Dan McShane

Bellingham Mayor

 

1. Do you believe the business community should have an equal seat at the table with other interest groups (neighborhoods, environmental community, etc) in discussing the future growth of Bellingham? Why or why not?

Yes.

Discussions regarding the future growth of Bellingham need to take place at the neighborhood or area level and should include all residents, property owners and businesses within the neighborhood or area. All should have an equal opportunity to participate in planning discussions city-wide as well.

Without full engagement by all of those most impacted by growth any discussion of neighborhood redevelopment will end in gridlock. Businesses provide great value in planning and should be encouraged to engage in these discussions. Not only do vibrant neighborhoods require businesses, as we all work and shop there, but they can bring information and a new perspective to the table that improve the outcome. I recognize the city can do a better job engaging businesses in this process and current issues reflect that oversight. I’ll fix that by working with neighborhoods to be inclusive of all interests within the neighborhood so that we have broad and robust participation.

As Mayor I will invest resources into careful and thoughtful neighborhood planning, with all parties at the table and with the planning staff we need to be successful. Currently planning is occurring in neighborhoods by citizen volunteers with just 5 hours of staff time assigned annually for each neighborhood. That’s a good start but I’ll extend that so that we have the kind of quality redevelopment that improves our neighborhoods and brings businesses into areas of our neighborhoods in pockets of denser development, such as urban villages.

 

2. Are you supportive of the current Port/City partnership and their vision for redeveloping the New Whatcom Site? Please explain.

The redevelopment will take decades and we must first ensure the finances make sense and are fair, that it will be cleaned up and that the redevelopment has the strong public support it needs to be successful.

As an engineering geologist and environmental consultant I’ve spent years working on challenging redevelopment projects. Private sector investors and developers approach redevelopment by putting cleanup and a basic feasibility analysis first and by investing based on the facts and constraints of the site. I’ll bring practical, real world experience as well as a commitment to fiscal responsibility and public involvement to the project.

The agreement between the Port and the City is unfair to city taxpayers. The last administration committed an unknown amount of taxpayer funds to infrastructure and the early estimates are at least $200 million.

We must re-evaluate the funding structure and the agreement but I do believe a fair partnership can be established that won’t unnecessarily burden city taxpayers and will better engage the community in a redevelopment that benefits everyone.

I’ll make sure any investment the city makes in waterfront redevelopment is fair, is based on facts and is inspired by the hope and good ideas of the people of Bellingham. I will work to re-engage the community in an inclusive process to develop a common vision and once we have a vision, I will be a strong leader to carry it out. Our waterfront should reflect the best possible economic, environmental and community future for all of Bellingham.

 

3. When it comes to land use planning, should Bellingham work more closely with Whatcom County and other municipalities in the County? If so, how?

Yes – absolutely. Much of what makes Bellingham a great city depends on county wide planning. It is very important that Bellingham work on long term planning efforts taking place throughout the County. Having open space, forest land and agricultural land outside the city limits is good for Bellingham and we should work as a City to help make sure that those valuable resource lands are protected.

This very issue is one of the reasons I decided to run for Mayor. The city can play a significant role in growth planning to ensure that Whatcom County remains the largest agriculture county in western Washington and that timberland remains a part of our local economy. Both of these business sectors are important to our long term economic and environmental health.

Furthermore, if Bellingham is going to adequately protect its drinking water source and the spectacular setting we live in, we must work closely with the County in achieving watershed protection and reducing the potential sprawl outside of the cities of Whatcom County.

As a seven year member of the Whatcom County Council I am well positioned to put in place a new and positive working relationship between Bellingham, Whatcom County and our other cities so that we can work together on both small and large projects for community-wide benefit.

 

4.Do you support efforts to limit the height of future development in the Fairhaven Business District to two stories? Why or why not?

A change in height limits either up or down should be done as part of the neighborhood plan update. Full neighborhood planning and sticking with neighborhood plans provides predictability for all involved.

That said, I would tend to disagree with a blanket height restriction in this area to two-stories. A careful analysis as to the purpose and impacts of height restrictions should be part of the neighborhood planning process and all impacted property owners and residents should be involved.

 

5. Do you support the Shoreline Master Plan currently being proposed by City Staff? Please explain.

I am generally supportive. As mayor I’ll make sure that Bellingham’s shoreline is reserved for both public access and for activities and industry that depend on a waterfront location. One of the fundamental principals of the Shoreline Management Act is to protect shoreline areas for industries and activities that require water access.

Bellingham began as a waterfront community with industry that depended on the sea. If we allow our limited waterfront to be taken up by uses, such as residential condominium development that could easily be sited elsewhere, we lose those economic and public access opportunities and lose that competitive advantage.

