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“Just Show Up”–A Letter to the Whatcom County Council

There are a lot of items that come before the Whatcom County Council every month, every week and every day.  All of these issues do affect us, whether it is in some form of regulatory tax, or restrictions placed upon our properties.

This quote exemplifies why it is time for all good people to “Just Show Up!”

Edmund Burke“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Edmund Burke

Since I am unable to show-up at this Tuesday’s Council Meeting; I wrote to each Council Member and the County Executive, personally.  In most cases you will receive a response from one or more of the Council Members and the Executive.  The response you receive from them may not be to your liking, but it is a good thing to have the opportunity to comment and dialogue with them on a semi-personal level.  In a perfect world we could all have personal one-on-one meetings with all of our political representatives, but that’s not realistic in today’s busy world.

I have found that our local County Council members are very open to meeting with us, whenever it is physically possible.  For this I thank each and everyone of them, and all politician’s who do so.  It is the responsibility of our elected representatives to represent us.  All of us.  Especially the most vulnerable and even the silent majority.  The postings below are recent communiqués from myself and others, to local Council and Administrative members.  This is merely one of the ways that policy is  developed and formed.  Along this train of thought I wish to share with you two great quotes that exemplify what I am attempting to communicate here are:

I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights.   ~ Desmond Tutu

Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.  ~ Pericles (495 BC-429 BC)

~ Kris Halterman


A recent email letter I sent to the Council and Executive:

Dear Whatcom County Council Members;

At this Tuesday’s committee and evening public meeting you will be asked to address some important items.  Some of these items are critical to the long term economical and physical health of the most vulnerable in Whatcom County, Bellingham and some that may not be critical decisions, but do require you to place your fiduciary responsibilities to the tax payers above ideological principles.

The first issue I wish to address is the request for $300K from Whatcom County Council, in support the construction and placement of a 42 unit facility for the homeless, mentally ill and drug addicted within the downtown, entertainment core area of Bellingham businesses.  It may appear to be superficial and selfish to ask that you deny funds to the most vulnerable among us, but that is what tough decisions are about.  Every day we must weigh choices to take the path of least resistance, or take the path that in the end will achieve the desired result(s) for the intended.  If your desired result is to be cost and time effective, to make it easier for CCS and staff to have access to their tenants, then by all means do not stand in the way of this project.  But, I have known many people who suffer from mental weaknesses, be they organic or drug induced, they are all rooted in obsessive behaviors.  Please ask yourself to stand in the shoes of the victims.  If you struggled with a severe weakness towards a sweet tooth, would you choose to live next door to Chocolate Necessities?  If you struggled with a severe addiction to gambling, would you choose to live next door to a gambling casino?  If you suffer from mental illness or drug addiction, you should not live next door to your obsession or environments that magnify paranoia.

My second issue is the proposed AIS water craft permits.  It is very apparent to me that you are being heavily pressured by the County Executive, through promises made to the COB Mayor and the COB Council.  COB Council is on record that they do not care and do not desire for any motorized water craft to be on Lake Whatcom.  Before you sentence the County to this program and you know that their objective is not truly AIS prevention, then leverage yourselves to have this action applied and enforced equally.  If the COB’s goal was sincere, they would have required that “all” water craft be inspected and permitted.  Since the most mobile water craft holds the greatest risk to “infect” Whatcom County water bodies, and since the COB is exempting these forms of water craft, their actions need to be questioned.  If you move this act forward, I would suggest that a fair pre-requisite would be; to require that the COB Council amend their AIS permitting to require that “all” water craft are required to purchase a permit and be inspected.  The reason that I ask this of you is because “constitutionally” all laws and regulations are supposed to be applied equally.  If the COB Council sincerely want to guard against AIS, there are effective and economical ways to do it that do not require you to regulate motorized water craft off the lake, but each of you already know this.

