Bellingham City Council Ward 4
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. My position to protect what’s best in Bellingham means having more involvement by all members of the community especially the business community as we discuss and plan for future growth. Feeling left out of the process is a symptom of poor government in action. As your representative on the council, I will work hard to involve everyone as we plan for future growth in a fiscally responsible manner. We need to make sure growth occurs where it is needed and wanted, protecting critical habitat including our drinking water source.
An article in BBJ about a recent business function stated, that it was attended by over 400 people, but no council member attended. I will work to change that and facilitate better communication between businesses and the council. I’m mindful that our business community plays a major role in fueling our economy, provides jobs and pays taxes that make much of what we do possible. In the City Council 2007 Goals, almost half of them are directed towards supporting business interests. In general, all of the goals lack specificity and measurability. They are designed more to show direction, rather than measurable accomplishment. I will work to see that they are implemented so that at years’ end and be able to point to specific accomplishments, as businesses must do.
2. Are you supportive of the current Port/City partnership and their vision for redeveloping the New Whatcom Site? Please explain.
Yes, overall, I am supportive of the partnership, however, I believe greater public (including business) input is needed in the vision for redeveloping the site. I admire the Port for having the vision to acquire the GP site and believe that initially the City and Port collaborated well. The 18 month-long Water Front Futures process left us with some clear ideas for the great potential of our waterfront. Some of those ideas I support are for public access along with mixed-use development to create living wage jobs and to include a housing component to compliment downtown.
I have some reservations regarding this second phase of the development and think the vision and level of participation from interest groups is lacking. One example that comes to mind is the proposed Laurel Street Bridge. The proposed design is out of character with Bellingham’s architecture and lacks an adequate circulation or transportation plan.
As a leader and consensus builder, I will work hard with other council members, the mayor, the public, and the business community to renegotiate some of the agreements made with the Port. This is a twenty-year project and we all need to work together to make sure it is done with adequate designs, planning, and funding in place, based on community input and full support.
In the end, we want an environmentally safe and friendly project with public waterfront access, that provides us with living wage jobs and some comfortable housing, while preserving Bellingham’s unique character.
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. Personally, I think the poor cooperation and communication between the city and the county on so many levels is a contributor to problems in this area.
Critical questions of growth management, urban sprawl, the Urban Growth Area, protecting the watershed, and transportation, as well as emergency management and law enforcement necessitate cooperation among different agencies and government entities in both jurisdictions. It is critical that the city and county work together more effectively in all these areas if we are to protect and sustain our wonderful area and way of life. I will work hard on the council to ensure that happens.
The county’s recent loss of most of its key planning staff, including Hal Hart, will have a devastating effect on efforts to improve communications and resolve problems. The vital local experience that makes planners so effective will take time to re-establish once new staff is hired. In turn, that will affect efforts to improve communications between the city and county anytime soon. That said, I will be using my leadership and consensus building skills once I’m elected to take the lead and work hard to bridge what amounts to a serious communications gap with the county.
4.Do you support efforts to limit the height of future development in the Fairhaven Business District to two stories? Why or why not?
No. I do not support a two-story height limit in Fairhaven. Since this community has had taller buildings throughout its history, a limit now would be artificial and contrary to most of the recent new construction there. It is also contrary to our need to infill future growth where needed and wanted, while at the same time provide affordable housing to many of our low-income residents.
In keeping with our goal to infill, doing so in areas like New Whatcom and Fairhaven makes sense. I also see adding density in major subdivisions through Transfer of Development Rights (TDR’s) from the Lake Whatcom watershed or where increased density can be included as component of the approval process within the context of an overall planned development project. Buyers then know what they are buying into, an approach, which provides choices and just makes good sense. I’m resistant to stuffing density into already developed existing traditional neighborhoods.
5. Do you support the Shoreline Master Plan currently being proposed by City Staff? Please explain.
Yes. This is an environmental program required by the State and designed to work in concert with the Critical Areas Ordinance. The Shoreline Master Program Update represents a good compromise in juggling so many competing interests. An essential component in this update is protecting our shorelines, and it calls for increased set backs to protect important habitat for wildlife and humans. Keeping cars and buildings away from along our shores are critical to restoration efforts, as well as to help infiltrate and clean contaminants from stormwater runoff. This protection is essential and I support the consistent application of the SMP to preserve the integrity of our water resources, especially Lake Whatcom, our drinking water source.
I commend the City Planning Commission for its insistence on a thorough public process, holding 12 public hearings and work sessions during the SMP comment period. As a result, their Comment Tracker recorded more than 350 comments that they have reviewed and addressed in the SMP. As a strong supporter of public involvement, I encourage everyone to take advantage of the comment period coming up as the current city council reviews this plan for final approval.
