Appearance of fairness counts

  When someone accused of a crime enters the courtroom, they should be confident that the judge who will hear their case is fair and impartial. Not only must the judge act fairly and impartially, but he or she should also have an appearance of fairness and impartiality.

  When someone enters the courtroom and sees someone on the bench who has worked as a deputy prosecutor for the past ten years, that person will feel, and perhaps rightfully so, that he or she will not get a fair hearing. That the result is preordained. That the fix is in. That the judge will act as nothing more than a rubber stamp for the prosecutor.

  Is there probable cause for this search warrant? Sure. Should the defendant be required to post cash bail to be released before trial? Yes. Did the defendant give consent to search their vehicle before drugs were found inside? Of course. Is it appropriate to impose an exceptional sentence for this defendant? Yes, I agree with the prosecutor’s sentencing recommendation.

  I will not support the deputy prosecutor running for judge. I will not support the deputy prosecutor running for judge who is endorsed by the prosecutor and the sheriff. I do not think the prosecutor should pick the judge who will hear the many cases brought by his office.

  Instead, I will vote for the most experienced candidate in the race. The candidate who has been rated as well qualified to be a Superior Court judge by statewide minority bar associations. The candidate who has demonstrated his independence and commitment to justice. I will be voting for James Erb.

­— Brian Estes, Bellingham

We seniors need the Lynden YMCA

  My husband are I are senior citizens who, along with many others,  have attended exercise classes at the Lynden YMCA for many years. Recently we received a letter from Bill Ziels, CEO of Whatcom Family YMCA, saying it is likely the Lynden YMCA will not be reopening after the pandemic, due to financial losses.

  People attend yoga, weight lifting, water aerobics, lap swimming,  tennis and more. We come from all areas that surround Lynden. I know of a number of people who travel an hour or more to get to the Y,  two or three times a week. They are often fighting serious health conditions and/or the pressures of caring for a family member or experiencing grief. Most of them make the effort to show up every week because they recognize that the exercise not only keeps their bodies stronger, but their stress is reduced by the exercise as well as the friendships that have formed over the years.  

  In addition to the wonderful classes for adults, the facility has been used for swim meets and recreation for children and teens in the area.

  Clearly, the services we receive at the Y are very important to all of us. It would not be possible for many of us to drive in to the downtown Bellingham YMCA. Some of us might be able to transfer to the next closest Y, for all except swimming in Ferndale, except that it is also being closed.

  I don’t know where all of the revenues come from. I know some are from membership dues, but I’m sure there are taxes and grants as well as personal and corporate contributions that add to the support. It also seems like there are funds to go toward the downtown Bellingham YMCA while the Lynden facility is struggling. It has come to our attention that there had been some effort to buy or lease the pool at Arne Hanna park. If there are funds available to take on that kind of project, why aren’t some of those funds available to keep our Lynden YMCA open? It is just too important to our entire north Whatcom County community. Thank you.

— Mary and Bill Carpenter, Custer

Primary matters

  Don’t wait till the general election in November. Your vote in the upcoming Aug. 4 primary is crucial. Why?

  We have a top-two primary system in which the two candidates who get the most votes, regardless of party, move on to the general ballot. So the primary outcome will determine your choices in November.

  Also, doing well in the primary means your candidates will be able to attract funding support for the general campaign, which can be critical to their success.

  Your vote is especially powerful in local races. Please vote the entire ballot.

  Make sure you will be ready for the Aug. 4 primary. Register now at myvote.wa.gov.

— Ben Rogers, Lummi Island

Impressive youth speaking up

  I went to the March for Black Lives in Lynden on Sunday. Lynden, your young people are impressive. They are future executives, farmers, preachers, parents, presidents and more. On Sunday, they were change makers.

  I heard students speak about their faith and the love they received from their family. They also shared personal stories of experiencing racism and prejudice. Most people I spoke to lived in Lynden. There were a few people from Bellingham such as myself (most had ties to Lynden) as well as Everson, Sumas and Ferndale, but this event was mostly Lynden kids and it showed in the grace, kindness and respect that was present throughout the day.

  Our society is having some difficult, but long overdue discussions about race. There is a lot of work ahead of us. I hope we’ll all be able to open our hearts and really hear what our brothers and sisters are saying, or in many cases, our smart, capable, kind-hearted kids.