Lastly, I ask that you refrain from spending “one-more-dime” (or your precious time) on the Lake Whatcom Reconveyance until all of the challenges to this action have been addressed.  You are the legislative body of Whatcom County and you have been entrusted to spend the public’s largesse as if it were coming from your own pockets.  The $73.5K embedded in Agenda Bill 2013-142, may seem like chump-change with the millions of dollars you approve and disapprove every day, but the tax payers depend on this Council to watch over and spend every penny wisely.  As many of you know, the $1.5M is no longer in the Parks Facilities Fund and that fund is projected to be in a deficit position by 2014.  The public trust is yours to squander, but I am asking that you have patience and let the legal system play out, before you spend any more tax dollars on the Lake Whatcom Reconveyance.

It is with regret that I will be unable to attend this Tuesday’s meeting to address these issues in person, but that does not lessen my ardent faith in you to do the right thing for all the people you represent.

Respectfully,

Kris Halterman

Whatcom County


Response from Council Member Ken Mann:

Kris – as always, thanks for your input. Please excuse my brevity here, but I am typing one handed on a tablet.

1) CHS – I don’t plan to fund that one. I have opposed it all along (see my article in Business Pulse) for even more reasons than you mention.

2) AIS – I don’t share your skepticism about COB sincerity. They might be happy to get boats off the lake for any justification as you have said, but this AIS is a legitimate threat. The code might need some improvement, but the direction is ok with me.

3) Reconveyance – if we held up County business every time a frivolous, misguided, or flawed challenge came along, we would never, ever get anything done. I won’t be following that recommendation.

Ken

Ken Mann

Whatcom County Councilmember

(360) 676-6690 (office)

(360) 483-6020 (mobile)

kmann@co.whatcom.wa.us

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ken-Mann-Whatcom/77546362394


Letter from Council Member Barbara Brenner in response to Whatcom Council Executive Director Jan Bodily:

From: BBGUN1010@aol.com
To: Jan.Bodily@whatcomcounseling.org
CC: NHanson@co.whatcom.wa.us, council@co.whatcom.wa.us
Sent: 4/20/2013 5:37:36 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time
Subject: Re: feedback for public hearing regarding Cornwall Housing Project

Jan,

Thank you for sharing your comments regarding a proposed project to assist people with issues of homelessness, mental health, and substance abuse. While I support the project, I am not in favor of the location.

I attended most, if not all the informational meetings and heard numerous people comment that a location for people with special needs right in an entertainment area is not in the best interest of future tenants, even though it may be in the interest of providers. In that context I heard a number of people say that, because it is valuable property for businesses, they believed CHS could sell the property and at least break even on purchasing a better location.

I have no financial interests in the downtown core so I can speak without any bias in that regard. However, there was a comment in your e-mail that did concern me. You stated,  “It is my hope that your interests as council members include the needs and concerns for all the members of the county, including the mentally ill.” Our council has proved itself over and over in our concern for the mentally ill. I am sure you didn’t mean it to sound that way, but your comment implied that if we don’t agree with you we don’t care about the mentally ill. As someone who is bi-polar and ADHD I am happy to put my credentials up against any provider in my concern for the mentally ill. In my younger days I lived in many types of public housing for people with special needs. Once I lived right in the middle of a busy city in the noisiest area. I loved it because I am an insomniac so the noise didn’t bother me as it did many of my neighbors. I loved it because I could get drugs any time. In hindsight, that experience only slowed my recovery from drugs and the stabilization of my mental illness.

I also lived in a quieter area that was soothing and definitely improved my condition. It was much easier at that location to calm down and better focus on stabilizing. There are plenty of other places in and near downtown that are not right in the entertainment district, areas with very easy access to excellent services.

This project will be very expensive and forever. Adding the problems connected with putting it in an entertainment area will cause the costs to escalate on an ongoing basis, money that would be better spent on the tenants’ care. CHS stated that they would have lease agreements that would allow them to terminate rentals if residents can’t adapt to the entertainment district. I don’t believe that is humane for the many fragile residents who would have a difficult time adapting to that area. I also don’t think it creates the feeling of trust that many future tenants so desperately need. CHS stated they will have security but adequate security, if they can even afford it, will not provide a soothing atmosphere for future tenants, many of whom are already afraid of those who police areas.

