It’s been a good year for goofiness. Nationally, nothing can top the travelling clown show known as the Republican presidential primary debates, with weekly candidate meltdowns, mounting evidence that most contenders flunked high school history, and periodic revelations that Herman Cain has managed to retain his teenage hormones long past adolescence. Here in Whatcom County we’ve had our own share of silliness and bad behavior, so let’s roll out this year’s prizes.
The Peeing in your Waterhole Ribbon. For decades, self-entitled boaters, abetted by property rights proselytizers and pusillanimous politicians, have maintained that it’s perfectly safe to plunk their motorboats into our municipal reservoir. This year, we learned these jolly mariners infected the already degraded Lake Whatcom Reservoir with invasive Asian clams that can impair water quality and clog intake pipes. “Look on the bright side,” one weekend boater was alleged to have commented. “These little buggers might be really tasty when steamed with butter and garlic.”
The Eighth Circle Crown. Named after the circle of Hell in which Dante placed the hypocrites, this year’s crown goes to County Council member Tony Larson. Tony had campaigned on the empty slogan “Get Whatcom Working,” but when presented with his only opportunity to do just that, decided it wasn’t such a great idea after all. Tony was the sole council member to vote against a program that uses economic development funds to spur construction of affordable housing, a project that, well, gets Whatcom working. Voters, generally unimpressed with Tony’s on-the-job performance, have seen to it that Tony will be out of a job in January.
The War on Wildlife Wreath. The visionary chaps running the Port of Bellingham were successful this year in deliberately driving away the bayside Caspian tern colony that was already drawing tourists and their dollars to Bellingham’s waterfront. Chamber of Commerce president Ken Oplinger cheerfully supported this ornithological diaspora, labeling the terns “squatter birds” and demanding their forced migration. Oplinger’s logic inspired me to purchase a shotgun to exterminate the gangs of lawless chickadees squatting in my lilac bushes.
The Fox Guarding the Henhouse Garland. Worried Whatcomites who suspected the County Council conservative majority might be little more than a front group for developers had their suspicions confirmed early in 2011 when it came to light that the council was letting developers’ attorneys write a sensitive zoning ordinance. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong or unusual,” chirped council neophyte Kathy Kershner, possibly not recalling these same attorneys were in the process of suing the county over this very issue.
The In Need of a 12-Step Program Trophy. Like fidgety junkies waiting for an overdue shipment from Colombia, local shopping addicts lined up this year in gale-force winds and icy rain for the post-Thanksgiving mainline injection known as Black Friday. A new record was set this year, with corybantic consumers queuing up at Best Buy 48 hours before the midnight opening. Unlike their fellow addicts in other parts of the country, denizens of the City of Subdued Excitement did manage to avoid fisticuffs and pepper spray in the struggle to get first grab at an Xbox.
The Dim Bulb Decoration. In April, County Council President Sam Crawford sent a sensitive email to his cronies. The email, covering zoning and growth policy changes, was sent from Sam’s personal account. Intentionally ignoring a nicety of state law requiring that a copy be sent to staff, the crafty Crawford used the foolproof ploy of adding this request to his email: “If you forward this email, PLEASE remove the elements that indicate I sent it to you using my personal email, as well as this introductory commentary.” Sam’s many critics were not surprised by his shifty action, but were quite astonished to learn that he is not nearly as bright as they had thought.
The Doug Ericksen Award. State Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale) does so many asinine things during the course of a year that awhile back we established the annual Doug Ericksen award to be awarded annually to Doug Ericksen. This year’s greatest hit occurred last March at one of Doug’s fraudulent “town hall” meetings. Internet journalist Shane Roth was forbidden by Sir Douglas to plug his recording equipment into the sound system, as Roth does at every political event in the county. So steadfast was Doug in his opposition to the free flow of information that he threatened to have Roth arrested. Rumor has it that Doug, drunk with power, then patrolled the room, snatching cell phones from photo-takers and tossing them into a nearby punchbowl.
The Corporate Contemptuousness Cup. The Seattle-based corporation SSA Marine is eager to build a mammoth coal terminal at Cherry Point. So antsy was SSA to get started on this wildly unpopular project that the company opted for a convenient shortcut: the unauthorized grading of the Cherry Point property. When caught in the act of illegally plowing up protected wetlands, SSA—borrowing a bit of terminology from Donald Rumsfeld–conceded that “mistakes were made.”
The Malevolent Meddler Medallion. While we’re on the subject of corporate disdain for communities, let’s not neglect American Traffic Solutions (ATS), an arrogant band of interlopers from Arizona contracted to install red-light traffic cameras in Bellingham. Leading up to last November’s local election ATS did all it could to force its business plan on Bellingham residents, rolling out its legal team in an attempt to keep an initiative off the ballot which allowed citizens to express an opinion on these cameras. The legal machinations of ATS failed and voters, consequently, gave an overwhelming thumbs down to the traffic-camera scheme.
The Shoot Yourself in the Foot Citation. Speaking of red-light traffic cameras, in a town such as Bellingham—awash with civil libertarians, flaming lefties, seditious students and geriatric hippies—would any politician be foolhardy enough to become the champion of this inflammatory project, especially in an election year? Well, that’s exactly what Mayor Dan Pike did, chaining himself and his chances for reelection to this anvil of aggravation and kicking it off a cliff.
The Tasteless Art Laurel Leaf. In the world of really bad art, could any creation surpass the gaudy and dildoesque sculpture at the corner of Bay and Holly? Apparently, The Woods Coffee thought they were up to the challenge, planning a sculpture in front of their Bay Street cafe that would feature a giant disposable paper cup pouring coffee on the sidewalk. The concept alone lit up the internet with the angry cries of outraged art lovers, recyclers and downtown preservationists, sparking a protest movement that shut the project down.
That’s it for 2011. Let’s close with an appropriate observation from the eminent social philosopher Chris Rock, who commented, “I don’t get high, but sometimes I wish I did. That way, when I messed up in life I would have an excuse. But right now there’s no rehab for stupidity.”
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