On Oct. 20, mayoral incumbent Dan Pike and former state representative Kelli Linville debated in the Performing Arts Center in front of students and community members.
The debate was hosted by the Associated Students Representation and Engagement Programs, and was moderated by state Democratic Rep. Kristine Lytton and Mario Orallo-Molinaro, the AS vice president for activities. The debate featured a round of prepared questions from the moderators, an opportunity for candidates to ask questions of each other and a round for audience members to ask candidates questions directly.
The debate replayed on KUGS and KVIK the next day, Oct. 21.
Remy Levin, AS elections coordinator, organized the debate and also helped students register to vote through Western Votes, a student-run organization that seeks to increase campus interest in politics. Levin said he encouraged students to register to vote in Bellingham while they attend school, because local decisions affect them.
Levin said that local elections affect residents directly. When the initiative to fund Sunday bus service failed two years ago, students felt the effects immediately, Levin said.
“I use the buses on Sundays, and many other students do, too,” Levin said. “Local issues like the Cherry Point terminal are going to get decided by the local officials that are elected. Those can make a huge difference to living here.”
To vote on the local issues, you must be registered in Whatcom County. The deadline to register in person is Oct. 31, according to the Whatcom County Auditor’s website.
Kelli Linville, a lifetime Bellingham resident, previously worked as the state representative from the 42nd district. The district comprises the northern half of Bellingham. Lynden, Blaine and Ferndale also belong to the district.
The district is unique because both Democrat and Republican candidates have very strong backings with constituents, meaning the district is evenly split with conservative and liberal ideologies, AS Vice President for Governmental Affairs Iris Maute-Gibson said.
“So it’s a very tumultuous district,” Maute-Gibson said. “[Linville] played the role of legislature for 17 years in the middle of a district that disagreed a lot on [partisan political] issues.”
Dan Pike, the current mayor, attended Western’s Huxley College and graduated in 1994. After pursuing a master’s degree at Harvard, he returned to Bellingham and lived in the area for 25 years. If re-elected, Pike will serve his second term as mayor.
SSA Marine, a Seattle-based terminal-operating company, has proposed to build a bulk comodity shipping terminal at Cherry Point, located just north of Bellingham. SSA Marine hopes to use Cherry Point primarily to export coal to China and other Asian countries.
If Cherry Point proceeds, the train activity and increased noise will detrimentally impact waterfront properties, Levin said. He said the coal dust from train shipments to the potential terminal can cause environmental problems as well.
Maute-Gibson said that even though the Cherry Point issue will ultimately be decided upon by the county council and not the mayor of Bellingham, it is important for the mayor to maintain a good relationship with the county and represent Bellingham’s view of Cherry Point.
Linville does not support the Cherry Point coal terminal, arguing that we should not use a nonrenewable energy resource. She does support a multi-purpose pier that does not include coal, Linville said. That way, the pier stimulates the Bellingham area economy but does not include the negative aspects exporting coal, Linville said.
Pike’s campaign platform focuses on the Cherry Point issue, because he believes that the exporting of coal from Cherry Point would be detrimental to local area.
“[The Cherry Point Coal Terminal] is not just an environmental disaster,” Pike said in the debate. “It threatens our salmon fisheries, it would affect us cleaning up our waterfront in a time and cost efficient manner.”
Last year, the AS worked with the Mayor’s Neighborhood Advisory Council to address issues surrounding rentals in the Bellingham area.
Maute-Gibson said owners of rental homes near Western do not necessarily live in Bellingham, so the houses are more likely to be poorly maintained. If passed, the rental license would function like a business license where people wishing to rent their property would pay to obtain a license. The licensing process would include inspections to ensure landlords maintain rentals that are not over capacity, Maute-Gibson said.
Linville supports rental licensing and said that larger rental companies are not the ones who have homes with violations. She thinks that the city needs to be more aggressive in ensuring suitable housing for students and creating an on-campus outlet for students to report housing violations, she said.
Pike does not support creating a rental licensing program, fearing that it would shrink the rental market and limit housing available to students, he said. He encourages students to contact the city if their housing is not up to code. He advocated an inspection program on big property management companies before private owners, Pike said.
Georgia Pacific Waterfront
The Port of Bellingham purchased the Georgia Pacific Mill, located on Bellingham’s waterfront in 2005. The Port of Bellingham bought the site for an extremely low price, Maute-Gibson said. After buying the Georgia Pacific site, the Port released a plan to clean up the polluted area. After the cleanup, the area may be turned into a mixed-use area with shopping, residential and recreational areas, Maute-Gibson said.
Western wants an area of the site for new buildings and land for Huxley.
The Port stalled the project for a few years, and it does not appear that it will start again soon, Maute-Gibson said.
The Georgia Pacific site project’s delay is due to the Port and city’s vision for the site, Pike said. After this disagreement, the Port began the process of planning a site closer to the city’s view, Pike said.
“I’ve just gone through a process of talking to thousands of people for my campaign, and I believe I was right,” Pike said. “The city’s idea of the site is what the citizens want.”
Pike plans to use federal funds toward the waterfront redevelopment project within the next 18 months.
Linville said that if elected, she hopes to move forward on the Georgia Pacific site redevelopment. Twenty-five million dollars in federal funds were secured for the project, but they will not be available for use in 18 months, Linville said.
She plans to use the area for open area and light industrial use because she fears water rising and earthquake hazards, Linville said.
“We need to move forward on the waterfront because that is an opportunity for us to create jobs,” Linville said.