When my efforts to prevent coal trains from passing through Bellingham failed, the wind in my sails went still. My activism went… inactive. Although we secured twice the necessary signatures to get it on the ballot, our very own progressive Bellingham City Council crushed Coal Free Bellingham’s ‘Community Bill of Rights’, or ‘Proposition 2’. Their legal action snuffed out our ability to protect our own well being, and to secure rights of nature.
Stepping into a leadership role within Coal Free Bellingham, Prop 2 was my first endeavor into mainstream politics. In order to create enough capacity to run A-1 Builders and become so politically active, I had brushed aside most all of my other activism. My volunteer efforts with Transition Whatcom, Futurewise Whatcom, and Sustainable Connections, organizations I helped design and build, were over; the columns I wrote for the Cascadia Weekly ended in May of 2009; the radio programs I produced on KMRE-FM ended in August of 2008; I was thrown out of the Building Industry Association in January of 2011 for whistle blowing; my 18 year run as a Board member at RE Sources for Sustainable Communities termed out in 2011.
Simply put, when Prop 2 failed, so did my desire to speak out. I went silent.
Well, I’m done keeping quiet! Hence… this blog, this HAMMER.
Pete Seeger’s eloquence, along with my tried and true nickname as our First Hammer, inspired this blog title ‘THE HAMMER’:
If I had a hammer,
I’d hammer in the morning
I’d hammer in the evening,
All over this land.
I’d hammer out danger,
I’d hammer out a warning,
I’d hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters,
All over this land.
Consider subscribing to this blog as I hammer out danger, warning and love. At times I’ll pick up a finish hammer, striking at light issues. But at times I’ll be armed with a jack hammer; you may feel compelled to reach for ear protection. I ain’t holding back. It’s too late to hold back.
So what kept me down since Prop 2 was defeated? Why did it take so long to get my voice back?
Remember the legendary pyramid Abraham Maslow introduced in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation“? Paraphrasing his genius, he said this:
If we’re struggling to find our next meal, we’re not about to spend our finite time and energy reading a Michener novel. We’re going to search for food.
Yup; me too. So when the housing bubble burst in 2008, my capacity to write columns and record radio programs took second fiddle to searching for food. A-1 Builders’ next meal, our next job, was going to come from… where? All my energy became focused upon increasing sales and decreasing expenses.
I had a company to save.
Well, save it I did… but I didn’t do it alone. By my side were Cindi Landreth, Patrick Martin, Shawn Serdahl, Maggie Bates, Bobbi Plata, Mike Gill and Adam Yost… my co-workers who rowed so hard that what brought down so many other players in the housing industry left us alive and well. Stronger, leaner, humbled.
Gratefully, we made it to this side of the Great Recession.
It took more than hard work(ers) to survive. It took clients who believed in us; in the need and desire for an ethical, local, well established, progressive (if not radical) 59 year old design/build company, to survive.
We got creative. All too often we had to perform undesirable work… fixing rot and other raunchy construction. Wet rot became ‘noble rot’. We embraced its existence! Simply put, much of our work, our survival, relied upon other companies and property owners who, whether by ignorance or negligence, created buildings better able to putrefy and decay, crush and deflect, than to stand tall and endure. These worn out or poorly built structures needed fixin’ and, in order to survive, we stepped up to the plate. Saving others’ ailing structures saved our ailing structure.
Now, with Prop 2 and the recession in my rear view mirror, I have the time and energy to come up for air, and what I see is what I’ll write about. Right here.
Rome continues to burn: bigger, bloated and hotter. I’m no longer willing to sit back and simply watch it come apart.
I’m done keeping quiet.