City Council member’s behavior embarrassed Fircrest

September 12, 2013 

We are deeply concerned about the embarrassment that City Council member Matthew Jolibois has caused our lovely little city, which is why we write to set the record straight.

As The News Tribune reported Aug. 31 in the article headlined, “Fircrest councilman told to stop cutting plants,” City Manager Rick Rosenbladt sent Jolibois a letter advising that he would be subject to a civil citation if he continued removing plants from Masko Park. Rosenbladt’s hand was forced because Jolibois had stated he would not stop altering the landscaping of the park, despite two warnings by the City Council.

In his accounts to The News Tribune and a Seattle TV news crew, Jolibois portrayed himself as an innocent victim who was simply trying to clean up the park by weeding and watering. That’s a gross misrepresentation of his actions, and it’s damaging our city’s reputation.

Jolibois did have an arrangement with city staff that enabled him to access a nearby water line so he could tend to Masko Park’s rhododendron garden, which has been a passion of his. We had no issue with that. In the past, we have had volunteers who helped maintain roses in another part of town, so efforts like this help keep our small parks maintenance crew available to work on the long list of needs.

But Jolibois also objected to the presence of salal in the park. Salal is a well-regarded native Northwest ground cover that is particularly useful in a passive park that hosts a water well, which by law must be protected from fertilizers. During two City Council meetings in 2011 and 2012, Jolibois was clearly told to stop removing plants from the park.

Jolibois began removing them anyway. City staff asked him to stop, but he declared that he would not. Knowing that a majority of the council had rejected his request, the city manager had no choice but to advise the council member that he would be forced to issue a citation if the behavior continued.

As elected officials, we take the oath of office to uphold the law. Fircrest Municipal Code 10.12.020 prohibits people from cutting, removing or disturbing plants or equipment in parks. We are glad that the city manager’s action has stopped Jolibois.

The News Tribune’s coverage of this matter prompted a Sept. 3 letter to the editor (“Fircrest volunteers should be honored, not threatened”) that called into question our treatment of volunteers.

Like all healthy communities, the City of Fircrest is blessed with outstanding citizen volunteers who contribute time and talent to our community. We have many volunteers who staff Fircrest Fun Days, the Hawaiian Pool Party, the Christmas tree lighting, the Easter Egg Hunt, the Daddy-Daughter Dance, Haunted Trails, our award-winning National Night Out event and many more.

For Jolibois to claim that we don’t appreciate our volunteers is a gross misrepresentation that seems intended to inflame. In fact, what we don’t appreciate is someone who doesn’t respect the rule of law.

Editor’s note: Five members of the Fircrest City Council voted Tuesday to submit this Viewpoint. This was submitted by Fircrest Mayor David M. Viafore and City Council members Chris Gruver, Hunter T. George, Denny Waltier and Kathy L. McVay.

Bellingham Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service