Al Krause

Emergency Preparedness

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Nov 262012

Anne Isenhart, a volunteer with the speakers’ bureau of the Mt. Baker Chapter of the Red Cross outlined the Be Red Cross Ready program for disasters and other emergencies at the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce November 20th meeting.

She listed the essential three steps of the program:

  1. Get a kit – water, food, radio, first aid kit, medications, multipurpose tool, sanitation and person hygiene items, copies of essential documents, important contact information, extra cash, emergency blanket, change of clothing, map and additional items pertinent to individual circumstances.
  2. Make a plan – identify individual responsibilities, chose places to meet, select an out-of-state contact person, where and how to evacuate, and schedule practice. 
  3. Be informed – Learn what disasters or emergencies might occur, identify how information is communicated, know what actions to take, share what you have learned with family and neighbors. get emergency contact cards for all household members.

For more information visit

Inslee’s Victory

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Nov 262012

When we got involved in Organizing for America, the Obama grassroots campaign, a year ago, we wondered why so much effort was devoted to Washington where the President was expected to win easily.
However, at a training session in Skagit County we were told that candidate Jay Inslee for Governor was where the action would be. “If we can gain a significant margin for Obama, that will drag Inslee over the top,” we were told. At that point, his opponent, McKenna, who had been campaigning for eight years as the high-profile Attorney General, seemed a sure thing.
But, come the primary in August, Inslee gained more votes than McKenna. Actually meaningless, yet a tremendous moral boost for active Democrats in the state. We were told that Inslee personally called Chelsea Turnbull, the top Obama campaigner in the state, to thank her for OFA efforts.
 We credit the Inslee victory to the alliance between Turnbull and Dwight Pelz, the state Democratic chair. In our book, Lessons from the Obama 2012 Grassroots Campaign*, we argue that Organizing for America can be a movement that will revitalize progressives in this state and others.  
*Available at                      

Political Activism

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Oct 302012
If you’ve been reading the COMING UP calender of the Northern Light or your neighborhood utility pole, you know that we’ve been promoting progressive people for office–see this post.

First Congressional District candidate Suzan DelBene, with one of the event organizers, Ruth Higgins, thanks residents for their interest in her campaign, October 28, 2012 at Via Birch Bay Cafe and Bistro. Photo by Al Krause

In earlier times, the leaders of our community organized forums where voters could see and hear opposing candidates present their views.
If you’re still looking for information on the 42nddistrict state legislature candidates, John Stark at the Bellingham Herald wrote two excellent articles comparing Natalie McClendon (October 21) and Matt Krogh (October 22) with their competitors. You can find these articles on the Herald’s site. Go to the search window to the right at the top of their online masthead.

Suzan DelBene–A Remarkably Pleasant Experience

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Oct 302012
As publicized, three of the Birch Bay Democrat PCO’s, Sunny Brown, Pat Jerns and Ruth Higgins, organized a “meet and greet” for Suzan DelBene, the First Congressional District candidate, Sunday, the 28th.
My tasks were to register participants at the door of Via Birch Bay Cafe and Bistro, and to keep free a parking space for the candidate’s vehicle. In addition to one space I had two-thirds of another where a motor cycle was parked. That made enough room for a limo, but what if she had a retinue with two or three cars?
Shortly after one o’clock Sunny and I were startled to look up and see the candidate walking to the door with one assistant. Smiling, more relaxed than most participants.
I waited ’till one thirty to go upstairs to find Ms. DelBene still talking with small groups of people a stranger might assume were old friends.
Campaigners are coached to tell “your story” that will gain emotional appeal from voters. If you know anything about Suzan DelBene, it is that she is rich. That she held management positions with Microsoft and a couple of successful tech start-ups; that her husband is a division president at MSFT and they live in a multimillion dollar house on Lake Washington.
So here’s DelBene’s story: When she was in high school her father, an airline pilot lost his job, and the family moved around as he sought work. She got through college on scholarships, grants and work-study programs. In her first year out of school she was able to take her family into her home. She knows what it’s like for people are suffering now. Here she is in a simple black sweater and slacks that she might have bought at Target. Empathy!
And it gets better when she asks for questions. To a long list she spontaneously renders the progressive’s perfect answers. Asked about the proposed coal pier and more coal trains–“the question that is asked most up this way”–DelBene said she is waiting for answers from the scoping process and environmental impact study, and then went on to enumerate all the issues involved–mostly negative.
When she put her competitor, John Koster, away with, “I believe in science,” the 50 people there broke into applause.
For me the most interesting answer was to the question, “How can you, as a new Congresswoman, expect to make a difference in a body with 435 partisans?” Her answer: Information can be powerful. If one knows a subject she will be sought out even if one’s office is in the basement of the Capitol. “When John Koster voted against an appropriations bill five times in six, he said it was because he hadn’t had time to read the bills–you don’t want to employ someone like that to be your representative.”
Via, the view of the Bay and the people at the meeting who came from Blaine and Custer and elsewhere were just as attractive as the candidate. It is satisfying for our community to make such a good impression on someone whose base is Bellevue.



