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?
Many in our community feel ignored and unheard. Businesses complain about edicts costing them money and business, while ignoring their needs. Neighborhoods complain about an unresponsive City Hall. Developers complain about unclear processes. At heart, these are problems of communication. A community is the sum of all its parts, and I will ensure that everyone is consulted, heard and respected in the daily decisions of the City
Besides being the right thing to do, including business in the City’s conversations is the smart thing to do. At the end of the day, I understand that every amenity and service we value and hold dear — our parks, a clean Lake Whatcom, housing that is affordable for those living and working in our community, a redeveloped G-P site — relies on a strong economy. And our economy rests on the success or failure of our business community. We ignore our business community at our peril.
2. Are you supportive of the current Port/City partnership and their vision for redeveloping the New Whatcom Site? Please explain.
While I am generally supportive, I have some serious reservations about the scope of what has been proposed, the partnerships that have not been developed, and how to get to resolution and move forward on the redevelopment. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and we need to ensure we produce a lasting, positive legacy for our community.
Toward that end, there are several areas where the Port and City are on track: working to get Huxley College and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration to locate in the area will be a real boon, if realized. These two agencies will provide a solid foundation upon which to base the remaining development.
Looking beyond these positives, though, I have some serious concerns. Chief among these is the glaring absence of County participation at a meaningful level. The region needs all the main players — the City, the County, and the Port — at the table here, and early on all indicated they would be. Once the LIFT mechanism passed, though, the County opted out. This has the effect of saddling Port and City taxpayers unfairly with an additional burden of risk, while the County can only gain at our expense. Fairness dictates that the risks and rewards ought to all be apportioned fairly. Furthermore, the absence of County from the LIFT agreement limits the options for development. We need to get the County reengaged as a partner in this process.
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, Bellingham needs to work more closely with other agencies and jurisdictions in a number of areas, including in land use planning. This should be accomplished at a variety of levels: elected leadership, departmental leadership, implementation level (e.g., staff implementing policy), and at the citizen level. The best way to accomplish this is through communication with our counterparts in other jurisdictions in a manner which is inclusive, not prescriptive.
For example, when Bellingham offers training, whether to elected officials, staff, or citizens, we should look for opportunities to partner in these offerings with other jurisdictions. Where others have resources to contribute, such as the County, we might ask for a shred effort in both developing and paying for the program. In other cases, though, where smaller jurisdictions do not have the resources to participate, if that is made a condition, we ought to include them without encumbrance. The benefit of shared knowledge and developed trust in critical areas would far outweigh any marginal increase in expense incurred.
In addition, we need to work on developing more open lines of communication, so that opportunities for meaningful partnership — based on mutual trust and respect — are possible. Many of the issues challenging Bellingham require a regional approach to e successful; this will only be possible if we focus on our shared interests and develop honest, respectful communication with the County and other jurisdictions.
4.Do you support efforts to limit the height of future development in the Fairhaven Business District to two stories? Why or why not?
I support efforts to have the Fairhaven neighborhood and the Fairhaven business community work together to develop a shared vision for their neighborhood, including height limits. Until this is developed, I support a five-storey limit, with some possible bonuses for affordability or additional open space.
The reason I support this interim limit is contextual: currently Fairhaven is predominantly residential, with one to two storey buildings the norm. In the commercial core, heights are greater, running up to about five stories. If significantly taller buildings were developed, it would negatively affect the current development pattern, a pattern which, due to its pedestrian-friendly design, has the effect of encouraging commercial activity of the type predominant in Fairhaven. We should be very careful about changing that successful dynamic.
5. Do you support the Shoreline Master Plan currently being proposed by City Staff? Please explain.
I support the process of creating a systematic approach for examining big-picture issues within the community, rather than addressing them on an ad hoc basis. I have not read the SMP closely enough at this point to address specific criticisms—positive or negative — regarding its result or efficacy. I would encourage all those with concerns to engage in the current process, and make comments to the City regarding the proposal through email at email@example.com, through July 16th.
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?
There are two causes: a demographic bulge working its way through the pipeline, and an outmigration of people in that demographic. The first is an interesting anecdote, while the second is troubling. The departure of our younger population in their prime career years is indicative on an imbalance between our economy and population. This imbalance has existed for years in this community, and is one of many reasons I am running for mayor.
As a community, we need to do a better job of helping local businesses grow to provide the kinds of employment needed to offer meaningful — an financially substantive — jobs to our youth in this demographic, and we also need to do a better job of targeting outside development looking at locating in Bellingham and Whatcom County from a jobs perspective. People want, expect, and need jobs which pay them sufficiently to live in this community. The best, most effective way to provide affordable housing is to provide jobs which enable you to buy a house at the market rate. The City and the business community need to work together to make this happen here.
