From Colleen McCrory:
The vote on the ferry lease is most likely tomorrow. We are down to the wire, and the pro and con arguments are coming in hot and heavy.
We are seeing provocative arguments on the illegality of the lease and/or suing to “perfect the right of way”.
One islander wrote the Council recently saying:
“I believe that Whatcom County enjoys a legal right of way fromBellingham to Lummi Island through Gooseberry Point. I believe a tidelands lease is legally neither required or appropriate. I believe it is your duty to assert these rights on the behalf of your constituency”.
Other contributors to the Forum talk eloquently about a “political solution” and petitioning Congress, cautioning that,
“these only work if undertaken with true determination and the conviction that not giving up is the only way to win”.
Barbara Brenner talks about the political, as well as the legal approach, when she says in a quote from a recent response to a request for her approval of the lease:
“It is the federal government alone that can legally decide how WhatcomCounty uses this public right-of-way. I would be grateful to see the federal government finally get involved. This never should have been done the way it was. Our federal elected and appointed officials have chosen to stay out of an issue that they are a big part of. I don’t blame the Lummi Nation for trying to get the best deal. That is what all parties usually try to do. Now it is either time for the federal government to get involved or legally Whatcom County can keep running the ferry as we have done. If the feds finally become involved, that is in the public interest”.
The issues I have with disapproving the lease and pursuing either legal or political approaches are these:
1. Who has the will, the dedication, the expertise and the money to litigate? Whatcom County government? I asked Barbara Brenner that question and she ducked it, suggesting that we have lawyers on the island who might do it. I’ve talked to others in county government and absolutely no one has indicated any willingness to go to court on our behalf. For starters, they really, really cannot afford it—politically, or financially. And as far as I can see, neither can we.
2. When I contemplate the political approach; trying to enlist the support of our state and federal representatives to take up our cause at the federal level, I find myself in another very hard place. I cannot find a reason why county, state and federal politicians would alienate tens of thousands of Native American constituents, with lots of political and financial (casino) clout, to fight for us. We are a passing blip on the radar for them, and not a very important one. Ms. Brenner comments that our “appointed officials have chosen to stay out of…” -this issue, and yes, they “should” be involved. But, it’s not hard to figure out why they have made themselves scarce.
3. And finally, who among us hasn’t been depleted by the last 2 years of stress and upheaval? Who among us has the energy, time and money to pursue either the legal or the political challenges? Not for a short period of time, but most likely for years. I’m waiting for someone to come up with a (practical) plan, as well as make a commitment to lead the charge in making the theoretical a reality, should the lease be disapproved. Petitioning is not going to do it. A legal challenge is risky.
I have issues with the lease too, but it is essential to keeping our community together. That’s the most important thing to me, and we need the lease approved to do it.
So, PLEASE call and email the County Councilmembers TODAY. Urge them to approve the lease!
Here is their contact information: http://www.co.whatcom.wa.us/council/whatcomcountycouncilcontactinfo.jsp