Safe and Healthy Growth / Economy / Jobs

SUPPORTING LOCAL BUSINESSES

While supporting our current agricultural areas, educational institutions, and businesses, we can seek industries that will provide the types of jobs we wish to bring into our county. If we leave development to chance, we run the risk of losing the quality of life we value. Collaborating with local governments, businesses, and community organizations, we can work together to guide Whatcom County’s growth to provide living-wage jobs for ourselves and future generations.

Recently the Whatcom County Council voted to establish the Business and Advisory Committee to create a climate where “new businesses are encouraged to start and existing businesses recognize the value of remaining and expanding, creating jobs, and increasing resources for all members of the community.” As a Council Member, I will listen and seek advice from this committee to learn what we can do as a community to support current businesses and attract innovative new businesses to our county.

COUNTYWIDE BROADBAND

Last month, I attended the Port of Bellingham Work Study Session on Broadband and talked directly with port commissioners about how the Port, the Public Utilities District (PUD), and Whatcom County Council can use our Economic Development Investment (EDI) Program to bring fast, reliable broadband to the entire county. (This fits directly with the goals of the EDI Programhttp://www.co.whatcom.wa.us/1020/Economic-Development-Investment-Program)

The Port of Bellingham is currently researching the purchase of a 20-year lease for the Indefeasible Right of Use (IRU) of 2 strands of fiber optic with infrastructure that is already under our railway system and along the I-5 corridor. 

Currently in Whatcom County, we only have two main service providers. Skagit County has increased broadband throughout their county, and they now have about 10 providers, more competition that allows for better rates for residents

By working together with the Port of Bellingham and the PUD, Whatcom County Council can help provide fast, reliable service throughout the entire county. For areas that currently do not have service or unreliable service, the county can string the cables along existing utility poles, thus saving valuable resources and time. Service providers will be responsible for the hookup. This will let farmers use the latest technology and permit more residents to start and maintain businesses by allowing streaming, education, teleconferences, and e-commerce.

Safe and Healthy Environment

CLEAN ENERGY

We can work together with individuals, businesses, community organizations and government agencies to set our priorities and plan growth with the goal of a carbon-negative economy as our basis. Educating our community on long-term environmental and economic benefits is crucial.

To move to decarbonized County operations, all future county government buildings should be built with a Platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification and consider incorporating solar power.  When purchasing new county vehicles and maintenance equipment, we can seek to purchase the most environmentally-friendly and most durable.

WATER

Water is our county’s most valuable commodity. We need to protect Lake Whatcom as the drinking water source for over 100,000 county residents, prevent pollution in our streams, rivers and bays, and assure an adequate water supply for environmental, agricultural, industrial, and residential needs.

As our population increases and more industry develops, there will be increased pressure on our water supply. Currently, this issue is being dealt with at the state level. We need to keep enough water flow in our streams and rivers year round in order to support wildlife and a healthy environment. As a Council, we must look to the Washington State Department of Ecology’s instream flows (the water rights for rivers) and the order of law for making crucial decisions on how to allocate water.

Tribal stakeholders have senior water rights. Washington follows the “first time, first in right” doctrine meaning that whoever had water rights first gets the first allocations of water when water is scarce. As a County Council, we must work together with the leaders of the Lummi and Nooksack Nations, farmers, and developers to discuss water flow models and ways to help each other conserve and protect our most valuable resource.

Lake Whatcom is the water supply for Bellingham and part of the county. Whatcom County and the City of Bellingham are partnering to protect this vital resource, and I will support measures for improving the water quality of Lake Whatcom. The protection plan includes public education, stormwater management, and land use and develop regulations. The Lake Whatcom Homeowner Incentive Program (HIP) provides incentives to homeowners to minimize storm runoff. The City and County also partner to purchase and preserve land around the lake with the Lake Whatcom Watershed Land Acquisition Program.

Safe and Healthy Community

WHATCOM COUNTY JAIL

The people of Whatcom County value treatment over incarceration.

I have toured the current jail, attended the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee Listening Tour, talked with the County Executive and the Sheriff, and interviewed a member of the Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Task Force.

Before I will support the building of a new jail, these conditions should be met:

·         Adopt a risk assessment tool so we are making data-driven decisions about who should be booked into jail. A risk assessment tool removes the racial bias factor and allows for a fair assessment of the risk the individual may be to the community.

·         Establish a Pretrial Services Unit. This program includes phone calls to remind clients about court dates and appointments, tests for drug use, guides people to services for treatment, and offers support to the individual. This is a diversion program so drug offenders are not booked into jail.

·         Design a new facility with at least 20% of the beds designated for treatment of mental health and substance abuse offenders.

·         Design a new facility to include at least 1,000 square feet dedicated to educational opportunities for the incarcerated. The classroom area can be scheduled for every hour of the day, facilitated for free by Goodwill Industries, Whatcom Literacy Council, churches, and other volunteers. In the current facility, a tiny classroom is only available after hours because it is used for client/attorney meetings during working hours.

·         Design a new facility that would include quiet, private, individual rooms for intake questions and counseling services

I support the efforts of the Whatcom County Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Task Force. Since 62% of incarcerations are non-felony charges and most involve warrants, alternative measures can be taken without risk to our community.

One area that is not directly addressed in the Task Force’s recommendations is misdemeanor sex crimes. Research shows that the effect of both felony and misdemeanor sex crimes have substantial impacts on the victims and society (social, occupational, quality of life: Journal of Trauma Stress 2010). Therefore, I would support the policy that people charged with misdemeanor sex crimes are not eligible for alternative sentencing and should go through the same process as those who have committed felonies.

INDIVIDUALS EXPERIENCE HOMELESSNESS

As a community, we must first focus on the findings of the Whatcom County Coalition to End Homelessness 2017 Annual Report https://www.whatcomhsc.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/FINAL-Whatcom-2017-homeless-count-report_07252017.pdf  Once we focus on the most common paths to homelessness, we can identify and implement physical and psychological solutions before an individual is living on the street.

Next, we need to find a suitable location for a shelter or camp. If we start by educating the homeowners and renters in the direct vicinity of the proposed locations and give them people to contact if they feel unsafe or encounter any problems, this would allow people involved, we can find a solution.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING

Many Whatcom County families are having difficulty finding affordable housing. We need to provide solutions for making and keeping housing affordable throughout our county. As a Council member, I will support the creative, well-planned-out, fiscally responsible, visionary programs the community brings to the table.

Programs that I currently see helping with housing affordability are:

·         Whatcom Housing Authority’s Tax-Exempt Bonds and/or the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program and Tenant-Based Housing Choice Voucher (HCV)

·         Supporting Kulshan Community Land Trust and other affordable homeownership programs that offer options for building and purchasing housing in our communities.

To help ease the effects of urban sprawl, we need to increase the Purchase and

Transfer of Development Rights programs. This will allow developers closer to our

urban areas to purchase the rights to subdivide while protecting our vast forests and

farmland.

 

Safe and Healthy Outdoor Recreation

Whatcom County’s public lands and recreational opportunities are an important part for our economy, health, and community.  According to the Economic Contribution of Outdoor Recreation to Whatcom County Report, recreation provides an economic contribution of $585 million annually. The more land we preserve now, the more we can maintain the beauty and natural resources before growth and development make the purchase of larger natural areas impossible. Finding creative ways to fund and purchase parkland will help our community, economy, and maintain beautiful outdoor opportunities.