The Editor and Senator Murray:
I hesitate contacting you as I know that there are many significant federal and state issues requiring your attention. However, you have proven to be such a strong advocate for Point Roberts in the past that once again, we are hoping you can help us with a critical, time-sensitive issue.
Point Roberts formerly enjoyed Immigration H2-B status that allowed our businesses to hire foreign workers. A similar Immigration rule – H2-A – currently in effect, allows for foreign agricultural workers to be employed in the USA. However, H2-B status was arbitrarily cancelled without reason or explanation.
For many years under Immigration H2-B status, our businesses were able to employ noncitizens, i.e., Canadians, to work here in our service industries on a part-time basis during our busy seasons. This was critical to the health of our economy because of our geographical separation from mainland Washington State and our immediate proximity to Canada.
H2-B status needs to be reinstated immediately to facilitate our economic survival. We currently have businesses that have been struggling to survive since the 19-month (March 2020 to October 2021) border shutdown. They are currently operating under severely restricted hours because they lack staff. With a busy summer season approaching, our need for employees will continue to increase. We estimate that our businesses currently need 30 part-time employees and that will double to 60 within a month. Due to the loss of local workers who moved back to mainland Washington during the pandemic, we currently have no workforce for these positions, and no-one will travel the long distance from Blaine or Bellingham across two international borders for this work.
Because of our unique exclave status, H2-B worked well here for many years and resulted in no loss of jobs to U.S. residents. We respectfully request that for the sake of Point Roberts economic survival, the federal government reinstate Point Roberts’ H2-B Federal Immigration status immediately.
Brian Calder, president
Point Roberts Chamber of Commerce
My husband and I moved here over two years ago. We consider it a privilege to enjoy lush rainforests and wildlife at our door, bald eagles nesting in front of our house, and the sun rising and setting over the ocean in the same day, all no more than eight minutes away with no traffic.
There seems to be two categories of people who seek to settle in PR. Those who move here for the peace, space, natural beauty, affordable house prices, privacy and safety. Then those who come in with dollar signs in their eyes, drooling over cheap real estate and a get rich scheme, ready to exploit the loose Whatcom County ordinances that are supposed to protect the trees and delicate habitats (spoiler alert: they don’t!). They plan to capitalize on the views, space and undeveloped land like they were the first with the idea to buy low, sell high. Graveyards of half-finished, half-empty developments, boarded-up businesses, and longtime PR residents tell a different story: that these types don’t last long here. But the scars they leave in their wake are permanent.
We recently witnessed the horrific demolition of approximately 40,000 square feet of healthy old forest. We were seeing/hearing/feeling 90-foot trees crash behind our house, eliminating any privacy between us and the neighboring property. This carnage occurred on a lot that had already been thinned years prior to make space for a house that already had a beautiful ocean view.
Before you start rolling your eyes at me, thinking, “it’s their property, their right,” I get that. Every lot here was once part of the forest, and I am not making a call to stop development. I’m talking about greed and selfishness, at the expense of nature, privacy, and a healthy relationship with your neighbors.
I could go on and on about the loss of habitats, how it’s nesting season for native songbirds (their little eggs, now broken and strewn across the ground), but I know I can’t impose my values on those who don’t share them. I also won’t blame those hired to clear lots. They are being paid to do a job.
Though I will ask an existential question of Point Roberts. Do we want to live in a highly subdivided, treeless suburb with oversized gaudy houses and unlimited ocean views (basically Tsawwassen without the amenities)? Or do we want to at least attempt to preserve the breathtaking beauty of this one-of-a-kind paradise, and consider construction that tastefully fits in with our natural rainforest landscape? Are we here for profit or pleasure?
To the guy in the McMansion on the hill: I hope all the cutting, burning, and displacement of wildlife was worth it. Enjoy the view!
Regarding the probable staff layoffs in Blaine school district’s 2023-24 school year: it would be a great loss to our community if drama teacher Olivia Theilemann was to be removed from the staff roster. She has brought creativity, enthusiasm, expertise, appropriately challenging theater education to our students, and is well deserving of employment at Blaine. If my voice counts for anything, I hope Dr. Granger and the school board carefully decides to keep our theater program healthy and active with Ms. Theilemann at the helm. After the heart-wrenching losses caused by Covid-19, especially in the arts (music, theater), let us not go backward; our children are thriving with Olivia.
I have spoken with many students currently involved in the production of “Into the Woods” – April 13-16 and 20-23 at the Performing Arts Center at Blaine High School (BHS); tickets available at the door – and they are extremely enthusiastic about “Miss T” (as they affectionately call her). They cite the camaraderie of the company, express admiration and appreciation for Ms. Theilemann, and are hopeful BHS will continue with a healthy theater curriculum under Miss T’s leadership.
“Order of employment” should not be the only reason the school board makes financial decisions. Keeping the arts alive in the Blaine school district is very important to the inspiration and well-being of our students.
The Bellingham City Council just passed an ordinance that added “the threat of jail” as a “tool” for making the city safer. They have now criminalized being houseless. Incarcerating people for addictions and homelessness is not a solution and it will make no one safer. I also learned that the city is seeking to add another four officers to the police force.
I cannot say how disappointed I am that the people elected by citizens of our city and county cannot find resources to find another way. Imagine being awakened from your sleep by a person hefting 50 pounds of lethal force and threatened with jail if you don’t get up off your bed. Incarceration is an easy way to solve a “problem” without solving it and actually making the “problem” worse.
If there are resources to take these actions, there are resources for other types of interventions.
• Hire four new mental health or social workers instead of hiring four new police officers.
• Consult with the folks running homeless shelters for another way forward.
• Build more transitional tiny home communities such as Gardenview.
• Provide a space for an encampment and staff it with trash bins, toilets and helpers.
• Invite those upset business owners to join a conversation about alternatives.
We can do better for those who are in great need because of homelessness or addiction, for our local businesses, and for the folks who shop in and walk the streets of Bellingham. We certainly do not need to increase the numbers of incarcerated folks because local business wants them out of sight.
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