In my role on Council, I will advocate to diversify the spectrum of affordability, providing options for all types of housing available in Ferndale. Building near and around existing infrastructure will increase downtown density and drive businesses to meet the growing demands of residents. The City needs to be mindful of the sprawl of development as it will place a greater demand on required services like police, EMS, water and sewer and other utilities. Over half our Ferndale renters are overburdened, paying more than 30% of their income toward rent. When we have a population that spend less on meeting their basic needs like housing, they will be able to spend more locally. Our community is also an aging population on fixed incomes, so providing affordable and scalable options is important for their vitality.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE & SEXUAL ASSAULT
Because of my history and experience fighting the commercial sexual exploitation of minors, I have had the opportunity to understand larger issues of domestic violence and sexual assault that affect not only the marginalized communities, but everyday citizens as well. I was awarded the Kathleen Marshall Award in 2014, in recognition of outstanding service and dedication in addressing domestic violence and sexual assault. I have served closely in many capacities with the DV Commission as well as DVSAS. In May 2019, I was invited to participate in the year-long, Restorative Justice Learning Series, sponsored by the DV Commission and the Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center. My hope is that this series will help inform the way I engage with the community and provide a broader perspective on social justice issues.
I support sustainable and responsible growth that makes Ferndale more than a stop off the freeway. Revitalizing a vibrant historic downtown and business district will provide opportunities to increase population density in the city center, offering a greater spectrum of affordable housing options; while also addressing a plan that creates a walkable, historic destination for residents and visitors alike. As the Program Director at the Ferndale Chamber of Commerce, I am aligned with the needs and aspirations of downtown merchants, and will continue to advocate for them. I have been meeting with WWU’s Center for Economic & Business Development on how to aggregate pertinent data to support development and seek grants. Additionally, I have met with the Port of Bellingham’s Economic Development Project Manager to discuss pathways for bringing more business and manufacturing to Ferndale.
To simplify the goals of economic development, I believe they are two-fold: 1) to increase access to wealth for more people, and 2) increase the tax base in order to provide a higher quality of life for the community. The trick is how the collaborative “we” get there. It requires a cohesive strategy built around how we do this and neither of these are things we can do in a vacuum. This is why it’s critical to strengthen and build relationships with the major stakeholders: businesses, developers, city planners, residents, consumers and the economic experts who study trends and patterns.
In my role at the Chamber as well as the personal research and conversations that I’m having with the Port of Bellingham and the Center for Business and Economic Development, I’m learning that before we build a long term plan we need to define what Ferndale wants to be. As I dig deeper into this issue, I see that there are two important aspects that need to be explored and defined, which revolve around income. The two types of income we want direct attention on developing: first, export income, which are goods that are shipped out for consumption in excess of local demand. Example: there is a finite number of people in Ferndale that will purchase insoles from Superfeet, so they export the excess to the world market, and the profit is then returned to the original local market, Ferndale. The second type of income we need to focus on is primary income. This is where we focus on our local offerings and attractions, which will drive consumers/visitors to Ferndale to spend money locally. Thinking about this aspect of primary income, it begs the question, “What does Ferndale want to be?” Are we the bedroom community of Bellingham, or will we develop a strategic approach to defining the unique aspects of the Ferndale community. This is a very exciting time to be able to be part of this shaping process for the future of the community.
I am committed to the collaborative effort with the major stakeholders that will define our future together.
The Pacific Northwest is one of the most beautiful places on earth. When considering all that we have become as a country, a state and a town, we need to recognize that this land provided the resources for our success. Which is why I feel it is very important that we acknowledge that the land we live on historically belongs to the Coastal Salish Tribes, who were the first stewards and recognize and honor the First Nations who came before us. Respecting and safeguarding protected lands and waterways, I will pursue the guidance and input of the local tribes: Lummi and Nooksack. I will foster relationships with organizations that focus on the protection of the environment and surrounding ecosystems and ask them to help inform how Ferndale can grow proactively and responsibly. In addition, relationships with members of heavy industry and light manufacturing in Ferndale and Whatcom County, provides an additional understanding and knowledge that can and will be helpful as we collaborate on how we steward our environment. I will work to ensure that they are consistently meeting environmental requirements and challenge them to excel and raise their standards. I will continue to facilitate greater connections and steward relationships between industry and environmental interests.
