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Friday, June 29th

Belated Thank You!


I would like to publicly thank the kind folks who have volunteered their time over the past three years to staff the booth, judge the entries, assemble the covers, donate prizes and materials and otherwise support Written Word at the San Juan County Fair.

To my great delight, Carrie Lacher has agreed to be this year's Written Word superintendent. She has created an amazing site that includes this year's rules and a list of judges. Please check it out at www.thewrittenwordsjcf.blogspot.com . Be sure to get your entries in (or postmarked) before the July 16, 2007 deadline.

For those of you who are afraid I'll be bored during fair week, don't worry. I've already been hit up to sell brownies for the PTA, volunteer at some booths and I'm looking forward to having the time to build zucchini racers with my sons.

Thank you, island writers, for sharing your work over the past three years and for telling stories that make our little fair a little more special.

Happily Retired,

Amy Wynn
Friday Harbor

[link]


Sunday, June 24th

Dispatches From Bangladesh -Number Seven



This is the seventh submission of a continuing narrative by Hadley Rose of her experiences living and working in Bangladesh under a fellowship from Willamette University Law School, with the Grameen Bank and its founder, Muhammad Yunus, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for the banks 30-year groundbreaking project in micro-credit. Rose will be working with the bank for eight weeks.

------------------------------------

The Seventh Narrative From Bangladesh

By Hadley Rose

rose_blind_man (60k image)The focus of Grameen Bank's work is the rural poor. However, since I have spent most of my time in the city, it is the images of the urban poor that I will remember when I think of Bangladesh. Villagers have such simple ways of life that it is hard to notice the difference between a beggar like Jobeda and a more "wealthy" villager, like a Grameen Bank staffperson. In Dhaka, the comparison between the poor and the un-poor is so exaggerated, so stark, that the urban poor seem truly destitute. I daily see them raking through the open dumps to find their daily meal and clothing. I have also started to recognize some of the beggars who live in my neighborhood, which is a new phenomenon for me--in the US, the poor have usually remained nameless and faceless for me. One thing I have learned about the poor from living in Dhaka for two months is that they are all unique individuals with distinct personalities, diverse attitudes, and varied needs. And in that way, they are really no different from us.

A contingent of small, homeless boys with distended bellies lives on the sidewalk in front of my hotel, and nearly every time I come outside, they flock around me and grab onto my hands asking "Bakshish? Bakshish, madam?" (roughly translated "tips?" or "some money?"). I've had to simply develop a tough skin just to get through each day here, so I try to shake my head kindly and walk away. One day as my six foot tall roommate and I were crossing the street, two of the little boys grabbed onto her left hand, each clinging to a couple of her fingers. She looked so tall, so strong, so regal next to them. They were so small and inconsequential that they could share her left hand. That day they followed us all the way to our rickshaw and rode on the back of it until the driver got fed up and hissed at them in Bengali to get them to leave us alone.


rose_beggar_kids-2 (99k image)When I got back to my room that day, I cried over those little boys. They just wanted to come with us, they wanted us to take them out of their insignificant, impossibly hungry lives. I cannot know when or why their parents left them, or how they found their way to this busy neighborhood where no one gives them a second glance, except the security officers for the grocery store on the first floor of my hotel who whack the boys with long, thin sticks when they are causing too much of a bother. I brought them some of my leftover Chinese food the other day, in what I hoped would be a more fruitful gesture than simply giving them a few taka. As I approached the group of boys with the box in my hand, the oldest one came over and grabbed at the box. I held on to the box for a moment, trying to explain that he needed to share with the other boys. Instead of remaining a humble, discreet gesture, my giving food to the hungry boys became a tug-of-war. Our antics attracted much attention, and I quickly let go of the box when I realized what was happening.