On the County Council I sought and received state funding for the county’s shoreline update by volunteering to go first. We then worked collaboratively with all interested citizens to put in place the best shoreline rules in the state. We made sure we protected our environment and retained the shorelines we need for water dependent industry and other uses that rely on access to water. I’ll apply those same standards to Bellingham’s Shoreline Master Plan.

 

6. What, in your opinion, is the primary cause of the decrease in the actual number of Whatcom County residents between the ages of 30 to 39 (primary working age) since 1996?

Ten years ago I was in that same age category and found it difficult to find a job with appropriate wages to meet the skills I had. My answer to that problem was to start my own company.

Today as a business owner I take pride in having two exceptional employees within that age range. In general I suspect that the discrepancy between salaries and home prices makes it less attractive for young families to settle in Bellingham. In other job markets, home prices may be higher, but those locales have correspondingly higher wages that attract this age group.

As Mayor I will look for opportunities to stimulate environmentally and socially responsible economic development so that our businesses can remain competitive and at the same time pay wages that bring the dream of home ownership closer to reality for more of our residents.

 

7. Are you supportive of efforts to promote infill development in the City of Bellingham? If so, what measures would you propose to accomplish this?

I prefer the term redevelopment versus infill because what we need to do as a community is identify where redevelopment with higher housing and commercial density makes sense and improves the community. The only way to do this in an acceptable manner is to update neighborhood plans. This important step had been abandoned under the last administration and we’re now seeing the results in community-wide conflicts over growth.

How well we handle growth hinges on how well the city works with our neighborhoods. I’m inspired by the remarkable effort underway by citizen volunteers who are sitting down, rolling up their sleeves, discussing their ideas for urban villages and tackling their long abandoned neighborhood plans – there’s much to be done. I will work closely with the neighborhoods to provide good opportunities for quality redevelopment while keeping the character of our existing neighborhoods.

Sprawl is not the solution to growth and a massive expansion of our city borders will not make our neighborhoods better places to live or bring us a vibrant downtown economy. Only a consistent investment of resources into our neighborhoods and downtown will get the job done. Under my administration planning will be funded, staff will work closely with neighborhoods, citizens and businesses and we’ll work together to find solutions that fit for Bellingham.

 

8. What do you believe is the primary pollution issue in Lake Whatcom, and how do you propose to address it?

The primary pollution problem in Lake Whatcom is phosphorous loading of the lake at a higher rate than natural levels. Most of the phosphorous entering the lake comes from natural sources such as dirt, leaves and muddy run-off – phosphorous is a common element in almost all soil types and is part of plant material. Increase in stream flows and stormwater flows from development, tree clearing and road construction push more sediment and plant debris through stream and storm water systems and hence increase the rate at which phosphorus enters the lake.

Any cost-effective action that reduces the existing phosphorous inputs and prevents additional inputs needs to be taken. These actions include limiting development as much as practical within the watershed and repairing stream and stormwater systems in a manner that reduces the amount of flow to a more natural level.

As mayor I will budget for technical, policy and financing support to provide strategies and solutions. These solutions include:

• financing mechanisms to buy the remaining lots or development rights in the watershed in fair manner,

• fixing the broken stormwater systems,

• ensuring we keep 75% of our watershed forested,

• establishing an effective education and enforcement program, and

• partnering with the county to seek state and federal funding.

A fundamental responsibility of the City is to provide clean, affordable drinking water. Delay is costly and leaves an expensive problem for our children to fix. As Mayor, cost-effective actions leading to restoration will begin on my watch.

 

9. Should all businesses in Bellingham be treated equally by the City, regardless of whether or not they are locally owned? Why or why not?

Yes, all businesses should be treated equally by the City regardless of who owns them. Government should not play favorites. I support the Buy Local concept, and I also support permitting the marketplace to evolve and promote the widest range of consumer choices to meet the needs of people at all income levels.

I also support business development efforts such as the Small Business Development Center that provide broad public benefit and local businesses will be more likely to fall into that category than out of area business interests.

 

10. If elected, what do you propose to do to interact on a regular basis with the Bellingham business community?

As somebody who signs the front side of other peoples’ paychecks I know how important it is for elected representatives to hear the voice of the business community. Routine meetings with business leadership groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, Sustainable Connections and other industry/sector groups will be one of my basic duties as Mayor.

The issues these groups raise are important to the City’s economic and social health and I will then communicate those interests to City Council. I’ve served on the County Council for seven years while also expanding my business so I am well aware of the challenges the City Council faces as part-time elected officials. It’s important that the Mayor regularly communicates with the council about the issues, concerns and opportunities of businesses.

One of my key roles as Mayor will be to ensure that a fair and open public process is followed in decision making. I will strive to be as inclusive as possible in making sure business interests as well as other groups and individual citizens have ample opportunity to play a role in setting policy and priorities for the City.

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