Port and city like a bad marriage


The city and the port are in some serious need of relationship counseling.

What is most disturbing about the recent collapse of communications between the city and port is how quickly things came to a screeching halt in early November.

It all started looking like a bad marriage on a daytime soap opera, with enough stubbornness and personality clashes to put blame on both sides. The media, like the chatty girlfriends giving advice on the sidelines, has been adding fuel to the fire and their own two cents about who is to blame for this failing. Predictably, the port seems to have been getting the blame for most of this relationship.

But facts show that things seemed to have been fine before Mayor Dan Pike came on board, and any relationship is a two-way street.

Luckily, the local aunts and uncles have been here to give a cool head when needed. Uncle Bruce Shepard, president of Western Washington University, has been working overtime to try to bring the two sides to the table and smooth the ruffled feathers.

And of course, like all troubled marriages, it’s the kids that get stuck in the middle. The Waterfront Advisory Group, a group of 10 citizens appointed jointly by the city and port, canceled its meeting in November when things started falling apart, because mom and dad weren’t playing nice so what is there to talk about? And if this plan completely collapses, the real losers would be, of course, the general public.

The lines of communication have been slowly deteriorating since January. The first serious blow, however, was when the city filed its lawsuit to stop the port from demolishing three old buildings on the former G-P site. Sources close to the port said port representatives were sideswiped by this action. Communication then started happening through third parties instead of the port commissioners talking directly with the mayor’s office.

“Tell Mom that I don’t care if the waterfront stays industrial.”

“Tell Dad that I don’t care either.”

In the last few weeks of November, both sides cooled down a bit and made an effort toward reconciliation. The mayor said that he was simply misunderstood and the port, after completely withdrawing from the master planning process, said they would continue to work toward a development agreement.

While this is good news, it doesn’t erase the embarrassment of the bad behavior from the past several months. Sources close to Olympia say that Bellingham is starting to get a bad reputation at the state capitol because it seems we can’t all get along up here. When we’re trying to woo NOAA to Bellingham Bay, or get funds for infrastructure projects such as relocation of the railroad, it does not look good when we’ve got internal fighting and an uncertain future.

This project is about our entire community. We’re all in this together, and what our leaders seem to have forgotten is that this project is not about one individual.

Although luckily for us, unlike bad parenting, if things aren’t going our way, we can always vote them out.

— Vanessa Blackburn


Off Beat

by Rik Dalvit


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