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’ve not heard this statistic before. Having said that, good paying jobs for this sector are in short supply and this is probably a major factor for the many people in this age group, at the age to be raising families. Over the top housing costs for first-time buyers is another factor that makes it difficult for young families to afford having a home in Bellingham. As one of my main issues, once I am on the city council I will be taking the lead to work with the other council members and business leaders to find more ways to attract family wage jobs. I also will be working to ensure that the land supply for business and industry is adequate as well and relying on the business community for their input. A hard look at our current zoning and regulations is needed to be sure that government is responsive to the need for more affordable housing opportunities, especially in the single-family market.
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?
I support the concept of infill when it occurs where it can be accommodated and where we, as a community, want it while still protecting what’s best in Bellingham. For example, one way to address congestion and transportation issues is to have people live closer to their jobs. Density has to be managed, to meet the needs of all citizens. It makes sense to increase density in areas like the waterfront, downtown, Fairhaven, and to move forward with the planning and development of urban villages in existing neighborhoods where appropriate. It’s also reasonable to allow increased density using several different housing-unit styles and options in a planned development. This would allow for smaller-scale clustered developments that would support the urban village model and could include affordable housing. Good design makes this mix attractive for all buyers and is consistent with the concept of being more sustainable.
On the council, I will also utilize the expertise and ideas developed by the County Affordable Housing Task Force, made up of representatives of both the building community and the government, to enhance our affordable housing opportunities.
Infill is a complex issue and I would not support simply inserting housing units on undersized lots in current traditional neighborhoods as a fix-all. Additionally I do not support giving up commercial and industrially zoned sites to infill with housing units, especially given that the updated 2006 Bellingham Comprehensive Plan clearly points out that our industrially zoned land is in short supply.
8. What do you believe is the primary pollution issue in Lake Whatcom, and how do you propose to address it?
Yes, development is the primary cause. The data collected by Western’s Institute for Watershed Studies over the last thirty-some years shows a clear relationship between increased development and declines in water quality in our drinking water source, especially in the last five years.
What is most alarming is that there is still the potential to add half again the number of existing residences, which will cause irreversible damage. As my number 1 priority, I will be working hard to support the Mayor and County Executive’s efforts to obtain federal and state assistance for the land acquisition program. Retaining the natural forest is the best (and cheapest) filter to protect our drinking water source. It also provides fair compensation to the landowner.
The science also shows that current stormwater technology is not effective enough for removing pollutants. Existing developments must be retrofitted to keep stormwater runoff from reaching the Lake and I believe the business community can play a vital role in helping design and locate these needed systems. Dependence on treatment alone is not an attractive alternative. On the council, I also will be working with staff to make sure we have an effective education and enforcement process to stop practices of watershed residents and users that are detrimental to water quality.
The future of our only source of drinking water is crucial to our survival as a community and I will provide the leadership needed to ensure that our grandchildren and their children will have clean, safe drinking water.
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?
No. Although I believe all businesses, both locally owned and distantly owned, have the potential to contribute positively to our community, I personally believe in buying local and supporting local merchants as much as possible. I have been a member of Sustainable Connections and support their Buy Local marketing effort.
I believe we have to look at every policy issue on its merits. That means no bias for or against larger-sized businesses, especially those with headquarters elsewhere. My job on the council will be to protect what’s best in Bellingham. I will encourage economic diversity and vitality, support full public input and participation in all decisions that affect our community’s future growth to ensure that Bellingham remains a great place to live and raise a family, and protecting the environment that will in turn protect our health and quality of life.
10. If elected, what do you propose to do to interact on a regular basis with the Bellingham business community?
I subscribe to the BBJ and have read it for many years. It’s clear to me that the business community feels under-appreciated, with little support from the City. In my years of service in the fire protection profession, I think I have visited every business in Bellingham and have many strong friendships within the business community. As a friend and representative on the council, I propose that we not just “say hello” in passing, but that we meet on a regular basis, say over coffee at your office or at City Hall. I intend to do more than exchange small talk; I will be listening.
Council currently has liaisons to many organizations including to the Chamber of Commerce, but more outreach is needed. As a candidate who wants to protect what’s best in Bellingham, I recognize the many resources, jobs, and livable salaries, as well as skills, knowledge, and expertise that the business community contributes to making Bellingham the best city in the county. As a proven leader and consensus builder on every board on which I’ve served over the last 20 years, I will work tirelessly to bridge communication gaps between City Hall and all citizen groups, including business. We need to listen and then to work together to build consensus solutions wherever and whenever possible. Only by working together will we be able to keep our drinking water source safe, ensure responsible growth, and make fiscally responsible choices to guarantee that we protect what’s best in Bellingham.