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?
With Bellingham repeatedly showing up on ‘best places’ lists, we are facing continued growth. While this is a mixed blessing, we cannot stop growth from coming, but we can and should plan for it. Part of that is determining how and where growth is accommodated. Increased infill is a means by which we can both accommodate growth while reducing the per capita costs of infrastructure.
Concerns over infill have, historically resulted in expansion of our Urban Growth Area as an alternative. I am reluctant to continue this policy. Instead, I will initiate a review of our zoning codes to establish, on a neighborhood basis, codes which are design-based, and provide the neighborhoods with the kinds of development standards they find acceptable, while providing the development community with the predictability of process which is currently lacking in our system.
In the process of drafting these changes, all parties will have seats at the table — neighborhood representatives, concerned citizens, businesses, institutions with a footprint in an area, and developers. The current system is not working well for anyone; everyone has a stake in making it better, and must have a voice in the process.
8. What do you believe is the primary pollution issue in Lake Whatcom, and how do you propose to address it?
The primary issue facing Lake Whatcom is phosphorus intrusion, The health of the lake is threatened and deteriorating, and we need to use a combination of methods which are both fair to current owners and effective at curtailing development and mitigating the effects of existing or new development in the watershed to address the issue. From a policy perspective, this would include transfers of development rights, development rights purchases, and the outright purchases of property within the watershed to reduce additional opportunities to build within the watershed. In addition, stringent controls over how and when development occurs are necessary, in order to minimize the runoff of phosphorus-rich material into the lake as a consequence of development.
We also need to continue efforts to educate everyone — residents, developers, businesses, those using the lake for recreation — about the issues, and each person’s part in addressing the problem. Education is a critical element of successfully addressing the problem.
Finally, we also need to work on a microbasin level — about a half dozen to a dozen homes, typically-within the watershed to retrofit developed properties to reduce their impacts on the lake. This program would provide incentives for microbasin-based clusters of homes to increase pervious surface area within their microbasin, to handle all runoff on site, etcetera, with financial incentives for reaching compliance goals. The advantage of this approach is that it is not punitive, but rather rewards positively the changes we need to see, and fosters cooperation among neighbors to achieve the goal.
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?
As a general rule, all businesses should be treated equally by the City. As entities permitted by the City to operate in this jurisdiction, fairness should be an entitlement. However, I am an advocate for promoting local businesses, and this will be reflected in initiatives in my administration. For example, I will continue the City’s partnership with Sustainable Connections to advocate for local, sustainable businesses.
My support of local business is not intended to be detrimental to out-of-area businesses with a local presence, but rather a reflection of where more opportunities lie in expanding our local economy in a manner which suits our community. Business development is challenging, as all businesses know. For cities, part of the challenge is ensuring that the resources spent on helping businesses grow bear fruit locally.
Business location and expansion decisions are influenced by many factors, including incentive packages offered by cities. A competition among cities for a particular business has been show to generally be a losing proposition for the participating cities. However, assistance to local businesses has a more lasting impact, as businesses with deep roots in a community are less likely to leave. It is these businesses, then, where incentives and assistance are usually most effective.
This is not an absolute rule, though, and I will work with the entire business community, and with any individual business, to try and ensure that businesses which are part of the fabric of our community — locally owned or not — can succeed here.
10. If elected, what do you propose to do to interact on a regular basis with the Bellingham business community?
When elected, I will use a variety of methods to engage the business community. This will include ad hoc visits to individual businesses, to get a sense of what issues are important to them at any given time. I will also meet regularly with representative groups, such as the Chamber, the Downtown Renaissance Network, the BIA and the Economic Development Association, for the big picture from their perspectives, and develop cooperative initiatives for the betterment of the community.
Besides these efforts, I will initiate regular meetings between the business community and appropriate City staff. For example, in the downtown core, quarterly meetings between business representatives and the police could help track issues in a proactive manner, resulting in more effective policing and an improved atmosphere for the businesses and public. Another area where regular meetings might be useful is between the permitting agencies — Public Works and Planning, specifically — and businesses, in order to promote better, mutual understanding.
I also intend to install an Ombudsman in City Hall, not just for the business community, but for everyone, so people who feel intimidated or frustrated in dealings with the City will have a one-stop advocate to help seek redress and/or resolution.
Finally, my own door will be open for anyone who wants to come and discuss issues and, yes, gripes, with me about policies, implementation, or even the weather. I look forward to serving you and working with you as Mayor.