*** ***
Standing by the door, I found that as many people were coming to Via to eat as came to meet DelBene. After Suzan left, Ruth and I stayed to split a small salad and eat two appetizers–Steamed Mussles and Seafood Mitkof. When I asked Google about the latter, up came Via Birch Bay and explained it is a seafood saute in a brandy cream finished with a toasted smoked Gouda. With this meal, we drank a nice Pinot Grigio. Via Birch Bay Bar and Bistro is a keeper!

Congressional Conversation

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Oct 152012
Meet 1st Congressional District Candidate Suzan DelBene.


Sunday, October 28th, 1 to 2 p.m. at the Topside Room, VIA Birch Bay Cafe and Bistro, 7829 Birch Bay Drive, Birch Bay, WA.
Complimentary snacks, tea and coffee; no-host bar.
RSVP: 371-5312.
Organized by Birch Bay and Blaine Precinct Committee Officers in cooperation with the Whatcom County Democrats.

Fish and Chips at VIA Birch Bay Cafe and Bistro

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Oct 152012

VIA Birch Bay Cafe and Bistro, the only property on the water side of central Birch Bay Drive, recently opened for business under the experienced eye of Mr. Yoon Oh. This genial and optimistic restauranteur welcomes patrons with a warm handshake and cheerful smile. He offers us boat-side service if we ever paddle up in our kayak.

VIA Birch Bay Cafe and Bistro
 Mr. Oh tells us that, because of his shoreline location, multiple county and state restrictions limit what he could and could not do when renovating the space for his new restaurant.

View of Birch Bay from VIA

The main improvement was replacing the musty old carpeting with an appealing hardwood floor. And, of course, the exterior Ivory Palace paint that erased the former dull brown. The dining area, bar and espresso counter offer amazing views of the bay, ever changing with the weather and the tide level.

This is the second in our “Who has the best fish and chips in Birch Bay?” series. We order their cod and Al has chips and coleslaw, which come standard, with his; Ruth requests a substitute garden salad ($10.00 each – Mr. Oh does not fool around with .99 prices). We also spring for a shared appetizer of pick ‘n peel shrimp ($8.00).
Farren, our wait person, is a model customer-service person–as is Steve, the manager on duty.
       Water and wine (a couple of crisp Barefoot Pinot Grigios–$5.00 each) keep us occupied while we wait for the appetizer. In less than ten minutes, the succulent shrimp hit our table. They with the cocktail sauce are sensational.
Succulent shrimp

Many of the staff are familiar to Birch Bay patrons from their previous service at the former CJ’s Beachhouse.

Scrumptious fish with fries
Scrumptious fish with salad
When the entrees arrive, the fish batter is crisp and brown, cooked  throughout,  The cod is moist and scrumptious. The platter comes with a lemon wedge and we request malt vinegar.
The food is fine and upcoming events at VIA include Hallowe’en, New Years Eve and New Years Day Parties.  (Oh yes, see for an October 28 Conversation with Congressional Candidate Suzan
Our conclusion is that VIA is a positive addition to the food establishments of Birch Bay.

