The time has come to elect our new leaders
All together now: This time I’m going to vote.
The primary election in August was a bit of a disappointment. While it was predicted that 40 percent of local voters were going to turn out to pick who would go on to the general election, only 30 percent actually mailed in their ballots.
What does this mean for our local politics? Plenty. When it comes to local elections, one vote really does make a difference. Less than 200 votes separated mayoral front runners Dan Pike and Dan McShane in the primary. Out of a city of 75,000, that means only a few of us are making the decisions for the entire city.
Ballots for the general election have been mailed now, and if you still haven’t decided whom to vote for, there is now plenty of information out there on all of the candidates. There continues to be forums this month, including a Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce forum, co-sponsored by the BBJ, from 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Oct. 17 at the Bellingham Golf and Country Club. The first debate will feature Whatcom County Executive Pete Kremen and his opponent, Lois Garlick. The second will feature the two Bellingham mayoral candidates.
Debates such as these provide us with the chance to see the candidates in action: How do they face up to the hard questions? How do they differ? What are their attitudes and opinions?
But it doesn’t matter how well they do if voters don’t bother to mail in their ballots. I’m most likely preaching to the choir here, but don’t let others make this important decision for you.
— Vanessa Blackburn
One more try at fixing the permit process
In this month’s issue, you’ll find a story about the city planning department’s efforts to (again) revamp its permitting process. While this may be good news for anyone who has ever applied for a building permit in this town, experienced developers will most likely have, at best, a "wait and see" attitude.
Like his predecessor, Jorge Vega, current planning director Tim Stewart came to the job knowing that the permit process needed to be fixed. And like Vega, he has come up with a plan that seems to make sense and might — just might — fix the problem.
Unfortunately, we just went through this. A few years ago, Vega’s department announced that their shiny new permit center was going to fix all the problems. It was a "one stop shop" for permitting. The reality is it didn’t cut down on the confusion, the lack of coordination or the permit application times as the department was hoping.
Stewart’s new proposal is based on having a single contact person, in the form of a project manager, work directly with applicants. This program manager will be in charge of coordinating all the various city departments that check off on an application and getting updates and corrections from the applicant.
All we can do is hope that this time it will work. Like the folks at the BIA, however, we’re at best cautiously optimistic that it will change anything. Until the city code is updated, it may be that many of the problems won’t simply go away with the addition of new project managers.
And once we get a new mayor, it may just change all over again.
As I said, we’re not holding our breath.
by Rik Dalvit