Russ Weston Interview
…filtering that out and determining whether its critical or important or not or both or neither and uh that just comes down to the bottom line and people get emotional about things and I think its an interesting thing the uh third world country, people deal with things differently, and uh I think they deal with the critical and the important, if you make an appointment to get your car fixed in Mexico two days ahead of timeand you drop your car off at 3:00 and expect to pick it up at 5:00, well somebody brings their car in at 3:15 and they say hey, I’ve got a problem, it’s more important, and its important and its critical to them, the person that is working on the car, so they take that car first, before yours. and yours goes on the bottom. And thats how they work through issues wheras in our society we say well this guy had his appointment and its more critical that I keep my good name and deal with your appointment than delaing with your car, in different cultures its dealt with in differnt ways, but it seems like in our culture, we’ve gone into the everything is critical and important…
Chris…Working in advertising, let me tell you, I imagine Politics is the same…
R: I don’t know anything about Politics ( both laugh) but with answering and machines, beep beep beep, that must be important or it probably wouldn’t beep, no excuse me, it’s probably not important, and its probably not critical, it could be, but we’re all walking around with shock collars basicly. Some people the phone rings and then the answering machine picks it up, they go over and look and say well, thats from outside the area so I’m not gonna pick it up, some peoplle never answer their phone, I tend to run for the phone and its a reactionary thing. And if we’re in a purely reactionary world, you’re probably not preparing for the next step.
C: Who is Russ Weston, besides the moose mayor, what kind of a person are you?
R: Gregarious. I’m a gregarious person. I love people, I’m happily married and I guess some people percieve me as being too hyper. A friend of mine said to me and another old schoolmat “ If you guys were in school today, you’d both be on Ritalin” I enjoy a high level of activity, and this has been great, I’ve dealt with projects, typicly with city hall, the 11 years I was there, you’re dealing with multiple projects all the time, and its almost like three-d chess, you’re trying to figure out where youre gonna be next and it takes a high level of energy. People ask me about the election, were you excited about the 42% you got? but when you’ve been pasted to the cieling for the past six weeks you don’t go any higher. I enjoy a constant level of activity, you know about 10:30 my wife will say come to bed, I say just a sec and you know I’m there at 1:30 or 3:00. I run on the adrenaline. Live on coffe and altoids, but I get a balanced diet. I feel guilty having a bowl of cereal and a cup of coffee and not reading the paper at the same time. It’s a guilt trip, theres more things to do. Slow down and eat your cereal in a common sense matter. The old indigestion commercial “ you eat too fast, you eat too fast” > Yeah, I operate at a high energy level, when I go somewhere,a lot of people see me running “ We see you putting in your yard signs and you’re running. Why are you running?” I’m running for mayor. I sleep well at night and I go during the day. My dad woke me up on his death bed. The last couple of months of his life and I spent the night with him and he woke me up at 2 or 3 in the morning and said “ You inherited something very special” and I said “What’s that Pop?” thinking aw gee, hes gonna tell me about the hidden treasure or something and he says “ The ability to live on about 15 minutes of sleep per night” Geez pop thanks for waking me up to tell me.
C: How do you play?
R: I don’t . My neighbors got all the exciting toys. I used to boat and golf, but the acitivity I enjoy most is interacting with people. I enjoy the rush, like when the boss calls your office and says “ I need to see you in my office” Whoa, the heart starts pounding and you’re short on breath. That’s a rush.
C: What do you do for joy? Outside of work?
R: I like to cut wood. We have a woodstove. I like gardening. And you notice we don’t have a lawn, theres a routine maintenance thing I don’t really appreciate. I cut lawns as a kid and its not exciting for me anymore, but someone calls up and says my car went off the cliff, can you help me get it out, hey I’m ready to go. Or a tree fell on my house, can you help me get it down, I put on the climbing spurs and do it.
I enjoy a diversity of tasks. I’m ready to go all the time. We’ve got a nice place here, we’ve planted 2 or 300 trees and uh . I like to pick up an apple off the ground, polish it on my shirt, and eat it.If theres a worm in the apple it doesn’t bother me, it’s just a little bit of meat there.
