Election 2017 Coverage

The Point Roberts Registered Voters Association held a Candidates Forum on October 2 at the Point Roberts Community Center.

Whatcom County Council candidates, Blaine School District and Port of Bellingham commission candidates respond:

 Port of Bellingham Commission District 1 (4-year term)

 A common observation is that the Port is spending a majority of its economic development resources (money and employee time) on the Bellingham waterfront development project. How and what would you do to promote economic development in Point Roberts?

 Dan Robbins: After attending a community forum in Point Roberts I came away with the feeling that the community has projects they feel the Port could help them with – those being a lighthouse that would help with tourism and water run-off improvements. The Port should consider helping Point Roberts with these projects and others that the community feels would be of benefit.

Michael Alvarez Shepard: The Port has no property in Point Roberts. However, we can work with the county to build the lighthouse that has been proposed for Lighthouse Marine Park. We should have a lighthouse in a park called Lighthouse Marine Park! Since the Port has significant property in Blaine, more of my economic development ideas relate to Blaine specifically. I’d like to see the Blaine Amtrak stop re-opened to service Lower Mainland and Whatcom County travelers. The Port could do more for facilities and infrastructure at Blaine Harbor. Boat and marine trades occupancy in the harbor is down and needs investment.


Port of Bellingham Commission District 2 (4-year term)

 A common observation is that the Port is spending a majority of its economic development resources (money and employee time) on the Bellingham waterfront development project. How and what would you do to promote economic development in Point Roberts?

Barry Wenger: One of the major problems I think the port should work to solve is transportation between Point Roberts and Blaine. I think that a public boat launch in Point Roberts linked to landing areas in Blaine or Birch Bay could potentially be a major economic asset. The Port should be focused on county-wide economic development, especially where it comes to facilitating more effective transportation options.

Ken Bell: It would start with hiring a full time economic development director. I would focus his attention on all the tools we have in our toolbox. We should have a directed and focused approach on the assets in Blaine and we need to sell those assets to prospective users. I am committed to economic development in this county and it will be my sole focus over the next 4 years. We have been set back because most in the people in the economic development process have brake pedals when it comes to economic development. Its time for someone to push down the gas pedal!


Whatcom County Council at-large Position A

 If elected, what are your priorities for Point Roberts?

Mary Kay Robinson: I would continue to support the Point Roberts Character Plan. Retaining the unique character and historic nature of Point Roberts is key to creating a vibrant and attractive city. To encourage businesses to locate in Point Roberts, I would look at the fee structure for commercial building permits. Anything we can do to densify the commercial area will provide walk-ability to stores, shops and restaurants will increase foot traffic and thus increase sales and economic development.

 Barry Buchanan: I want to find county funds to go along with the $500,000 gift to build the lighthouse in Lighthouse Marine Park in Point Roberts. We need to work things out with Whatcom County parks to find a way to build this important project.


Blaine School Board, Director position 5

 What inspired you to run for school board?

 Laura McKinney: I am passionate about preparing our young people for the best possible future. My husband Jim and I have five children. Their future is extremely important to us.

We lived in many places while Jim served in the U.S. Army. We experienced many different school systems and teaching philosophies. Since returning to Blaine three years ago, I have become involved in our schools – interacting with the principals and volunteering on the district fiscal committee.

Before returning to Blaine, I was part of an education transformation initiative for South Carolina. The initiative, TransformSC, has supported successful new approaches to education working with educators, policy makers and businesses. I want to share my experiences and bring a new perspective to the district. As a community, we need to work together to prepare our students for their future.

 Mike Dodd: When I first ran for school board, it had a lot to do with giving back to the school community, and that has remained one of my primary reasons for being a board member since then. Having grown up in Blaine, our family was always involved in community and school activities and I am interested in continuing that service to the school community.


What makes you the right person for the position?

 Mike Dodd: I enjoy working with the people on the board, administrators and staff to provide students with the best educational opportunities available, while staying within the financial resources and the procedures required under state law.

