As president of the Bellingham City Council in 2017, I am proud to report that the Council has worked together to accomplish many things – big and small, ordinary and unusual – for our community.
The year began with a new commitment to communicating with the public, and to improving access to information. This came together in July when the Council approved its first-ever Communications Plan. The Plan defines our goals and methods, and includes a focus on webpages and social media to reach a wider audience through newer channels. The Council has always prized transparency and public accessibility; now we are embracing technology to ensure a wider reach, especially in this era of reduced local news coverage.
The year 2017 also saw the Council take a deeper dive into issues, particularly in the areas of housing and justice. The Planning Committee hosted a series of discussions and presentations from experts on housing affordability, equity in housing, renter protections, and expanded housing choice. These conversations pivoted around the Council’s first-ever Town Hall on Housing Affordability in June. The Council also voted to create a new standing committee on Justice. Led this year by Councilmember Barker, the new committee has been reviewing all aspects of the City’s law enforcement, prosecution, and court system with an eye on better outcomes for public safety and reduced incarceration.
The Council responded to national issues that have local impacts. Reacting to the negative tone and often divisive actions in the “other Washington,” Councilmembers Bornemann and Hammill championed a Resolution Affirming the Safety of All People Residing in Bellingham, which states that our city embraces and is inclusive of each other, regardless of immigration status or minority identity; that we will continue to advocate for gender equality and equal respect; and that Black Lives Matter. Bellingham joined hundreds of other cities across the country in rejecting federal pressure to require local police, or resources, to act as federal immigration enforcement agents in any manner. Similarly, the Council endorsed Councilmember Murphy’s Resolution Affirming Support for the DACA Immigrant Program for young Dreamers.
After years of planning, 2017 saw the first major steps to redevelopment of the Waterfront District, with millions committed to two major streets and the first phase of parks along the Whatcom waterway. At the same time, two local businesses expanded significantly and relocated to the Waterfront, signaling new economic optimism.
Early in the year saw a new community event called Family Council Day, brought forward by Councilmember Hammill. This community event invited everyone, and especially the young, into their City Hall. It was fantastic to see children speaking to us from the podium. The middle of the year saw the memorable adoption of the Bellingham Flag, due in no small part to the enthusiasm of Councilmember Vargas. The end of the year saw an equally uplifting event: the surprise (to him!) celebration of Councilmember Knutson’s 25th Anniversary on the City Council. I personally thanked Gene for serving as an example to all of us called to public service.
It’s an honor to serve the community you love. Thank you.