Wednesday, October 30, 2013


The Whatcom Republican Party has put out a mailer implying that "extremists" in the Democratic Party forced the  Georgia Pacific pulp plant to close in 2001. I find this hard to believe, but I will let others with more than 11 years here in Bellingham respond. I will say that I doubt that I, as well as many other ex-urbans, would have considered moving to Bellingham twelve years ago if it meant we would have had  to breathe in the brown cloud of acrid smoke that reputedly drifted over most of the core downtown and its residential neighborhoods from GP's pulp plant. Property prices in Bellingham, as far as I can tell, began a long climb upwards only after the pulp plant closed.

Once before I had tried to move us to the Pacific Northwest. I was working at Intel in Hillsboro, Oregon.  Oregon is very populist state. Outside of downtown Portland, life isn't always so well-cultured.  At that time (1998), some of the cities surrounding the Intel campus weren't exactly civic models designed to attract ex-urbans.  After  failing to impress my wife with Oregon, I actually chose Bellingham as our 'escape' because it rated highly on the American Lung Association ratings for clean air after the pulp plant closed in 2001.  To test whether  or not we should live here, I rented a motel for three days and walked the entire city and downtown core. The clean air, the beautiful view of the San Juans, the (comparatively) crime free urban core cinched the deal for me.

My wife Carol demanded that there be at least three movies theaters in town. The fact that the Pickford was an art house cinema saved me. Originally,  I wanted my five acres in the county complete with cedar forest. But Carol told me: "You've dragged me away to the land of ice and snow and RAIN. I won't let you move us to the wilderness."  (!!) When we finally visited together, I remember we stood at the end of Broadway and looked over the view of the Bellwether and the San Juan's and she turned to me and said, "If we have to move away from home, this is so much better than Beaverton!!". Indeed, the Columbia neighborhood in Bellingham, WA truly is better than Beaverton, OR. ( My sincerest apologies to those of you in Oregon. Perhaps today Beaverton today has less strip clubs and more nice hotels and malls in 2013 than it did in 1998.)

The Republican Party seems to want prosperity both ways. They want the the real estate market and tourist draw of Santa Monica, CA and at the same time they want the industrial output of Richmond, CA. I've never seen such a municipal confluence happen. Perhaps they have some examples to show us. As the good folk at Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism bureau would remind us, tourism is a very significant economic multiplier for business in Bellingham and Whatcom County. Hence my article and warning here about not disturbing Canadians or ex-urbans if you want continued growth .  My blog may contain Marxist politics considered "extremist" by the Whatcom Republicans. But if you think that I am extremist for wanting to raise my family in a clean, unpolluted, non-industrial municipality with a high degree of educated populace, I would have to wonder exactly what kind of extremist you might be.