My hope is that CHS can take a step back on this and realize location is everything, specifically regarding what is in future tenants best interests, not simply what is most convenient for some providers.

Barbara Brenner, Whatcom County Council Member

If this e-mail is about county business, it is a public record subject to public disclosure upon request. Please send all e-mails related to county business to my official county e-mail address, bbrenner@co.whatcom.wa.us. Thank you.

In a message dated 4/19/2013 1:02:02 P.M. Pacific Daylight Time, BBrenner@co.whatcom.wa.us writes:

[From Whatcom County BBrenner E-Mail] —–Original Message—–
Date: Fri, 19 Apr 2013 13:01:46 -0700
From: “Council Council” <Council@co.whatcom.wa.us>
To: “Barbara Brenner” <BBrenner@co.whatcom.wa.us>,     “Bill Knutzen” <bknutzen@co.whatcom.wa.us>,     “Carl Weimer” <CWeimer@co.whatcom.wa.us>,     “Kathy Kershner” <kkershne@co.whatcom.wa.us>,     “Ken Mann” <kmann@co.whatcom.wa.us>,     “Pete Kremen” <PKremen@co.whatcom.wa.us>,     “Sam Crawford” <SCrawfor@co.whatcom.wa.us>

Subject: Fwd.: feedback for public hearing regarding Cornwall Housing     Project
Please note:  Emails are public records subject to public disclosure upon request.
—–Original Message—–
From: “Bodily, Jan” <Jan.Bodily@whatcomcounseling.org>
To: “council@co.whatcom.wa.us” <council@co.whatcom.wa.us>
Subject: feedback for public hearing regarding Cornwall Housing Project
Date: Fri, 19 Apr 2013 19:01:06 +0000

Dear County Council Members,

I appreciate the opportunity to provide feedback about the Catholic Community Services Cornwall Supported Housing Project, on the 4/23/13 meeting agenda. I understand this is a controversial and somewhat difficult decision for some.  As CEO for Whatcom Counseling I wholeheartedly support the project and hope to help increase the Council’s understanding of how this project is an asset to the community and downtown area, and encourage your support.

An aspect quite different with this consideration, from some others on the agenda, is that the issue of the mentally ill will remain along with the consequent difficulties the community.  We will continue to have mentally ill members in our community, and it is in all our best interests to provide the programs and supports that minimize individual and community difficulties.  When the needs of the mentally ill community members are unattended, the difficulties that ensue impact many of us.

Our mental health system provides for hospitalization and various out-patient treatment programs.  The gap between these two is filled, in part, with supported housing.  Many of the mentally ill need help in order to live independently, remain stable and out of the hospitals.  Without the stability which supported housing provides, costs increase for hospitalization, incarceration in county jails, related crimes in the community and social consequences.  The supported housing facilities/programs add value to the quality of life for those with mental illness, reduced related community costs and create a more cohesive community.

Multiple community services are needed for those who live in supported housing.  Most of these needed services are located in the downtown Bellingham area.  Locating a supported housing facility in the downtown area increases the likelihood of the residents accessing, using and following through with necessary services provided in this area.  Travel is a significant obstacle to accessing and using services that help to keep community members with mental illness stable and a contributor to the community’s well-being.  Locating a supported housing facility in an area where associated services are not easily accessible decreases its effectiveness in its goal, in community stability and in reducing cost shifting.

I like to remember the teaching from the Good Samaritan story.  Consideration, support and help should not be just for a favored group, it should be for those who need it, regardless of personal status or popularity.  It is my hope that your interests as council members include the needs and concerns for all the members of the county, including the mentally ill.

With your support the Cornwall Housing Project can be a strong and successful project.   One that speaks of community commitment and working together, in an unbiased fashion, to enhance each member’s ability to be a positive and contributing community member.

Please join us in supporting the Cornwall Supported Housing Project.

Respectfully,

Jan Bodilyclip_image001

Executive Director

Whatcom Counseling

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