People experiencing homelessness or at risk for homelessness is a serious issue across the country, in Seattle and Bellingham as well. The Whatcom County Point in Time Count attempts to capture a number of those experiencing homelessness on one day in the year. The the majority of this population reside near services, which almost all are in Bellingham, I have seen an anecdotal increase of people living unsheltered in Ferndale. As the Youth Engagement Manager at Northwest Youth Services, where I ran the Street Outreach Program and concurrently, the Queer Youth Project, my experience provided me the insight to many of the root causes of homelessness for youth. Adult chronic homelessness and issues of poverty that put people at risk are topics I'm keenly aware of and seek to address. Ending homelessness is a goal that has been on the Whatcom County and Bellingham agenda for some time. While employed at NWYS, I participated in the Homeless Coalition led by the Opportunity Council and learned a great deal about how to align appropriate services that include mental and behavioral health and substance abuse. The Ferndale City Council’s new established North Whatcom Poverty Task Force is a step in the right direction and though it is in its infancy, I’m excited to see where it leads Ferndale in addressing this issue of critical importance.
The issue of water in Ferndale is a complex topic and in an attempt to understand and provide clarity, I have been in conversations with the Public Works Director to gain a wider perspective and learn of the larger goals for providing service and utility to residents. I will support Public Works in continuing to plan for a future informed by Ferndale citizens. My goal in moving forward is to ensure that the City provides accurate and clear communication. Because as we continue to grow and develop as a city, we’ll need to keep water on the forefront of our comprehensive plan, so that we won’t be in a situation like today.
I am confident the City is taking the proactive steps necessary to plan for the future water needs of Ferndale. The City of Ferndale’s 2016 Water System Plan (found on their website) was written when our water sources were two functioning wells, that drew a combined 1800 gallons per minute (GPM), however one of them now draws less than 200 GPM, and the other is greatly reduced. This leaves little to no system redundancy and results in a “peak demand” issue during the months of July and August. With the discovery of the new deep aquifer that is four-times older than the regional aquifer that the City currently draws from, they have found a new and source of water. Before being able to bring this new supply online, the City has to establish water rights through the Department of Ecology, and the community will be learning of an outcome in the fall.
TREATMENT - Reverse Osmosis
The City once drew 100% of their water from the river through the Public Utility District, or PUD. The PUD established that industry was drawing a greater demand than residents and rates were then being adjusted and raised consistently across the board. At the same time, the Health Department required the City to treat all 100% of drinking water; whereas before the PUD was treating a portion of it, and it was finished in Ferndale before going out for consumption. This solidified the case for moving solely to the well system. When the City switched to well water, they found that water that had elevated levels of manganese and hardness. It was in direct response to the water hardness that the current reverse osmosis treatment system was installed. There are three reverse osmosis units present with two systems in operation at about 50% and there are two more systems to come online to treat all 100% in the near future.
TREATMENT - Wastewater
As of 2016, when the population of Ferndale was just over 13,000 people, the Wastewater Plant hit 85% of permit loading limits twice in one year. According to the 2016 Wastewater Facilities Plan, “with the projected population growth and subsequent increase in influent flows, the existing wastewater treatment process will require significant upgrades to meet anticipated water quality standards.” Plainly, we are in need of some serious infrastructure updates. Most people are skeptical on just how the City will pay for such an upgrade. If elected I will ensure that the Council will exhaust all alternative avenues to offsetting the cost to the citizen, as best as possible.
Obviously, the cost to the consumer is on the mind of almost every resident of Ferndale. How will we pay for the water treatment as well as the new Waste Treatment Plant (WWTP)? Presently, the City has looked into several funding options to help offset the cost of the project, which include: $1 million from state legislature, and a low interest loan for up to 50% of the cost and the remainder being passed down to the consumer. As stated earlier, I will work with the Council on investigating the viability of more options to reduce cost to the consumer. Keeping in mind that the water portion of your utility bill is not the largest part of the bill, it is wastewater, will always be more expensive to treat. The City of Ferndale offers a 25% reduction on rates to customers who are currently a part of the Whatcom County’s Property Tax Exemption Program, as well as those who qualify based on Annual Household Income. If need be, I am absolutely willing to help individuals apply for these reductions, by completing forms with individuals.
What I would want to see is an equitable approach to addressing the water rates. The City has issued a rate study that will conclude in the late fall and the hope is to be able to draw conclusions on all the different factors that affect usage, and then create a new rate structure. From what I am led to believe, it will most likely be a complete shift in how users are charged. I will fight for a rate structure that will will be more consistently reliable so families and businesses can plan more successfully as they are preparing their annual budgets.
Many have wondered how all this new development will effect the capacity for water for the City? According to the Public Works Director, the City has hook-ups for close to 6,000 homes, and there are roughly 150 houses that are scheduled to come on line in the next couple years, which is a small percentage of demand. In order for the City to continue with a positive growth trajectory, they will need to secure the water rights of the deep level aquifer. If that proves challenging, the City will need to consider alternative access by drilling additional wells into the current aquifer. This won’t be a long term strategy, but it would increase the short to midterm supply. I will continue to have conversations with community members and challenge stakeholders to find more viable longterm solutions.