Whatcom County Council, District 2, Position B
1. Do you believe the business community should have an equal seat at the table with other interest groups (communities, environmental groups, etc) in discussing the future growth of Whatcom County? Please explain.
Yes. The business community is vital to the success of Whatcom County and should always have equal input regarding future growth. Whatcom County businesses create jobs and pay taxes that support our citizens. We depend on a healthy business community. Likewise, the business community relies on government to provide essential services such as roads, ports, fire/police protection, the courts, etc. Businesses have to be able to plan for the future – they depend on clear, consistent, and predictable regulations, and need to have equal influence during the formation of those regulations.
2. Are you supportive of the current Port/City of Bellingham vision for redeveloping the New Whatcom Site, and should the County participate in those plans? Why or why not?
I support the redevelopment of the Bellingham Waterfront into a vibrant center for commercial, residential, industrial and recreational activities. As of this writing, there is no one vision for the redevelopment. I personally hope to see the land remain in public ownership and include:
1) A working waterfront such as the proposed Marine Trades Center
2) Public access for boaters and fishermen
3) Pedestrian-oriented design that minimizes the use of automobiles
4) Western Washington University facilities
5) A diversity of residential housing
6) Shopping and entertainment
7) Respect for Whatcom County’s rich maritime tradition and heritage.
I believe the County has an important role to play in the redevelopment of Bellingham’s waterfront and should have a strong voice. We have an unparalleled opportunity to create a waterfront that will provide benefits for a century or more – and the impacts of the waterfront will reverberate throughout the County. It is essential that the County participate.
3. When it comes to land use planning, should the County work more closely with the other municipalities in Whatcom County to ensure a more cohesive plan?
Under State law and our County Comprehensive Plan, Counties and their municipalities are required to work closely together. Problems have arisen lately due to a lack of resources in the County Planning Department and a rapid turnover in senior staff. Further complicating matters, the high growth rate and demand for permits has overwhelmed planning departments and led to the neglect of actual long-range “planning.” One of my priorities will be to resurrect the County’s long-range planning division and establish open communication between staff, elected officials, and the public. At that point, a productive and collaborative dialogue can occur between the municipalities and the County.
4. Do you support efforts to protect land currently designated for medium and heavy industrial purposes in the County for that purpose? Please explain.
I absolutely and completely support protection of all industrial lands in Whatcom County. We already have a looming shortage of industrial lands and we cannot allow the creep of residential development to threaten our existing supply. The County recently rejected a residential rezone proposal near the Heavy Industrial zone, and I was proud of the vigor with which we rejected it. I also support the protection of our agricultural industry, which currently does not have the necessary zoning to ensure its long-term viability. This will be a high priority during my time in office.
5. Do you support efforts to find additional forms of identification to ensure Washingtonians and the citizens of British Columbia can easily cross our shared border? Why or why not?
I support any system that can effectively protect our border – that has to be our first priority. The system should be as simple, efficient, and affordable as possible. Cross-border traffic is a crucial element of commerce between Washington and British Columbia. We need to develop a system that maintains the flow of goods and services without compromising the safety of our citizens.
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?
I think there are two primary demographic forces at work. I see a lack of high-paying or living-wage jobs in Whatcom County, which motivates our fellow citizens to seek employment elsewhere. At the same time, Whatcom County is trending towards a becoming a retirement destination, as older folks with savings earned in other markets can afford to relocate here. The combination of low-wage jobs and high cost of housing means our friends and neighbors cannot afford a home. The solution to this problem lies in stimulating economic development that pays high wages, such as industrial, high-tech, and medical jobs. With our proximity to the technology hubs of Vancouver, BC and Seattle, we should be able to recruit companies that want to capitalize on our quality of life, the pool of talent generated by our educational institutions, and our hard-working citizens.
7. Are you supportive of efforts to promote infill development in existing municipal areas? If so, how would you propose to do this?
Yes. We cannot continue sprawling out into our rural and resource lands. The cost of roads, police and fire protection, and basic utilities in those areas is astronomical when compared with providing these same services in existing urban areas. Our quality of life as measured by traffic, environmental quality, and recreational opportunities is continually degraded by our current development patterns. Our job base in agricultural, forestry, and industrial lands are threatened. We must utilize our existing urban land supply to provide housing and commercial activity. There are three basic strategies:
1) Require development to pay for itself – this is known as Concurrency, and it means that residential development has to pay for the added burdens it places on our schools, roads, parks, water supply, fire/police, etc. We should charge the costs of building in our rural lands to the people who move there, instead of requiring current citizens to choose between higher taxes or lower levels of service.
2) Encourage more flexible design standards in urban areas. We have very few local examples of quality infill development because our codes essentially outlaw it. The cities need to incorporate better options into their code.
3) Transfer of Development Rights (TDR). The basic principle is that the right to build a house is sold from one landowner to another. So, in areas where we want to discourage residential development, landowners would have the option of keeping their land and selling their development rights to another landowner in a higher-density urban area. Development on land re-zoned to higher densities would be contingent on landowners purchasing development rights from protected areas. This way, land is conserved for better uses and the landowners are compensated. Best of all, this plan is optional and market-based.
8. What do you believe is the primary pollution issue for Lake Whatcom, and what do you propose to do in partnership with the City of Bellingham to address it?
The primary pollution issue for Lake Whatcom is phosphorous accumulation due to development in the watershed. Stormwater carries higher loads of pollutants into the lake from roads, roofs, and lawns. There is no doubt that the reservoir is degraded and declining. We cannot treat the water with increasing doses of toxic chemicals forever. As usual, the solutions are costly. And the costs go up the longer we wait. I do not believe that retrofitting the existing infrastructure around the lake is even remotely feasible technically or economically. We need to implement an active Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program around the lake, we need to raise water fees for those who drink the water, and we need impact fees on those who build in the watershed. The money raised would purchase watershed land and remove it from development. I would propose that any city neighborhood that voluntarily accepts increased infill development has their water rates permanently reduced. There is absolutely no excuse for destroying the drinking water source for 90,000 people. I do not believe in downzones, but I do believe in charging a reasonable fee for those who choose to contribute to the degradation of the reservoir.
9. Should all businesses in Whatcom County be treated equally by the County, regardless of whether they are locally owned or not? Please explain.
Whatcom County should ensure that every business has an equal opportunity to succeed. Whenever possible and within the law, we should encourage and support locally-owned businesses. Locally-owned businesses employ more of our citizens, recycle more of their profits into the community, are engaged in our civic organizations, and generally pay a better wage. When given the choice between supporting a store that sells a product manufactured in China for a corporation headquartered in Delaware vs. a Whatcom County company with a similar product manufactured by our neighbors, I am going to buy American and buy local every time.
10. If elected, what do you propose to do to interact on a regular basis with the Whatcom County business community?
If I am elected, I will take proactive steps to discuss local issues with every stakeholder group. My social circle includes many small business owners and we informally discuss important issues such as regulations, insurance costs, B & O taxes, growth, affordable housing, etc. One regular event I would love to attend is the monthly “Business after Business” gatherings… how does one go about getting invited?