C: how do you feel about the county’s pro development stance in particular around the lake whatcom Watershed?
R: We need moderation and if you’re going to control the growth in the Lake Whatcom Watershed, we need a vested interest in it. Annexing it or buying it is one of the things that has to be done to control the resources, not necessarily to control the growth, but you have additional homes and you’ve got to deal with the probvlems you’ve got in the stormwater and sanitary area. Both of those are a problem in the county with the wells. The city services 50 square miles with sewer and watrer, even though theres only about 25 square miles incorporated. So we’re servicing a lot bigger area than we have incorporated and I think those areas, we will have a say in how the building goes, but if its owned by someone else you’re not going to have much to say about it.
C: what about The Drinking Water Initiative?
R: I came out early saying I wholeheartedly support that as an individual. But I will not use the honor and respect of the mayors office to unduly influence one way or the other, the citizen initiative. I think it’s totally inappropriate. There’s a balance of power. Legislative, judicial, and executive and the citizens have the right to bring forward any initiative they want, I think its the mayors duty to keep people informed on these initiatives. What are the upsides, what are the downsides? And the mayor can use the respect and honor of his office to obtain information and to share information.
C: What made you decide to run for mayor?
R: I was gonna run four years ago and my Dad was still alive and not in very good shape and there were eight or more candidates in the race and I felt like it would just be muddying the waters at that time. We had some outstanding debts, that we’ve since paid off. Our home is paid for, our car is paid for. I went to my wife last October and said should we get a new car or put it into a campaighn? And she said the Car is running just fine. I’ve got support from my wife. It’s a tremendous partnership. Opposites attract and that helps us moderate our thinking on a lot of issues.
C: If you were dictator for a day, How would you handle the Pipeline situation?
R: I’m not a politician. I come to you as a public servant. I love serving. I’ve served for the last 30 years of my life. Helping people find solutions to problems and needs, but they have to be clearly defined needs. I’m not an innovative person. People ask me are you a democrat or a republican and I say Math computer Science. Where’s that put me? Liberal or conservative? Math computer science. So I’ve learned to roll with the punches and do things according to the rules, because its simpler that way. To be dictator of the pipeline, I would still go back to the rules. What rules do we have that could solve this problem?Prevent it from happening agian. The most critical thing that the mayor has control over is the franchise agreement ran out in 1994, that could be a blaring help me, help me, solve this problem. And it wasn’t heeded and it wasn’t dealt with and according to the city charter, its the mayors duty to make sure that all contracts are upheld in court. That contract ran out and there was no attempt to renew it as far as I can tell. Let’s get the contract back in place so we know, so we have a two way communication with the party. I definately would not handle it as it was handled, to hire somebody to tease the big dogs with a little stick, go after the pipeline with a veangeance when they are so much bigger than the city of Belingham, they’re resources are tremendous. You know and many of the people in Bellingham probably have stock in the pipeline and don’t even know it through their mutual funds. It’s well financed, we’re not gonna beat the pipeline company. We can work cooperatively with them and say What do we need to know that you know, sharing information, and if there are anomolies in the pipe underneath our water treatment plant, to beat on em and say you gotta fix those is one thing, the other thing is to say, just let us know where they are. It’s our safety that we’re concerned with, you may not be, as a large corporation, but as a city as a resident, as a mayor, we’re concerned about the safety, tell us where the pitfalls are. And then we can work on em but without communication, nothing.
What kind of programs or activities do you suggest for kids? In particular low income kids in low income neighborhoods like the Roosevelt Neighborhood?
R: We’ve gott the YMCA, the boys and girls club, churches, the ice arena, the swimmingpool. We’ve got a lot of things out there for kids to do, but matching up kids with the appropriate activity is a tough thing to do. It’s my personal feeling that we can have the extra recreational opportunities in the community through private giving tenfold over what we get through public taking. Once you filter public taking through the system, only 10% comes out at the end. We’ve got the Syre museum, the childrens museum, and things like that that are privately done. They wouldn’t be possible without the private giving. And as public taking increases, private taking goes down. The federal government has backed off of a lot of social services programs that they provided, but they’ve given the money back to states and local communities to do something with and I think that’s a tremendous opportunity. But you’ve got to figure out what you want to do and I’m not creative.