Election Time is NOW

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Oct 092012
Ballots will be in the mail soon. Do you know who you’ll be voting for? Do you care?
We’ve been campaigning for a year. Until she stepped aside at the end of August, Ruth was Neighborhood Team Leader of Whatcom OFA, Organizing for America, “The Obama Grassroots campaign.” Her neighborhood included most of the county outside Bellingham.
Starting in October 2011, we worked in phone banks most Thursdays and some Tuesdays. We made some 2,500 calls to voters who were believed to be Obama supporters or on the fence. With the President and Senator Maria Cantwell expected to win easily, our main effort was for Jay Inslee for Governor over Rob McKenna, better known after eight years as Attorney General and believed to be ahead. But in the primary, that was significant only as a trial heat, Inslee gained more votes, which–we were told–he credited to OFA.
We have seen a book writer on television who talked about how scientific the campaigns have become in guiding volunteers. But, if the call sheets we received are samples of that science, the Obama campaign needs better data collection and programmers. Some of the people we talked with confirmed their loyalty to Democrats, others were aghast. One man said, “If Donald Duck was running, I would vote for him over Obama.” However, we experienced few difficult conversations. Even the Donald Duck guy was friendly, and many thanked us for our effort and wished us well.
Now we are working for the two progressive candidates for the state Legislature in District 42, Natalie McClendon and Matt Krogh. Natalie, who taught school and most recently was chair of the Whatcom County Dems, argues that support for education must be strengthened. Krogh, whose daughter started at Western this quarter, knows the cost of education and is asking for more money from the Legislature. As the North Sound Baykeeper at ReSources for a Sustainable Community, he is at the apex of the battle over more coal trains to the proposed terminal at Cherry Point.
Natalie and her husband, Mark Turner, and their sons live in a house that is covered with solar panels that provide 85 percent of their electricity. Matt notes that one of the newest successful businesses in Whatcom is a solar energy company that employs 20 people. “Our climate is more suitable for solar than most realize,” he states.
On Wednesday, September 26th, Ruth, recently appointed as the Precinct Officer (PCO) for the newly configured 108th precinct, and Sunny Brown, PCO for Precinct 107, put on a “Tipple and Talk” for Nat and Matt. Forty people filled the Topside Room at VIA Birch Bay Cafe and Bistro. Pat Jerns, PCO of Precinct 105, served as Master of Ceremonies and made a passionate plea for the candidates’ financial support. He followed up with a letter of support published in The Northern Light newspaper..
We are fortunate to have these superior candidates to run against “regressives” who are two of the most criticized “No” votes in Olympia.

Sampling Fish and Chips at Shores

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Oct 092012

Shores, located in Birch Bay’s Sandcastle Resort, is a family restaurant/sports bar. That makes for a mixed dynamic: sporadically raucous team fans competeing with youngsters who have neglected to leave their “outside voices” at the door.
Here to test their claim as, “The Best Fish and Chips in Birch Bay,” we order their cod offering, leaving the halibut choice for another time. Al has chips and coleslaw that comes standard; Ruth requests a substitute garden salad ($11.99). Christine, our perky and cheerful waitperson, is attentive and knowledgeable.
Water and wine (a refreshing 14 Hands Pinot Grigio in a generous six ounce pour–$6.00 each) keep us occupied while we wait for the kitchen to catch up with the less-than-over-whelming demands. We scan the spacious room where bright green and blue wooden chairs contrast with the mahogany booths and chairs. At least eight television sets keep the home-town crowd entranced as the Seattle Seahawks best the Carolina Panthers.
Out bountiful platters arrive with two large portions of fish and healthy serving of chips and coleslaw and salad. The fish batter is crisp and browned on the outside, while slightly gummy on the inside. The cod is ideal, cooked not too much nor too little. The platter comes with a lemon wedge to complement the malt vinegar and ketchup available on the table.
Shores does not have a declared splitting policy, but Christine assured us we could order one serving and she would provide an extra plate and tartar sauce.
Because it is hard to check out the cleanliness of the kitchen, Ruth has always depended on the restroom as a measure of the overall sanitary practices. This one is clean and bright. As in many other places these days, the former hand-soap dispenser holes gape out of the counter; the soap is now dispensed by a motion-sensor wall device. Motion activated units also dispense paper towels. Al described the men’s room as adequately suppled and clean, although it would not make Achitectural Digest.
Patrons enjoy the panoramic bay view from the deck on this sunny October Sunday as well as from indoors.
We relished our take-home portions the next day. Now the dilemma will be whether we split an order in the future or anticipate a second serving.

Time Flashes By

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Sep 132012

It seems impossible that this year is well on its way out the door.

Since last August, we have been working on President Obama’s grassroots team here in Whatcom County. It has been an exhausting and exhilarating ride, which is not yet over.  More on that in the weeks to come.  

Burglaries in Birch Bay — Community Meeting

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Sep 012012
Whatcom County Deputy Sheriff Zac Reimer held a community meeting Wednesday, August 28, to discuss the recent spate of burglaries in Birch Bay, particularly in Bay Crest, and to explain how to prevent crime by keeping doors and windows locked tight. John Gargett, president of the Chamber of Commerce has extensive information on Deputy Reimer’s advice at the Chamber’s blog,