further, County Executive Pete Kremen wrote to the BIA asking for appropriate intervention, and contacted Sen. Murray’s office for assistance.

County Council generously broke into its summer time off to schedule a special meeting soon after negotiations broke down and a shutdown deadline became public. Council held that meeting on Lummi Island. Council members openly took stances favorable to relief from the threat of shutdown, of inflated costs, and listened to a variety of islanders’ concerns and suggestions in a positive dialogue format.

And, most recently, County Councilwomen Kathy Kershner and Barbara Brenner jointly requested approval for accepting a request that PLIC made about three months ago for Council to hold an executive session to hear results of legal research. Councilwoman Brenner released an email statement (9-16) indicating that Council was notified by its attorney that a session would take place soon.

PLIC has set up its next community meeting, open to everyone, on Tuesday, September 21, at 7 p.m. in The Grange hall. The agenda will include an overview of research and other activity since the last meeting in mid-August, and a plan for mobilization of the membership and community in the coming weeks. On the last day of summer, it will end a whirlwind summer for PLIC, and bolster the community for the next wave of actions affecting Lummi Island ferry service.

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Message from PLIC president Stuart Rich

Wednesday, September 15, 2010 @ 12:09 PM
posted by mike

9-15-2010 PLIC proactive the last month; County Council summary

PLIC has been busy since we last met with you in August. We’ve set a community-wide meeting for Tuesday, Sept. 21, to present all that’s been going on – meetings with Congressional and Whatcom County elected officials, public relations and media initiatives and interviews, and legal research overview.

Please join the continued efforts of this ever-stronger neighborhood alliance at 7 o’clock that night in The Grange. We want you involved in raising the community voice as negotiations resume with a mediator involved to facilitate a lease agreement for long-term Lummi Island ferry service.

Several positive things have happened, including the request you see on our home page by County Council members for a session with PLIC attorneys, and now indications of Sen. Patty Murray’s office involvement and a resolution passed by Whatcom County Public Works and County Council seeking federal aid jointly with Lummi Nation.

Last night I attended the regular meeting of Whatcom County Council, and here’s a recap of several positive things that have occurred within the County government:

During the open-comments portion of the meeting when citizens can address the Council, I thanked both the County and Lummi Nation for their agreement last week to mediate the negotiation impasse for Lummi Island ferry service. This was critically important. As you know, Lummi Indian Business Council set an October 15 deadline to shut down the Whatcom Chief.

My comments to Council included PLIC’s position (stated immediately after the LIBC deadline announcement) that a skilled, neutral mediator with expertise in federal, Indian, and real estate law working within a structured negotiation environment is the crucial next step for all parties.

I also reiterated PLIC’s position taken in August that federal assistance is necessary to bridge the financial gap between the County and Lummi Nation. I expressed to the County our belief that they and Lummi Nation should develop a joint federally-funded plan to meet the ferry related needs of both parties and tie the plan to a long-term ferry lease of 50 years (25, plus a renewal of 25).

After I spoke, County Executive Pete Kremen told the County Council that earlier in the day he had spoken with top legislative aides from Sen. Patty Murray’s office in Washington, D.C., about federal funding for road improvements through the Lummi Nation reservation. Kremen stated that he was positive that “Senator Murray’s office is working very hard” to provide transportation funding to help resolve the ferry lease crisis.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Public Works Committee recommended by a 2-1 vote a resolution that addressed the federal financial assistance. County Council then approved by a 6-0-1 vote that resolution in support of Whatcom’s County and Lummi Nation’s request for appropriation in the federal budget for year 2010-2011.

The ask is $16 million for traffic improvements to Haxton and Slater roads. Because both parties lack enough funding resources to address the Lummi Nation’s traffic concerns, this resolution will facilitate successful negotiations for the lease of the Gooseberry Point area essential for continued Lummi Island ferry service.

Finally, I asked the County to follow up on Mr. Kremen’s unanswered letter dated August 18 to Stanley Speaks, Northwest Regional Director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The letter asked for help in resolving the ferry lease dispute. The BIA, as the trustee of the tidelands at issue, has a responsibility to the public to address the legal issues affecting ferry service for Lummi Island.

Rest assured, the PLIC Board and membership of Lummi Island residents and property owners, and the Lummi Island community at large, will continue its efforts. The end game is a lease agreement that is agreeable and beneficial to the welfare of Lummi Nation, Whatcom County, and Lummi Island through positive, mediated negotiations.

Please join us.

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