— Sharon Shewmake, Bellingham

Badger accident

  We are all, in some way, saddened at the tragic accident on the Badger last Friday afternoon.

  I did an online search for more information and found a “news report” of the accident from “The Legal Advocate,” a New York based website. (https://www.thelegaladvocate.com/)

  It began with a heart-wrenching headline, including the victim’s name. After three inches of news information, it launched into six inches of hard-sell about why we need skilled attorneys to handle semi-truck accident cases and seek a wrongful-death settlement.

  It ended saying “the Staff of the Legal Advocate would like to extend our thoughts and prayers to the ... family.” I wonder if they gather every day to pray for the families ... and their business.

  Back on their home page was a link to another sad headline about an accident last Friday in eastern Washington. Click. The victim’s name, then three inches of the “news” accident, followed by boilerplate regarding DUI accidents and the need for an attorney to pursue civil action against the motorist.

  Disgraceful journalism, turning a tragedy into an ad for legal services. Indeed, there is no shame in these “ambulance chasers.”

— Phil DuFrene, Sumas

Threats, hatred was appalling

  I’m still processing a lot of what happened Sunday, but wanted to share these things:

  1. The turnout for the BLM March was outstanding. I would have been surprised if 100 people showed up and it was significantly more than that.

  2. The amount of threats and hatred and downright false information circulating about the BLM March last week was appalling. Threats of showing up with guns, using vehicles to block city entrances and even threats of hanging people from the trees on Front Street were gross and scary.

  3. The line from “Beauty and the Beast” where the mob sings “we don’t like what we don’t understand, in fact it scares us” ran through my head all week. Felt racism seems to be such a foreign concept to people from Lynden that the idea of it has made them afraid of what they don’t understand. People who are afraid do rash and sometimes violent things. I wish the people participating in the counter-protest would have listened to the painful experiences of racism shared by this town’s youth (the speakers were still in high school) instead of chanting or preaching loudly over their voices.

  4. I personally have not participated in any other protests because I am immuno-compromised. But the youth who organized this event, in my hometown, were enough of an exception to my extra precautions. From the get-go, masks were required and I trusted that I could maintain my distance and stay safe and healthy. It’s still a risk, but I care deeply enough about this town and the youth involved that it was worth it.

  5. Racism for me is an imbalance of power in social constructs built upon race.

— Ashlie Blaske, from Lynden, now in Seattle

Police officers appreciate support    

  This town has shown massive support for the Lynden Police officers and law enforcement in general. In these trying times, it has not gone unnoticed. Quite the contrary, it has been the talk of our office and other agencies over the past couple of months especially. This is an amazing town and I am so immensely proud of us. So I would like to single out a couple of groups and give my appreciation for what we have been experiencing.  

  To the city government, I say thanks.  Thank-you for the support and words of encouragement. The mayor, city manager and council have been incredibly supportive. We are grateful. Believe me, other officers wish they felt supported like we do.  It would be difficult to do this job without your commitment.  

  To the protesters who (on Sunday) gathered in large numbers here in the city for their causes, I also say thanks. Thanks for gathering peacefully. The Lynden Police Department gathered for you as well. We stood with you to assure your constitutional right to peacefully have your say. I think both you and we accomplished that goal together. I met many of you and will not judge by the actions or words of a few of you. Most of the people who were gathered to protest did so admirably and showed respect.  

  To those who gathered in direct support of this country and its law enforcement, I thank you as well. I will also not judge you by the actions of a very few. Words are hard to express to say how much you mean to us. We officers talked after the protest and it was unanimous that all of us with 10, 20 and even 30 years of experience have never felt so loved. We humbly thank you for supporting us. It is exceedingly difficult to put this into words the level of gratefulness we all feel for you. In these trying times for law enforcement, it would be lonely without you.  

  Lastly, I respectfully ask you to remember that very few officers break their oaths and disgrace the badge. Stop saying differently. Many of you do not want to be judged by the actions of the few, so stop doing it yourselves. You won’t have it both ways. The “thin blue line” is here to stay. It is here for all and maybe we can make it more so. I think we in law enforcement should be and are all willing to adjust our tactics and policies to better serve. We will not be governed by the mob. There is a process if you want to facilitate change. Sunday, we saw folks on both sides take part in that process and it should be appreciated by us all.  

— Lee Beld, Lynden

Tired of excuses

  I’m at a loss for words about the March for Black Lives. It was so incredibly encouraging to see such a turnout!