I did not expect the Nobel Peace Prize for my small gift, but at least expected an air of thanks from the obviously starving boys. Instead, I received a heaviness in my heart over the realization that they are simply so hungry that they cannot take the one moment to appreciate or say thanks. They must immediately fight for that cold chow mien because an extra few bites means less pain when they struggle to find sleep that night. A few days later, I saw a man give a shriveled beggar woman a coin (the largest coin in Bangladesh is 5 taka, or 14 cents) and take change for his gift from among the few other coins in her wrinkled hand. I suppose I can understand the boys' skepticism and survival instincts.

Some of the beggars are sadly familiar to me now. When I walk across the street to go to the Bank, I pass a squatting old man, whose wrinkled hand reaches up toward me, but he doesn't even bother to crane his head up to look us in the eyes. Perhaps he is too ashamed. Perhaps his neck causes him too much pain from years of sitting so low on the ground and looking up so high. A little girl sleeps on the dirty, hard metal of the overpass a few feet away from where the man squats. It is regrettably clear that she has slept there for most of her life, since the sweltering heat and the constant din of blaring horns and thundering bus engines doesn't wake her.

While some of the beggars are heartbreaking in their hopelessness, some of them can inspire me rose_beggar_kids-3 (56k image)despite their destitution. Dhaka University is in old Dhaka, a particularly busy and populated area of the city. One day I drove through the campus and visited a monument to the language movement. The language movement was a protest initiated by Dhaka University students in 1952 when then-West Pakistan refused to recognize East Pakistan's Bengali as an official language of the country. The monument is modest, and functions as a meeting place and calm respite in the middle of such a crowded, unpredictable city. The moment I got out of the car, I was surrounded by young beggar children, most of whom were selling small candies or other strange, useless trinkets. The scene was so over-the-top to me, and I was already attracting so much attention, that I decided to initiate a game of chase with the kids. We ended up having a lot of fun, and it is a more triumphant memory than my embarrassing episode with the hungry boys and the Chinese food leftovers.

One of my favorite people in Bangladesh lives in Gulshan, the nicest neighborhood of Dhaka. He is a small, deformed man who begs on the sidewalk of an outdoor shopping center I go to frequently. He has an average-sized torso and a fully formed head, but has a large hump on his back and a permanently twisted neck. His legs appear to be vestigial, and he moves around by using his malformed arms like crutches. He only comes up to my knees. Despite the dismal life this man is reduced to, his radiant smile is one of the indelible images I have in my mind from Dhaka. He always looks me in the eye, says "Good afternoon, madam!", and gathers his balance so that he can spare one arm to wave. He doesn't demand or annoy, like many of the other beggars, but simply shares his kindness and love, a humbling reminder of the goodness of life from a man so destitute as he.


Past Dispatches follow below:
[more..]


Friday, June 22nd

Letter On Stormwater




Who Pays The Bills?


On June 18 SJC requested the Growth Management Hearings Board (GMHB) to grant a 180 day extension for achieving compliance with the Growth Management Act (GMA) on the Eastsound Urban Growth Area (UGA). At the end of this extension it will be over 7 1/2 years since the BOCC first hatched its crackpot scheme of creating free-fire zones for developers and land speculators in Eastsound and Lopez Village at the expense of all existing residents.

The GMHB has never approved this scheme because the County has never attempted to comply with the intent of the law which is to protect public health and safety and the public purse from irrational urbanization. Among other things SJC is trying to foist its responsibilities for sewer and water onto existing private homeowner-owned systems and trying to get all SJC property owners to pay for Eastsound's storm water system. Even Washington state has to make a few concessions to it's own propaganda.

SJC tries to claim that they are trying to "reduce sprawl" or "provide opportunities for affordable housing," but in the end it's the same old tradition of local governments using existing residents as a cash cow to subsidize the destruction of the things we hold in common. The Stormwater referendum is the first step in ending this scam.

Steve Ludwig
Lopez Island

[link]


Sunday, June 10th

Nantucket Example One Not To Follow


The report that Nantucket planner John Pagini will be visiting Friday Harbor rhetorically asks: "Is San Juan County following the same path as Nantucket, Massachusetts; where hundreds of workers, teachers, and service people commute daily, and the median home price is $1.8 million?"

