At the Lummi Island Grange this past Wednesday, Whatcom County Executive Pete Kremen opened the meeting with an entertaining impression of Bill Clinton saying that he “felt our pain.” Clearly, if he hasn’t felt it he has at least heard about it, or read about it. He’s a mellifluous reader and read us several letters as part of his thirty minute recap of what has taken place since about 1988 or maybe as early as 1982. The best letter was one he had written just before coming to the island last evening where he asked the BIA to sign the dang lease. Mike S., in the following Q and A complimented the County Executive on the letter but pertinently wondered why he hadn’t written it a year and a half ago when this issue first came up. There were other letters including one the Lummis sent in 1978 theatening to stop the ferry in 60 days. To paraphrase: “We get these all the time,” said the guys from the County. Not to worry.
There was a discussion of the “traffic safety issue” that the Tribe keeps raising but we learned that the documented fact that Lummi Islanders don’t cause any of the accidents is irrelevant because the Lummis believe it is true, leading any objective observer to conclude that the Tribe’s approach to negotiating is faith-based. The faith of our brethren across the Passage is matched by the faith of Islanders who believe that the Feds will ride to the rescue. This is what Mr. Kremen hopes will happen too, as he has met with our Congressman and talked to our Senators (and written to the BIA).
He offered the news flash that it’s kind of frustrating dealing with the Lummi Nation. As evidence he relayed an anecdote about a meeting with the new Business Council Chairman who spent an hour and a half in Mr. Kremen’s office asking for help on social issues without mentioning that that very day he had signed a letter threatening closure of the ferry. I felt Mr. Kremen’s pain on that one.
Since pretty nearly each of the eighty or so Islanders who attended the meeting is an expert on the history of the ferry, the status of ferry negotiations, the traffic safety study, the currents and the tides plus every bump on Haxton Way, there really wasn’t much new to take away from last night.
Mr. Kremen’s pitch to the BIA was good, excellently written (and well-read). The County Attorney seemed to say that the Lummis might try and filter traffic after the April deadline. That is, they might try to limit who can use the ferry, i.e. students, sick or dying people, possibly commuters. But then it sounded like only the BIA has the authority to evict and that process would wind along a pre-described path. Kremen alluded to the possibility of the Lummis’s marina (and maybe the ferry) being located at Sandy Point. Curiously, no one followed up on this or tried to find out identity of an unnamed, well-connected to the Tribe businessman who Mr. Kremen had offered to “help.”
When asked if there was a “contingency plan” they said there was but didn’t give us the details. When asked about Fairhaven he said that a passenger ferry could make it but the Chief would probably sink—or maybe he said it could not go very often. But we knew all of that.
All in all I would say that Mr. Kremen did a yeoman’s job of recapping where we are today and how we got there and of eating up the clock in doing so. We learned that Dan Gibson is losing sleep over the ferry and that Frank Abart would just as soon sit in the back of the room. Barbara Brenner wisely kept silent because we like her already and there’s no reason in the world to mess that up.