I want to provide new leadership on the County Council to resolve current water resource issues. This affects fish, farms, and families. In order for residential development, farm production, and other commercial activities to move forward we must have greater certainty about water availability than currently exists.
We need a new vision and fresh leadership for how to move forward on this issue. Other watershed areas of the state, such as Walla Walla, Yakima, and Dungeness on the Olympic Peninsula, have faced a similar situation and have made progress in resolving watershed issues.
Some relief from Olympia may be needed as well, such as revisiting the “use it or lose it” water rights policy related to trading of water rights or water exchanges. Some interim regulatory flexibility, as was done in the Walla Walla case, may also help resolve some issues.
We can do the same in Whatcom County. We need a locally crafted solution, not one imposed by Olympia. If we work together, a solution is possible.
Anyone who works full time should not struggle financially. Yet, almost 40% of Whatcom County families live in or near poverty. Lack of family wage jobs is a critical issue throughout the county, and we need better strategies to create higher wage jobs, so housing and childcare is more affordable.
We need to bring more of the recent strong job growth across Washington State to Whatcom County. Better partnerships between the Port of Bellingham and Whatcom County’s economic development team will help. Many others groups such as regional and local chambers of commerce, organized labor, businesses from the agricultural, heavy and light industry, manufacturing, technology, and others should focus like a laser on creating high wage jobs.
These groups have had some success but a lot more can be done. Better collaboration is needed between the Port and Whatcom County with workforce development organizations and high school, community college, and 4-year college programs to target creating jobs in high wage professions.
Whatcom County can partner with organized labor to strengthen apprenticeships, paid internships, and more job training or retraining in high wage labor trades and other professions.
In addition, near term, we need for significantly more funding for educational and job training programs that emphasize science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) as well as more job training for high wage jobs in fields such as robotics, artificial intelligence, computer technology and software engineering.
Our current criminal justice system needs reform. Currently, too many people are in jail that don’t need to be. Obviously, public safety requires violent and other offenders be locked up. But many in jail are there only because they can’t afford bail or need mental health or drug treatment.
I’ve met with the Whatcom County Prosecutor Eric Richey, Sheriff Bill Elfo, and Whatcom County Council member Barry Buchanan to discuss the status of the existing jail and incarceration reduction strategies. The framework announced for criminal justice reform recently by Council member Buchanan is a positive first step in siting a new smaller sized jail in Bellingham and expanding funding for mental health and drug treatment and other diversion programs, thus reducing the number of needed jail beds.
I’m concerned, however, that the pace of this is not fast enough to help those who can’t get better in jail. I will propose significantly expanding Whatcom County’s Mental Health and Drug Court’s to divert more of those in jail into treatment; review bail policies and eliminate bail for low-level offenses; and scale up home monitoring for those arrested in lieu of jail for certain offenses. Other options for reducing the jail population include a sobering center in lieu of jail for those arrested for DUI or intoxication and implementing a pretrial risk assessment to determine who best can be released on their own or with home monitoring.
I also recently toured the jail with Sheriff Elfo. The jail, built in the 1980’s, does not have a smoke evacuation system installed so a recent mock fire drill, if it were real, might have resulted in significant smoke inhalation for those working or incarcerated in the jail. This could have had dire consequences. Also, there is very limited space for treatment or other rooms needed for inmates to meet with counselors or other staff. A new, smaller, facility is desperately needed, and soon.
I recently toured 2 raspberry farms and a packing plant in Lynden, Berry farms in Whatcom County face many challenges including other countries dumping berry products in the US, labor issues, pest management, uncertainty over water, and other factors.
Actions are needed at all levels of government to ensure this industry-essential to Whatcom County's economy-- can thrive and be passed onto future generations. Reform of the H2A program for foreign guest workers, a federal trade investigation into Mexico dumping raspberry products in the US, and resolution on Nooksack Watershed issues ASAP, will all help sustain and grow this vital industry in Whatcom County.
Thanks to WA Red Raspberries, Whatcom Family Farmers, Randy Honcoop Farm, Rader Farms, and Mayberry Packing for hosting the event.
The Cordata neighborhood is expected to grow dramatically in the next decade. I was excited to attend the recent dedication Cordata Park which will be a tremendous community asset for children, families and neighbors of all ages! Other improvements I would advocate for as your Whatcom County Council member District 4 is a Whatcom County Library and U.S. Post Office serving the Cordata neighborhood.
Cherry Point has some of the highest wage jobs in Whatcom County. They are an essential part of Whatcom County's economy and provide many benefits to the community.
At the same time, the energy industry is changing. Demand for oil is forecast to decline within 10 years, and clean energy jobs are the future. Cherry Point workers should not be left behind. We need the skills of the talented men and women who work at Cherry Point to build a new energy economy. They can help us do that.
Preserving these very important high wage jobs now, and in 10, 20, 30, or 40 years demands planning for that future right now.
People once traveled by horse and buggy. We lit our homes with whale oil. We don't do that anymore. We need to innovate in the same way we have in the past. That's what creates good jobs--innovation, new ideas, people power.
Americans have always embraced progress and innovation and we should not shirk from this challenge. We can grow our economy and protect the environment with high wage clean energy jobs and transition to those jobs over time.
I'm encouraged by Phillips 66 plans to develop a renewable diesel plant at Cherry Point creating an additional 200 jobs. They need to provide details to some important questions, but the initial conversations suggest a project that could have broad community support.
As I understand the current moratorium, it principally relates to preventing crude exports. I support refining oil here as it creates many more jobs than simply loading a tanker and having that oil refined elsewhere.
At the same time, the County’s comprehensive plan currently under review, should properly balance land use, environmental protections, and public safety, if refinery capacity is expanded. I support refinery expansion subject to those provisions.
As your county Council Representative, I will fight for policies that ensure that the refineries can easily get the permits that they need for health and safety process improvements. And I will work to make sure that the permitting process protects the community from unnecessary impacts in a way that is fair and transparent so that they these companies can continue to have a healthy relationship with Whatcom County.