Create Solutions for Affordable Housing
Bellingham’s housing costs have risen faster than incomes for many years. More people have lost the dream of home ownership or even cannot afford Bellingham’s skyrocketing rents. As a City Council member I will support a broad, collaborative, creative approach to help solve our housing crisis.
My skills as a financial planner will be an asset to the City Council as we work collaboratively with banks, developers, and our own city government to find new funding mechanisms. We must position ourselves with state and federal partners to ensure Bellingham is well-situated to obtain grants and other funding for housing. I will seek input from all stakeholders – city staff, the development community, neighborhoods, citizens, state and federal housing partners – to identify promising creative approaches.
We must do more to reduce the cost of living in Bellingham. Can the city help to reduce transportation costs, for example, by spearheading an effort for employers to work with Whatcom Transportation Authority (WTA) to realize transportation cost savings for lower income households? Other cities have implemented great ideas that we should explore.
Implement Effective Responses to Homelessness
The only way to tackle this tough challenge is to work together. Part of my motivation to run for office is the disappointment in how a shared desire to solve homelessness has divided neighbors. The confrontations this past year at City Hall and in our parks solved nothing. It polarized our community. I am not the candidate who supported the takeover of public spaces to protest housing issues.
I am the candidate who believes working with all groups to address this critical crisis will move us closer to real solutions: affordable housing, comprehensive access to mental health and drug treatment, vocational training, and creating more living wage jobs.
Temporary band-aids will not heal the wound of homelessness; we must think broadly and address the root causes. While we do this work, we must recognize the safety concerns that unmanaged encampments can create and work instead to connect individuals to our already existing social services through the Opportunity Council, Lighthouse Mission, DSHS and the Whatcom County Health Department. Through these managed services we can move people into housing and personal stability, while providing our front-line public safety personnel the resources they need to better manage crisis situations.
The problem is daunting, but Bellingham is an amazing community. Working together, we will move forward.
Reimagine Bellingham’s Public Safety
The past few years have brought eye-opening experiences for much of the country, provoked by too many incidents of mistreatment and tragic deaths of people of color at the hands of police. This has resulted in justified outrage and push-back all across the country. As a Black man raised in Brooklyn my awareness about racism came early. I know how prejudice and systemic racism work.
I can also attest that as a 40-year Bellingham resident I have seen our local police do their jobs with integrity. I have known multiple police chiefs who kept an open door to me, heard my experiences, and acted on that information to improve how our local police handle situations and treat Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC).
Yes, greater change is needed; but I do not support defunding our police. Rather, I vow as a member of City Council to ensure our police and fire department personnel have the funding, tools, and training to respond quickly and effectively. It is time to reimagine public safety in our community. I advocate for:
- Transparency. Ensure the use of body cameras at all times.
- Increased accountability. Establish a citizen-led oversight panel with police membership.
- Triage calls. Provide more effective response to calls. De-escalate situations with mental abuse counselors and social workers added to the response team. Where it is safe to do so, have these non-uniformed responders lead the initial response.
- Enhance training. Increase de-escalation training and provide expanded cultural awareness.
Continued Leadership on Environmental Issues
As a student at Western Washington University in the early to mid-1980s, I led an effort to begin a recycling program on campus. I am proud to say this evolved into a citywide program, led by former City Council member Louise Bjornson and others. Small steps can make a difference in our long-term goals, and even a small city like Bellingham can do its part in the war against the Climate Emergency.
Bellingham signed on to the Cities for Climate Protection Campaign in 2005, adopting goals to meet reduced greenhouse gas emission targets in 2012, 2020, 2030 and 2050. By consistent commitment to working toward these goals, we significantly exceeded the 2012 targets for both municipal and community reductions and nearly met the 2020 goals. I pledge to reinvigorate our commitment to these goals. The creation of the city’s Climate and Energy manager position in 2020 brings the needed focus to climate issues for the city. A commitment of progress is a must.
Protecting the health, safety and future of the Lake Whatcom Watershed (LWW) – drinking water source for 100,000 people – is a priority. Management of the LWW in partnership with Whatcom County, the Lake Whatcom Water & Sewer District, and others will help to ensure that our grandchildren will enjoy the same quality tap water we take for granted today.
Continued stewardship of the natural resources we manage within the city are necessary. Our parks and open spaces are critical to provide wildlife habitat as well as safe places for all of us to recreate. Our leadership in recycling and other green efforts must continue with the participation of everyone.
Russ wants to hear your concerns. Contact Russ, today, and share with him. Email Russ at email@example.com
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Russell J. Whidbee Election Committee
PO Box 345, Bellingham, WA 98277