I'm Bob Burr, the "no coal" candidate for the at-large seat on Bellingham's City Council. While my platform is much larger than that, coal is one of the two major reasons I'm running. The climate crisis facing our planet is both real and immediate. Even if we act boldly now, we will see increasingly disastrous climatic events in future years. If we don't act very soon, it is game over for life on this planet. Scientists agree that coal burning is the leading culprit in climate change. Continuing to burn it is suicidal for our species. Coal export is insanity.
The proposed Gateway Pacific coal export terminal at Cherry Point is symbolic of the corporate greed that puts profits ahead of people's lives. It must be stopped. Climate change and ocean acidification impacts are reasons enough to oppose this terminal, but there are plenty more. Eighteen, mile-long coal trains a day will block emergency traffic, lower property values, cause asthma, increase property taxes to pay for needed overpasses and inhibit optimal waterfront development. The huge tankers in the Puget Sound will be devastating to its ecosystem. To wet the coal piles, the terminal will use as much water each day as half the city of Bellingham. That water will be taken from farmers. The coal will be piled on sacred Lummi burial grounds. How would you like it if Arlington National Cemetery were turned into a coal dump?
While the city of Bellingham has no direct say on whether the coal terminal proceeds, it can use its bully pulpit to speak out against it. Its responsibility to its residents extends beyond city limits. I will speak out vociferously against Gateway Pacific and put every conceivable obstacle in its way.
The second factor causing me to run is the blatant disregard the city council showed for its voters last year. The city council unanimously voted to go to court to block a vote on a Community Bill Of Rights initiative co-sponsored by over 10,000 Bellingham voters. That was wrong. Yes, the initiative was flawed. I would have voted against it. But, that's beside the point. The initiative had double the required signatures and we had a right to vote on it. Blocking the vote tells me council members either felt voters were too stupid to make the decision or that they lacked the persuasive power to convince us. Either way, it is unacceptable. I will never vote to block your right to vote on an initiative.
I accept no contributions. To address the urgent needs of our nation and planet we absolutely must get the enormously corrupting influence of money out of politics. I will champion taxpayer-financing of City Council elections in hopes that we can influence county, state and federal officials to follow our lead. The public, irrespective of party lines, overwhelmingly supports public financing. It is the special interests and their bought politicians that prevent it. Our system is broken because it is fixed.
The Waterfront District plan recently sent to the Council by the planning commission is a developers' dream, but the public's nightmare. It is a waterfront for the wealthy, not the working waterfront we need as a magnet for living-wage jobs. No more minimum wage jobs. No new marina, no luxury hotel, no highrise, high-end condos.
Lake Whatcom must be protected for what it is -- our reservoir. It is now an impaired water body, largely because of phosphorous runoff in the county. That underscores the importance of electing the right people to the County Council -- ones who are committed to stopping the decline in water quality.
I am proposing bans on the use of surveillance drones and fracking within the city. I plan to get the students of our local university, colleges and high schools more involved in city affairs. I will push the city to play a more major role in decisions about a new jail facility. And, I will use my research and customer satisfaction expertise to help build a more "user friendly" and less bureaucratic city government. Vote for Bob Burr by Aug. 6 for a breath of fresh air on the City Council.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bob Burr is one of three candidates running for the two-year term for the Bellingham City Council at-large seat being vacated by Seth Fleetwood. The top two candidates in the Aug. 6 primary advance to the Nov. 4 general election.