Over the years, Bellingham has been a leader in the plight of our unhoused population
and increasing the stock of affordable housing. In 1990, a “Blue Ribbon Task Force”
made up of housing advocates, social service representatives, local government, and
business leaders set forth plans to improve housing stock. In 2008 the Coalition to End
Homelessness implemented the new 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness, accomplishing
substantial reductions in homelessness the very next year. This early success came from
adopting new supportive housing practices that coordinated all local housing provider’s
services and invested in new financial resources. Housing activists led the successful and
innovative passage of the Home Fund, twice creating a local funding source that helps
leverage other private and public housing funds. More recently, the passage of House Bill
1590 allowed Bellingham to enhance the Home Fund, providing increased opportunities
for affordable housing.
There is still work to be done to increase affordable housing in Bellingham. The
pandemic has only exacerbated this problem. Current data shows that about 50% of our
local population pays more than 30% of their income on rent or mortgage payments. A
larger percentage of residents’ income to cover basic housing not only affects their
quality of life but also leaves them potentially facing the real possibility of losing their
I strongly believe that Bellingham will continue its commitment to finding solutions that
address the complex issues affecting unhoused individuals and devote the necessary
resources to continually help in solving the problem. In addition to emergency shelter to
address immediate needs, we must continue to support and grow programs that prevent
losing a home and contribute to affordable housing development. Bellingham’s
Consolidated Plan and Whatcom County’s Strategic Plan to end Homelessness are good
road maps to these solutions.
If elected to the Bellingham City Council, I will support policies and efforts that build
upon the foundation that already has been established in providing affordable housing
options such as the Homeless Outreach Team and the GRACE program. I am committed
to advancing creative, innovative solutions that will move people into a continuum
towards stable affordable housing.
1. The Role of Policing
Over the years the role of policing has grown from traditional law enforcement to
becoming a primary conduit for social and health services to members of our
community experiencing drug abuse and mental health issues. With 70% of local
911 calls now being for social and health service issues, that new role has expanded
and has been added to the burdens of our police.
Under the limitations that are placed on us as a City government, it is imperative that
we be creative and come up with solutions that will address the needs of our most
vulnerable citizens. We cannot continue to fail those who are most in need and we
require the right people and tools for the job so that those needs are met. Programs
like GRACE funded from a partnership of the City, Care providers, and Whatcom
County to address the needs of frequent users of Emergency Room and EMS
resources and the LEAD jail diversion program with the Whatcom County
Prosecutor’s office are significant steps in the right direction. Still, they need further
development and expansion as many progressive cities are now doing.
Funding decisions regarding the police cannot be made arbitrarily. The City of
Bellingham needs a feasibility study to understand what the needs are and who can
best do the job. Only then can we insure the best outcomes for the community.
Bellingham’s current budget presented by the Mayor took a step in the right direction
by allocating some funds from the police department due to staff attrition to assist in
funding for some social and health services.
The City’s future budgeting effort partnering with Whatcom County and other
agencies should continue to support and develop alternative programs that provide
appropriate responses for people in crisis
2. Police Accountability
The Bellingham Police Department has worked to build better relationships with all
sectors of our community and endeavored to avoid the pitfalls that have surfaced in other
cities. Bellingham, however, is not totally immune to the effects of institutional racism
and other issues.
The essential core principles of policing are preventing crime, having low arrest rates,
and most importantly, earning public support. If all parts of our community trust and
support the police, all residents share the responsibility of preventing crime.
To earn public support, the police must respect community principles by hiring officers
who reflect and represent the diversity of our community, enforce the laws impartially,
prioritize de-escalation tactics, and use deadly force only as a last resort.
When community trust is eroded in the Police Department, community members need to
examine why and support the necessary changes to ensure the organization that continues
to reflect the values of our community and provides the appropriate policing services that
the community requires.
While we have enjoyed good community policing, no community can ignore the national
conversation that has followed the murder of George Floyd, and many other youth of
color across the country. Understanding and eliminating the subtle role of any implicit
racism in our own policing benefits us all. We are a community that is quite safe. Our
goal must be a city where anyone, no matter their ethnicity, will feel comfortable and
There is a commission being developed by Bellingham and Whatcom County to address
racial equity issues, a big step in the right direction that I strongly support. Considering
events that have surfaced in other cities and concerns raised by people of color and others
here in Bellingham, I believe we should be proactive in seeking other opportunities to
help to solidify police-community relations. This would ensure that we have the best
means to resolve any policing-community issues and help prevent what has happened in
other major cities across our country from developing in our community.