  I’m really tired of the angle that BLM is a Marxist organization. I’ve had a hurting heart for the racial injustice in the U.S. for many years, and starting with Trayvon Martin all I see or hear from Christians is 1) complete indifference, or 2) “well, we don’t really know what happened” ... “well, what about black on black” ... “well, they made slaves of each other in Africa, so it’s certainly better here than” ... “well, it’s about their lifestyles and missing fathers.”

  Right-leaning Christians had their chance to get involved and hear the heart cries of their brothers and sisters in Christ and chose indifference, at best. I’m not mad, just tired of it. Maybe a little mad once in a while, but that keeps me inspired.

  This is a quote from Cindy Davis Peterson, taken by permission from the Better Together: Lynden for BLM Facebook page: “The purpose and attitude of love and kindness exemplified in this group and its leaders gives me great hope for this community and our country. All we have control over is our own actions. And to witness your choice to be respectful and kind while getting your message across clearly is inspiring. You will be the instruments of change. Thank you!”

  And to Sen. Doug Ericksen when he comments “BLMers really like the masks.” I suggest he read “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson and find himself caring about bigger things than his politics. He says he’s concerned about the economy, to which I say I understand that concern as well, but consider that God may be trying to get our attention. We tend to assume God sees it all the same way we do, forgetting He always sees the big picture. Racial injustice in our nation has been a deadly problem for a very long time, and indifference is what I’ve mostly gotten from conservative Christians when I would bring it up. They were more upset with Obama for saying if he had a son he would look like Trayvon (or something like that) than they were about the boy’s death.

— Renae VanBoven Erickson, Lynden

Fireworks have gone to excess

  Let’s hope our beloved Lynden City Council will soon realize that they need to put a stop to allowing fireworks in Lynden. Our neighborhood near Lynden High School has continually worsened during the past five years. It started on July 1 with firecrackers and escalated to M-80s on July 3, 4 and 5. As usual, the perpetrators disregarded the uninforced laws — July 3 and 5 until 10 or 11 (can’t remember, as my ears are still ringing) and midnight on the 4th. They went past 1 a.m. again this year.

  And gathered very close together, it was party time with alcohol and no social distancing. And again most of us have burned cardboard, sticks and other fireworks debris in our yard and on our roof! Most of the celebrants left their illegal mess in the street. Last winter, my gutters plugged up with their airborne garbage — because of their thoughtlessness.

  Many of our neighbors display the American flag, but none of the noise makers had a single flag up. Very sad when people don’t even know why they are exploding illegal ordinance.

— Ray Manthano, Lynden

Listen to the Lynden youth

  The March for Black Lives procession on July 5, 2020, which was organized by local high school students, proceeded peacefully and without incident through Lynden. The marchers wore masks in compliance with the current state mandate for gatherings. The marchers made no threats, were respectful of private property and obeyed municipal laws.

  The marchers, however, were confronted by hecklers, armed counter-protesters, racial slurs and continuous attempts at intimidation with large trucks. The counter-protesters did not wear masks, even as the Whatcom County COVID-19 infection rate continues to climb.

  Does this truly represent “Lynden values”? Were self-appointed armed guards really necessary to protect Lynden monuments from high school students protesting against racial injustice in our community?

  Those were our children and our neighbors that were marching on Sunday. Maybe we should all at least listen to what they have to say.

— Fred Brown, Lynden

Sunday’s counterprotestors

  I am a bus driver for the Whatcom Transportation Authority. I was driving the 26 Lynden route on Sunday, July 5. I witnessed the BLM kids protesting. I witnessed the 20-plus trucks stalking them and menacing them and yelling at them and deliberately blasting them with diesel exhaust. I witnessed the crowd of angry white counter-protestors carrying Trump paraphernalia, carrying long rifles and shouting “black lives don’t matter” at the BLM kids. And I do mean kids, mostly teenagers.

  This really happened. Not in the South. Not in the 1950s. But in Lynden. On Sunday. Your city should be ashamed.

— Matthew Harmon-Craig, Bellingham

Responding to Sunday’s march

  I was asked to share this with you. I feel odd sending in something I wrote, but am doing it at the request of a friend.

  This is my heart for what last Sunday became. I have lived in Lynden for 15 years. My kids have spent their whole lives in our school. I own two local businesses. And I am an active member and men’s leader at a local church. I say all this to turn down any idea that I am a BLM outsider.

