Doug Karlberg

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, excluding any interest group is no way to solve problems, especially the business community who employ so many of us. People who are business leaders, are also our neighbors. Business leaders bring a unique view which we need to solve problems. Business brings a view of numbers and the ability to stretch dollars that often government cannot. The tax base is almost exclusively private business driven. Parks, government employees wages, government agencies services, and those who would like to see lower taxes all depend on in one fashion or another, on the skills, the vision, and the vibrancy of business community.

 

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

I support generally a partnership between the Port and the City. I am not in support of the current vision. I also support the development of the GP Site, just not the Port vision.

First, the partnership proposed though does not treat the City fairly. The City gets most of the expenses, and the Port gets most of the revenues. The City should negotiate a better deal, or the City taxpayers will shoulder an unfair burden. Groups competing for City revenues will find their funds drying up.

The Port has failed to address the core priorities of the community, and the core obligations of government.

The highest obligations of government are to provide jobs for those children currently in elementary school, and provide for the elderly who build this community, regardless of economic status. Destroying the best family wage producing land to build luxury condos and a yacht harbor address’s neither. The Port has turned into a Real Estate Development Company.

Moving the college at taxpayers expense is a waste of money. Colleges don’t pay taxes. Then to complain that there is not enough money for parks is bogus accounting.

My priorities for Bellingham are children, families, and the elderly who live here now, not yachts and luxury condos for those who do not. Children, the elderly, family wage paying jobs, affordable housing keeps the friendly Bellingham culture alive.

 

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?

Absolutely, Bellingham should work closely with surrounding communities. This is simply being a good neighbor. This includes our Canadian neighbors and the Tribal governments. The responsibility for this cooperation and communication should fall on the most senior staff and elected officials. This indicates that we are serious about cooperation with our neighbors. Hopefully our neighbors will respond in kind.

First each jurisdiction should get clear on their communities respective goals, priorities and values; Simple and clear goals, which are understandable by all. Second, share these goals with all planning staff and public. Third when planning staff even suspects there may be an issue that affects an adjoining jurisdiction, they should immediately contact the adjoining jurisdiction; This communicates respect, which will pave the way for good faith solutions.

While I am in favor of utilizing the Internet as an efficient method of obtaining citizens input. On inter-jurisdictional issue though, especially contentious issues, a public meeting at the outset would be more efficient at laying the groundwork for solutions. Not so much a formal meeting, but one in which folks from different jurisdictions can get together and meet so that both sides can discover that there are good people on both sides of these issues.

 

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 do support height restrictions in Fairhaven. The Fairhaven District has a unique flavor that is worth preserving.

All too often I see a disturbing trend in Fairhaven. I see developers selling a real estate at a premium with a view. Then another building is put up and the view is stolen and resold to another. This is disturbing as people have their equity destroyed. This is not a victimless policy.

Capitalism encourages the pursuit of profits, which produces results that are often desirable. Sometimes though, the pursuit of profits produces undesirable results, and we have to keep in mind the overall good of the whole community, and this is precisely the role of government. Somebody needs to look out for the good of the whole community. I am sure that there will be plenty of profits left to be had.

 

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

I am dubious of the plan as being written. The goals, priorities, and values of the whole community need to be quantified and laid out. Without these priorities, plans have no guidance.

I am dubious that government is able lay out these goals effectively, as these goals, priorities, and values come directly from the citizens, and the government simply carries them out.

The complicated planning process is easily manipulated, by those who wish policies that benefit the few. Seldom do citizens have the time to follow and shape the process, this is why clear goals, values, and priorities are so important, as we can always measure the plans against these goals.

Seattle had an excellent example of this. They allowed the citizens a vote on the plan for the viaduct. The Mayor said that he knew what the citizens wanted. The Governor said she knew what the citizens wanted. When the vote was finally tallied both the Mayor and Governor were wrong.

It would have been simpler to ask the citizens what they wanted beforehand. This was an example of government failing to represent their citizens effectively … and they spent a bundle of money in this failed planning process.

 

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?

Government and especially the Port, have been quietly promoting a policy of turning Bellingham into primarily a retirement community, rather than promoting jobs. Retirement communities are by nature, older.

The finest job producing land in Whatcom County is the Port land. Developing condos rather than jobs contributes to this increase in age of citizens. The 30-39 year old citizens are the prime family years. Families depend on jobs. Good jobs by the way. Without them they leave Bellingham.

Sausalito was a prime example of a working class town. In less than thirty years, Sausalito has turned into a town with great parks, but virtually no children or families. The middle class and lower was eliminated.

The Port of Skagit has pursued a job creation focus and has had considerable success in creating jobs rather than condos. On July 8th, when the Boeing 787 is rolled out for the world to see, it is worth considering that the fuselage of this magnificent plane was molded by a company in Skagit County that was a logging company; Supposedly dead.

With support from their government, this company has generated a lot of great jobs, which will be secure into the future. This is a better way to grow a community.

 

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?

Yes, I am supportive of infilling Bellingham. If we wish to save as much of our environment, then we need to encourage people to live closer together.

I would like a vote via the Internet by citizens to gauge support for this policy. I believe that a strong vote on this issue would provide a better foundation for government action.

I support careful thought towards creating communities with higher densities. The waterfront project would be a great place to start; An economically diverse community with affordable housing. Not a shopping area, but something that the current residents would like to live in. The key is asking the citizens what they would like to see in such a community, rather than being told by government or a developer what their community would look like. Developers and planners can build great buildings, but lousy communities. Encouraging higher density living is a consumer driven process, not a government dictated process.

Look at the density of housing in WWU. WWU is a nice place to live, but it is not a shopping area. Eliminating major shopping area from the waterfront would save a ton of money on bridges, and revitalize downtown Bellingham.

 

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

People are the root cause of the pollution in Lake Whatcom. The continued worsening of the pollution over a decade now is a failure of government. Clean drinking water has to be one of the most important functions of government.

Having said this though, I think that it is important to spread the responsibility for cleaning this up fairly. Anybody causing pollutions will need to participate. The finger pointing has to stop. All the folks that live in the watershed must participate.

I would use the power of government to encourage cleaning up this lake. I would do this by encouraging the sources of pollution to cooperate and come up with their own plans. The parties who do not cooperate and come up with solid plans to clean up their pollution, will deal with more severe government action than those who cooperate in good faith.

All decisions and progress must be based on good science rather than bad politics. Development may have to be halted as a last resort, if we cannot reverse this decline. A moratorium for a short time may be appropriate so that those that wish to develop have an incentive to participate in this cleanup effort.

 

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?

I don’t believe in treating out of town business unfairly by discriminating against them. This is probably against the law and would simply result in a bunch of expensive lawsuits.

Having said this though I am in favor of encouraging small business development. I am confident that Bellingham has many small business people who can compete, against any competition. Look at what Hardware Sales and Village books have done; Simply great local businesses.

 

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

Regular town hall style meetings are one of the ways that I would make myself available to the business community. I have been disappointed in our government leaders willingness to answer tough questions. They don’t want to answer tough questions. They seem afraid to tell us what they think. I will tell you what I think, but I do reserve the right to change my mind after I have listened to all the other ideas or solutions proposed.

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