On May 2, the Northern neighborhoods hosted a mayoral candidate forum to give residents of Birchwood, Cornwall, Columbia and Guide Meridian/Cordata neighborhoods their first chance to talk with candidates.
The event at Broadway Hall was well attended, and each of the six candidates had a chance to answer questions, hand out campaign fliers and give a closing statement asking attendees for their vote. It’s an impressive group of men, all of whom have been active in our community. Among the six of them, Seth Fleetwood, Bill Gorman, Don Keenan, Dan McShane, Dan Pike and Bob Ryan have decades of experience in local activism and government.
As a first forum for these candidates, it was an early glimpse into what this race will be about. The questions from both the moderator and the audience reflected the issues that are most on our minds as a community, namely the waterfront, the Lake Whatcom watershed, growth, parks, affordable housing, and business.
While these are all important issues, let’s shine a light on the first issue to be presented to our candidates — an issue that should be in the mind of each downtown business owner: the redevelopment of the waterfront.
It’s on the minds of the neighborhoods, that’s clear. One candidate mentioned in his closing statement that at that very moment, the port was hosting a hearing on the other side of town to ask for public input on which issues should be studied in the waterfront Environmental Impact Statement. He urged us to provide our input.
We should listen. Both the EIS and the master plan are scheduled to be completed this year, and if businesses and community members care at all about what happens on our waterfront, this year is the time to speak up. By the time the buildings start going up, it’s going to be too late. Unfortunately, it’s likely that the same 60 people who show up for most waterfront meetings are the only community members who will have a voice in this process.
For a project that is going to cost this community more than a billion dollars, one would hope more of us would show up.
While many of the people who do show up talk about parks, bridges and building heights, the business community can add a voice of fiscal responsibility to this process as well. Business owners and managers know all about how to balance a budget and understand the meaning of the bottom line. They understand that to have the things that make our community great, you have to be willing to pay for them.
This is the year in which the community will decide where to place parks and streets, how high buildings will be, and how dense the housing will be.
This is the time to add your voice.
Let’s put our candidates on the hot seat and demand they provide a clear vision for our waterfront. Let’s show up and ask the hard questions. If the business community wants to have their voice heard, speak now.
Because once we have a new mayor, and once we have a new master plan, that ship has already sailed.
by Rik Dalvit