  My heart for the church is to live out the commandments of Jesus. It is for his people to love when others hate, to listen when others run. Jesus showed another way when he left heaven to become a servant to man, when he died for each of us, and when he rose to proclaim victory. OK, my preaching is over now.

  I have a parable to share.

  There was a small, quiet, unassuming town that was known to be filled with people that feared and loved God. It knew both peace and prosperity. But in this town, a few of the children grew up feeling different, mocked, fearful. It’s not that they had done anything wrong, but simply because of the way God had created them. God made them “different.”

  One day they decided that they wanted to share the stories of their pain. Pain simply from growing up. Hidden pain. Secret pain. They also wanted to learn how they could better serve those around them.

  The children decided to draw attention to their plight in a quite simple way — just walking down a sidewalk together into town to share their stories. Just walk. Just share.

  To their surprise, almost immediately they were met by a group of people who hated them. Hated them for no real reason other than the fact that they were different. “Shut them up,” these people cried. “Go back home, we don’t want to hear your stories.” They yelled, cursed, showed them their weapons, and began following them. It was frightening.

  Passing by houses of God, the children saw the leaders of the churches, each with arms angrily folded and faces of stone. “Keep walking,” their faces said. “You have no place here.”

  Finally, the children were joined by others from their town and those from outside. Walking together, they encouraged the children. They listened to them. They wanted to feel their pain. They valued their stories.

  So, you tell me, which of these loved their neighbor?

— Corey Jamison, Lynden

The youth speakers

  The Young Activists of Whatcom County youth who spoke at Lynden City Hall Sunday were Amsa Burke, Kate Lohrer, Isaiah Baseden, Kobe Baseden, and Cora Lange, in that order. This is a condensation of some of their remarks:

  “I am here today because I want to express my voice and share my story. One thing that I think is important to understand is that racism happens everywhere,  even in a small Christian town. Although I’ve had a lot of support and love from the community, I have also experienced it myself, but I have shrugged it off or put it to the side because I was afraid of conflict. As I’ve had time over the years to mature and rethink over these instances, I’ve become more aware of the fact that I shouldn’t be so complacent. Ever since I came to Lynden, being black has been really hard. I’ve felt isolated and lonely and unheard.”

  “I am fighting for the next generation of people of color to be proud, to be aware, and to be accepting of their culture. To see that brown is beautiful, that the pigment of their skin does not make them any less than their white friends.”

— Amsa Burke

  “Lynden is full of good people. However, there are things that need to be changed. Through my 12 years of living here I have experienced ignorant comments that were very hurtful. ‘You are the whitest black person that I know’, ‘I’m blacker than you, and I’m white’ are just a few. If you have ever said something like this or heard someone say it, did you stop to think about how that would make that person feel? What I heard was that who I am as a person was nothing more than just a color.”

— Kate Lohrer

  “I am going to share some things I’ve experienced as a person of color in Lynden. Some things include being called racial slurs, being spit on, people saying ‘you’re not actually black’, being used as the token black friend, endless comments about stereotypical things you can imagine like picking cotton, being lynched, being three-fifths of a person, older people getting anxious when I get near them.” — Isaiah Baseden

  “We say ‘black lives matter’ because not so long ago in our history, black lives didn’t matter. Not so long ago in our history, white men would put an exact dollar amount on the value of black men, women and children. They were sold and auctioned off like animals. Let me ask you something, do you think black men, women, and children valued their lives when they were stripped of all their rights and sold as property?”

— Kobe Baseden

  “I’ve noticed in this town, people like to admit that they’re Christians, but then they hate God’s creation. Sometimes I question what people think when it comes to Christianity. I know a lot of people of color or LGBTQ community who feel threatened by Christians, but that doesn’t make sense. Matthew 22:37-40 says ‘You must love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.’ A second, equally important, is ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all demands of the prophets are based off these two commandments. Notice how it doesn’t say ‘Love your neighbor who doesn’t look like you, think like you, love like you, or worship like you.’”

  “Yeah, it’s true that all lives matter, but our brothers and sisters of color are the ones who need the help right now. Luke 15:4-5 says ‘If a man has 100 sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the 99 others in the wilderness to go search for the one that is lost until he finds it?’ This is an analogy to show how Jesus would support the Black Lives Matter movement.”

— Cora Lange