What is your stance on the NRA?
I haven’t heard of anybody that was amember of the NRA who have done damage in schools, in churches, in the post office. I look at the NRA almost like the State Drivers License Agency, sure anyone can go out and buy a car then start driving, but they probably won’t be the safest driver. We have driver education programs in the school, publicly funded. The NRA serves that purpose from a private standpoint. They have educational programs that are wonderful. I took a course from the NRA when I was 15. I’m a member.,I’ve been a member for a long time. People accuse me of being a proud card carrying member. I don’t carry the card. I don’t flash the card and say “ I’m a member of the NRA and I’m coming to get you” I think its totally inappropriate. I belong to a lot of organzizations. I encourage diversity. When communication stops, you don’t know both sides. When I was president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, I’d go in the tavern and have a beer with the guys. They’re not a prohibitionist organization, but a lot of people thought that. So being part of society is where we’re at and some of the people in MADD are teetotalers, but they didn’t throw me out. So its getting along with other people and doing things in moderation. I think thats the key. People say are you a liberal or a conservative, well I’m a moderate, but compared to what?
How do you feel about the development on cemetary creek?
Yeah, on Fraser. It’s another surprise issue. The people that bought along fraser Street six months ago had no idea that the hammer was going to come down on them. It’s rude, unfortunate. You know I can see another potential with Calvary Temple. The city bought some apartments with Calvary Temple and there was an article in the paper the other day that within five years those aprtments are going to be destroyed to put in a parking lot. This may be the last time you hear about that if the incumbant is reelected. “ We warned you about it five years ago…Right! When the bulldozers come in and say we warned you five years ago. Theres got to be public interaction and public process. Communication. The goal is to have more single family residences and less multi family dwellings and it seems out of sync with the Benchmarks for Progress. We need dwelling spots but where are the people working who are living in the dwelling spots.
It was a case of a lot of secrets, a lack of open process, and whether that was the best site or not will probably never be known. The fact that they painted signs on the street marking the water line before the residents even tknew the property had been sold, it was a slam bam, a lot of closed door dealing. I think that’s exactly what I want to avoid in public interaction. The mayor is working with Staff and the Coucil and it’s almost like a funnel squeezing on both sides and out squirts the mayor. Press releases, documentation, and tracking. The fourth meeting after the purchase was done, people were asking the same question as at the first meeting. Lack of tracking, lack of follow through.
Have you ever used Marijuana? How do you feel about drug policy?
I ahve never used hemp or Marijuana. I’ve smelled a lot of it. A lot of people consider alcohol and caffeine as a drug, so if you consider those drugs…I was having a beer when you showed up today. I drink too much coffee probably and it keeps me hyper, so I enjoy that. I’ve got a lot of friends that participate in extra curricular activities and its a tough decision on who to bust and who not to bust, but as the Mayor, it is the duty of the Mayor to make sure that all laws and ordinances are enforced. So if I walk into a joint and someone is having a joint, it is my duty to notify the authorities. So don’t invite me to your parties.
The moose? Are you a fan of Teddy Roosevelt? A fan of Bullwinkle? Or does your wife collect Moose memoralilia?
My wife has an extensive collection of Moose memorabilia, I’ve watched documentaries on Teddy Roosevelt and appreciate a lot of his comments and methods., but I’m not that kind of guy. Teddy Roosevelt used a bullmoose with its head down in a charging position and I would say mine is the happy moose party but not quite as entertaining as Bullwinkle.
I appreciate that you took the time to come to me and ask. An open dialogue is the solution. On the Herald Survey I just filled out the number one is diversity and communication. That needs to come first, even bvefore the watershed issue, if we don’t have that where are we gonna go.