“I like Pike!” shouts a random pedestrian as Dan Pike checks the parking meter out in front of his Cornwall Avenue campaign office. Pike smiles and says “thanks” to his supporter, who is clearly in a rush but still wanted to voice support.
It’s a good thing “I like Dan!” isn’t as catchy.
In the days since the primary election, which narrowed the mayoral field to Dan versus Dan, Pike’s campaign strategy has switched from simply being noticed among the field of more familiar political players to defining what makes him the better Dan for the job.
Pike highlights his training as a planner and his work on the Washington state Department of Transportation’s FAST Corridor Project, a $500 million plan to improve the movement of freight in and out of ports from Tacoma to Everett.
“Really it comes down to experience,” Pike says. “When I tell people that, they frequently have kind of a quizzical look like ‘[McShane] is the guy that’s in office and you’re not.’ But what I’m talking about is experience that matters for the chief executive of the city. I’ve got a planning degree, I’ve got a master’s in public administration, both of which are very key backbones to good decision making.
“I don’t see the same range of skills in my opponent. But if I needed a geologist, I have no doubt that I would hire him.”
Pike says he decided to run for mayor last winter when he found himself complaining about some of the big issues in the community, issues that are now key points of his platform.
Growth is always an issue. Some say it is inevitable and some have vowed to stop it. At the political level, the conversation has focused on whether Bellingham’s Urban Growth Area (UGA) should expand to match the influx of new residents.
“I do not believe that we have made a strong enough case to justify expanding the UGA at this point,” Pike says. “Frankly, we need to focus on infill first. Every time you expand the UGA, it’s a ratcheted expansion. You can’t contract; it only goes out. That’s why I think we need to be absolutely positive we need that expansion before we do it.”
But “infill” has become almost a hush-hush word in some neighborhoods because of ideological objections or unmet expectations in past infill projects. For Pike, the challenge is to make residents comfortable with the look and feel of infill.
“That’s why it’s important that we update the zoning code and attach design standards to it on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis,” Pike says. “So that [residents] know when they get a new development in there — a new house, a new building — they’ll have some assurance, some predictability as to how that will look and how that will fit into the community.”
Attracting new business to Bellingham is also a key element in Pike’s campaign. But how to do it? Through partnerships, Pike says. After working on the FAST Corridor Project, which brought together 26 public and private groups, Pike says he has seen the economic benefit of partnerships.
Pike proposes better connections with the local business groups such as the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Renaissance Network and the Bellingham Whatcom Economic Development Association. Partnering with Western Washington University would also bring about numerous opportunities for new business ventures, Pike says.
He envisions a Bellingham where local businesses can market technology developed in Western programs like the Vehicle Research Institute. He sees Huxley College of the Environment down on the waterfront working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association to find solutions to modern environmental problems — not to mention providing sustainable wage jobs.
“I think it’s also important, though, that when we talk about providing sustainable wage jobs we don’t just focus on people who have a college degree,” Pike says. “I think that anybody who grows up in this town ought to be able to find work that affords them dignity and a decent wage.”
n To see the mayoral candidates in action, the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce, Whatcom County Assn. of Realtors and the Bellingham Business Journal are co-sponsoring a candidate forum Oct. 17, 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the Bellingham Golf & Country Club. For more information, call the chamber at 734-1330.
Dan Pike Bio
Name: Dan Pike
Family: Wife, Laura; two children, Gabe and Robyn
Neighborhood: Lettered Streets since 2006
Education: Bachelor of Arts in planning from Western Washington University; Master of Arts in public administration from Harvard.
Work experience: Fisherman, transportation planner for city of Everson, then Department of Transportation
Total cash donations: $27,000