March 3, 2016 by Dena Jensen
This is one of those stories that gradually unfolds to its stomach-turning conclusion. I will be walking you through it step by step, so bear with me.
[Note: Since this article was written yesterday, the Whatcom County Council consulted with legal counsel and subsequently removed the comment today, March 4, 2016, that is discussed below from the 2016 Comprehensive Plan comments that are posted on the Whatcom County Council website. The link to the original PDF document containing the comment that is the subject of this post is no longer live. There is still a listing for the document under January 18, 2016 of the comment posts which now reads: “Omitted due to inappropriate content2016.1.18 NW Jobs Alliance 95 email – Jan 18 – Jan 29” . To my knowledge Whatcom County staff plans to repost the rest of the comments next week that Northwest Jobs Alliance had forwarded to the Whatcom County Council.]
On dates ranging from January 18, 2016 to January 29, 2016, The Northwest Jobs Alliance forwarded form-generated comments on the Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan Update to the Whatcom County Council. A link for this batch of 95 comments, that was assembled in one PDF file by county staff, can be found at this page on the county website: http://whatcomcounty.us/DocumentCenter/Index/1209 .
Well-known for campaigning for the nation’s largest proposed coal terminal, the Gateway Pacific Terminal project, that would be built at the edge of the environmentally fragile Salish Sea in Northwest Washington, and on property that contains the culturally historic and sacred burial site of the Lummi Nation, the Northwest Jobs Alliance (NWJA) is headed up by President Brad Owens, Chair John Huntley, and Director and GPT paid spokesperson Craig Cole. On their website home page, NWJA professes to be “a Whatcom County-based, non-partisan, non-profit organization” that “promotes the growth of family-wage jobs in the context of sound environmental practice.” Other than their leaders, they do not currently list the members of their organization on their website.
Each of the 95 form-generated comments sent to the Whatcom County Council by the Northwest Jobs Alliance carries a prefatory disclaimer memo from NWJA stating, “These forwarded comments are being submitted to you for your consideration regarding the Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan. The views and opinions expressed in these comments are those of the author(s).”
The standard form comment on each of these submissions reads as follows:
Dear Whatcom County Council: Regarding the updating of the County’s comprehensive land use plan, I am in support of family wage employment opportunities at Cherry Point. Please make sure that our industrial area is preserved as industrial and that this wording is included in the Comp Plan. Thank you.: Yes
From looking at the comments one would gather that on the form, the individuals filling them out could complete fields to state their “Name,” “Address,” “City,” “State,” “Zip code,” “Phone,” “Email,” along with a field for a personalized “Comment.” In reviewing all 95 comments it seems that the name, city, state, and zip code fields were mandatory (since all submissions included some sort of entry in these categories), while address, phone, email, and comment information was optional. A number of submissions did not provide some or all of this latter set of information.
Many of the people who submitted these forms wrote a personalized message in the comment field.
As noted earlier in this article, the 95 comments were not forwarded to the county council in one batch all on one date. The county, however, did place all of the comments together in one PDF file when they posted them on the Whatcom County website. Also, important to note, NWJA did not receive the comments, which were sent from the individual commenters (by way of the forms they filled out) to NWJA, in one batch all on one date. On January 22, 2016, NWJA forwarded to the Whatcom County Council approximately 24 of the total 95 form-generated comments they had received. (This should be an accurate count, unless there is a comment or so that is out of the dated order that the comments seem to be filed in, within the county’s PDF file.) Of those 24 comments, it looks like 7 were received by NWJA on January 13, 2016.
One of the 7 form-generated comments sent to NWJA on January 13, 2016, that NWJA then sent on to the Whatcom County Council on January 22, 2016, stood out from the others. First, here is the personalized comment that was provided:
Comment: Just because the lummis dont want to work doesnt mean the rest of us dont either. Not ALL of us can live free off the govt. Why are we letting one of the most irresponsible, drug/alcohol addicted, crime ridden populations in whatcom co, dictate what law abiding hard working people can do for employment? They are doing this in order to extort money from companies not already mandated to give the Lummis free money from the fruits of their labor. The Lummis are not the sacred guardians of whatcom co. You want proof? Go look at what they’ve done tto their land. Go drive thru a Lummi neighborhood and see for yourself. Trash everywhere, rotten buildings, drugs, crime. These are the people the liberals are siding with to kill the best jobs in the county.
It seems unthinkable that an organization would forward a racist comment to the Whatcom County Council using the vehicle of their organization’s form-generated submissions, even when a disclaimer is attached. What is even more disgraceful in this instance is that the comment bears no name attribution for the author of the racist allegations. The individual filling out the form merely provided the letter “g” in the “Name” field, thus satisfying the apparently mandatory input for that field. Only the additional information field inputs of “bellingham”, “wa”, and “98229” are provided. Since no name was provided for the comment, it would not seem to have been a matter of NWJA’s forwarding the email in an effort to protect a specific individual’s free speech (if in fact, a private organization may have voluntarily wanted to protect hate speech), in this case.
So, here is a question for everyone. Why would the Northwest Jobs Alliance forward a racist comment, that they would have had an easy opportunity to evaluate before forwarding it to the Whatcom County Council, for the council members to review and consider, when there would be no way to attribute that comment to an identifiable resident?