Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Klaatu, Gort! Where Are You?

In the wonderful 1951 classic sci-fi film, The Day the Earth Stood Still, an alien visitor from an advanced civilization, Klaatu (played by Michael Rennie), tries in vain to make the inhabitants of the planet Earth pay attention to his message, which is that the earthlings must mend their bellicose ways or face destruction. He succeeds, momentarily, in getting their attention by causing all electrical devices to stop working for 30 minutes (with charitable exceptions). Alas, the Zonemaven has no such powers - powers which would cause the City Council to pause and to focus on the issue of single family zoning enforcement. So during yesterday’s afternoon committee session, the spotlight was diverted to enforcement of noise, litter, and parking codes to name a few. Attack the supposed symptoms and the disease goes away.

This folderol unfortunately, spilled into the evening session where, it seems, the only council member to “get it” was the author of the motion of 8 October *, Terry Bornemann, who struggled, like Klaatu, to remind everyone that his motion had to do with enforcement of the existing code on single family zoning. Now the council has directed the Mayor to look into decriminalizing the code infraction and/or revising the code itself. No matter that the code merits criminal, civil, or even corporal punishment (I can think of the pillory, stocks, tar and feathering among a few choices.) in the final analysis you must deal with the code language because the definitions really mean something. If you cannot define single family or multi-family or industrial or commercial or mixed use with respect to zoning, then you have no zoning, you have little or no control over density and you have lost the trust of the citizenry who see that you have put your imprimatur, at worst, or your nihil obstat, at best, on illegal rooming houses.

Back to the movie. In the end, Klaatu is shot dead by the U.S. Army but is revived by Gort, his robot fellow-traveller who is roused into action by Helen Benson (played by Patricia Neal) with the now iconic phrase, “Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!”

The council needs to think this one over carefully. There is no Gort this time.

*From the minutes of the 8 October 2007 City Council minutes: "Bornemann / Knutson moved to direct staff to prepare a pilot program regarding enforcement of complaints relating to more than three unrelated individuals living in a home. The motion carried 5-2."


Anonymous said...

I hate to admit this but I believe we are fighting for a lost cause. Pissing against the wind, pushing a rope up a hill. The city has done (by not doing) the dumbest thing any revenue generating entity can possibly do. They have thrown the population that pays the bills under the bus.

Now we will stil pay our property taxes, but sooner rather than later our assessments will decrease due to the drop in value due to being surrounded by boarding houses. The tax assessed when property is sold will decrease due to the decrease in value due to boarding houses. Hopefully when any of us sees the slightest infraction of parking, noise or litter laws we will be burning up the switchboard at the city for enforcement, which in turn cost more money on a declining revenue base. Of course, some of us know by experience that after continual phone calls to the city for relief, they will ignore us as identified boarding house warriors.

My wife and I have decided that we no longer will live in Bellingham as retirees. Our house will go on the market in the spring (very soon). If the city wants the wild wild west, with its associated lawlessness, we want no part of it. Oh but I did trim my tree back so the city wouldn't fine me for having a branch hanging over the sidewalk 7 1/2 feet above the sidewalk. I was sent a letter threatening us with a bill for trimming it back to 8 feet. I would have had a tree trimming company do it professionally but they would have to know when one of the boarding house cars wasn't on the sidewalk under the illegal tree branch. Glad we have our priorities right.

The only thing I would add to Dick's excellant post is "The Day The World Stood Still In The Wild Wild Lawless West".

Larry M.

Anonymous said...

Well Richard, You have been pretty well blasted in the comment section of the Herald the past day or so. I would like to commend you for your courage and your integrity for standing up and asking the city to do the right thing.
Obviously, the City Council needs to try to do this also. Hopefully in the process of trying to destroy the neighborhoods they might just come to their senses. Well, I'm a believer in doing the necessary action to get the city to enforce the code as written.I have also previously written the Mayor, Linda Stewart, the City Council and filed a code enforcement request (last spring).
I'm not willing to throw in the towel just yet. Do you have any ideas what might be done at this point to keep the code and also get the city to enforce it?
Also a comment for Larry- you have also had some great ideas and have been vocal in promoting doing the right thing. Please don't give up yet, we all need to keep this momentum going or the city "good old boys" will run right over all of us.

zonemaven said...

Dear Anonymous,

Well, I'm not feeling the heat so they can blast as they wish. I spent several decades in Washington, DC where I was yelled at by senators and representatives, political appointees and member of the public, so I have a pretty thick skin. The blasters will have to do quite a bit more to get me to give in.

Anonymous said...

February 26, 2008 5:20 PM
The blasters will have to do quite a bit more to get me to give in.

I'll try to take some of the heat for you on the Hearald comments Dick. I'm pretty thick skinned also. But not being in town and trying to fight this fight from a distance or during the short times at home has just got me beat down. Call it frustration with the whole city hall bunch and all the liberal loons in town but I'm just tired of it.

February 26, 2008 4:44 PM

Also a comment for Larry- you have also had some great ideas and have been vocal in promoting doing the right thing. Please don't give up yet, we all need to keep this momentum going or the city "good old boys" will run right over all of us.

Thanks for the encouragement but fighting this fight from afar is difficult. When we came home from another trip last Friday, we found the solar path lighting at the house vandalized and the planter area in front of the house filled with smashed beer cans and chip bags. Now where would you think that would come from? I know, it's a rhetorical question.