The title of this piece was intentionally chosen from the words spoken by Bellingham City Council President, Michael Lilliquist, at the beginning of the Bellingham City Council’s August 14th, 2017 evening council meeting.
As the City of Bellingham and Whatcom County struggle with many important issues why has the Bellingham City Council and the Mayor of Bellingham focused on Captain George Pickett? These are mere historical signs which label the history and benefits brought to Bellingham by Captain George Pickett. Are the Council-members and the Mayor truly concerned about the Pickett sign, or are they manufacturing an issue for the 2017 election?
Top of the heap of real issues in Bellingham and Whatcom County is homelessness, a lack of affordable single family housing, and legal access to water to build single family homes in rural Whatcom County. Yet, the Bellingham City Council has focused itself on issues like the Pickett’s and even now are contemplating the sale of a large quantity of the City’s water rights for a new commercial development at the Slater Rd., proposed by the Lummi Nation. The City to its credit did ask for an economic analysis to be done by Dr. Hart Hodges of WWU. The focus of the study was, “What are the likely impacts to the economy of Bellingham if they sell access to Bellingham city water to the Lummi Nation, for their Slater Road development project?” The study found that the City would potentially lose millions in sales tax and business and occupation taxes. This study did not encompass how the sale of water rights would impact local property values and property taxes. These are huge warning signs and taken alone should be a no-go for approval at this time.Ltr from Mayor to Lummi Nation WWU Study for COB
Back to the issues that Whatcom County and the City of Bellingham need to address immediately. Will these things improve access to affordable housing and homelessness? Will these issues restore private-well owners access to water? Will it retain existing local businesses? Does it draw new businesses to the Bellingham / Whatcom County area? Does it address the Supreme Courts demands for the County to deal with water quantity and quality issues that threaten the existence and future of our farming and agriculture industries here?
It’s time for Whatcom County and the City of Bellingham to take on the real issues and why these failures are occurring. Are they a failure to plan or planning to fail? Rather than taking on issues like the Pickett Bridge sign and Captain Pickett, and before selling off public water rights, is it not time for the City of Bellingham and Whatcom County to work for real solutions that are a win-win for everyone rather than giveaways that are short-sighted and fail to fix these top issues? If Whatcom County and the City of Bellingham strive to live up to the words Liberty and Justice for All, it is incumbent that they resolve today’s issues that are huge barriers to the lives of people who desire to Live – Work – and Play in this wonderful Northwest gem called Home.
~ Kris Halterman