The answer is "of course we are." We're about two decades behind, but we're taking exactly the same steps. Just like Nantucket, we installed a comprehensive plan. Just like Nantucket, we've empowered bureaucrats and planners. Just like Nantucket, we're presently attempting to disrupt market forces that otherwise naturally set prices and services levels. We have not yet driven out service providers to the extent that any specific San Juan County job is not or cannot be locally accomplished - but we're heading that way.

If we are serious about not wanting to end up like Nantucket, we should abandon techniques that are long-proven to be ineffective – and as often as not actually contribute to the overall problems. In our case (and Nantucket's) it is unconscionable that we cling to the belief that empowered bureaucrats (as agents of GMA and GMA-like comprehensive plans) are somehow preferable to citizen property owners in matters pertaining to development and growth.

The “Apen Nantucket Study” commissioned by our county in 2000 confirmed that these comprehensive plans do not work. It called them “pacing devices” and in an anecdotal comment observed that “Block Island has no growth ‘pacing’ device at all, beyond three-acre minimum zoning” … and “by comparison (remains) rural and still remarkably idyllic.”

Our best and brightest future will not come via demands that our citizens comply with rigid planning criteria aimed at controlling sprawl and government-mandated affordable housing programs (privately sponsored, market-driven programs are OK). The relative quality of our circumstance will ultimately be in proportion to the degree to which our citizens’ imagination and ingenuity is allowed to blossom.

The most pertinent questions that John Pagini might answer are whether or why he believes that Nantucket's comprehensive plan and other pacing devices have worked; and whether such approaches have been successful anywhere else

Albert Hall
Friday Harbor
[link]


Thursday, June 7th

Thank You All, & See You Next Year!


Letter to the Editor

It was heartwarming for those of us who have dreamed of assisted living on San Juan Island to see the large crowd who assembled for the groundbreaking of the “Village at the Harbour”. The multi-generational event was festive and long on celebration, from the middle school band directed by Janet Olsen to the grandchildren who concluded the event by launching bubbles.

Many thanks to all who participated—Mayor David Jones, speaker Gordon Steele, our local investors, and Fisher and Sons, our contractor. We’re looking forward to seeing everyone again at the ribbon cutting early next year.

Seanene Kennedy
Brian Brown
San Juan Island


[link]


Friday, June 1st

Open Letter To Dog Owners


Dear Dog owners on San Juan Island:

Yesterday, May 30, 2007 at approximately 11:00 am, my cows were brutally attacked by a pair of large dogs. We were alerted to the attack by the horrible screaming of a cow, which subsequently plunged into my deep pond after the dogs were chased off of her. This is the second dog attack that these cows have suffered in 8 months - one of my (then three) cows died as a result of wounds received in the first attack. Again, only one cow seems to have been attacked and she received many bites to the legs, rump and belly. If no one was home at the time of the attack I imagine that the cow could have been killed.

The dogs likely live in the University Heights, Hillview Terrace, or Eureka neighborhoods, but we all know that loose dogs can easily explore for many miles, so they may live elsewhere. The dogs that have now threatened the life of my second cow are both large (80-100 pounds) - one more-or-less a German shepherd with rounder nose and the other a Border collie-type, mostly black with white ruff. If you own dogs that match this description, who were loose yesterday morning, the right thing to do would be to call the Sheriff's office and discuss the problem. While your dogs have most likely gone home to rest, play with you and have dinner, I will spend the next several weeks fretting about an injured animal who may or may not survive its wounds, and when the dogs will come back.

We say that we want to support agriculture in this county. People love to look at farm animals in island pastures. Loose dogs and livestock do not mix. Dog attacks are heartbreaking to those of us who have to witness them.

Claudia Mills
San Juan Island

[link]


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