I am a lifelong resident, attending Blaine schools and operating a business in Blaine for many years, which gives me knowledge of the area. This helps me listen to others and gather information before making decisions. It has been my pleasure to have been involved in making the school community one to be proud of, from facilities to staff, with the goal of doing what’s best for kids.


Laura McKinney: I have served as a U.S. diplomat, the executive director for an economic development organization (the South Carolina Council on Competitiveness) and I currently work as the northwest government affairs and public relations director for Alcoa. I serve as a board member for the Whatcom Business Alliance (WBA) and am the co-chair of the WBA Youth Engagement Initiative.

I am also a parent, with children in Blaine elementary, middle and high schools this year. I have a vested interest in making sure our schools are helping each student reach their potential. I want to build a bridge between parents, businesses and our community to help our students achieve success.


What are your priorities if elected?

 Laura McKinney: I want to ensure our students graduate career-, college- and citizenship-ready and advocate for efficient and effective use of resources and connect our community to our schools. I would like for us to be leaders in thinking outside the box to address individual student needs. We live in exciting times with access to new technologies and new approaches to learning. I want to make sure that we are taking advantage of all available resources.

Mike Dodd: My first priority is to keep the school district operating in the best way, doing all we can as to what’s best for kids, given the structure and guidelines that have to be followed. Also, it is important that we keep the campus safe, friendly and a caring community, as we provide staff with the materials and equipment to help students succeed in the classroom.


What do you think the school district does well and what could it do better?

 Mike Dodd: Blaine school district works extremely hard at being a good community partner, working with our constituents to provide facilities, not only for school use, but also for community use, such as the Performing Arts Center, gyms, and athletic fields. The caring and dedicated staff works to provide a quality education to all of the students in the district. The district administration and staff are always looking for ways to improve and inspire student learning and productivity in the classroom.

 Laura McKinney: The district works hard to serve our students. They are a dedicated and caring group of professionals, but have a difficult job balancing student needs with local, state and federal requirements.

Education can and should be relevant and engaging for our students. If we put student needs first and focus on developing each student to reach their potential, we can continue to improve our schools and our community.


The New Jail – Yes or No

Yes by Gene Knutson

Some people say that we are putting the cart before the horse by asking voters to vote on a jail tax before we know both how big the jail should be and what the county’s approach to mental health and drug addiction issues should be. Do you agree or disagree? If you are a proponent, please tell us why voters should approve this measure.

Our county jail is a disaster that needs to be replaced. Building a new jail has been kicked down the road to the place we are in now. The jail proposal on the ballot needs to pass or we will see a major problem for many years. All the cities and the county agreed with this plan. It is good for Bellingham, all the cities and the county.

If it does not pass we will see millions and millions of dollars go to renovating the old jail. We will see people being sent to jails in Yakima or Skagit County. Some people think Ferndale is far away but Yakima and Skagit are much farther away. We were close last time but with all the cities and county on board we can make it this time.

The plan is better and we need it now more than ever.


No by Dan McShane

We agree. Voters should say ‘no’ to this tax just as we said ‘no’ in 2015. This new tax uses 100 percent of our public safety tax capacity for 30 years for a new jail. The new Skagit jail cost $48-million, or $120,000 per bed. This jail will cost $250,000 per bed – one of the most expensive jails ever built in the U.S.

Recently a county report wrote “any attempt to ease overcrowding by building a new facility will not address the underlying causes of population growth, and the new facility will quickly become overcrowded.”

Sixty-two percent of people in jail are there for low-level offenses; 59 percent of people in jail haven’t been convicted and many sit in jail because they can’t make bail. We can reduce the number of people in jail and improve community safety if we invest in effective incarceration reduction programs such as mental health, drug and reentry programs.

Make no mistake: this is an expensive jail tax. Whatcom County wants $6.7 million a year for 30 years for a total of $202 million for this jail – for a jail just 11 percent larger than the existing jail. An engineering report to the county stated the existing jail “is structurally sound and in fair to good condition.” It can be upgraded and maintained for a total cost of $34 million.

This tax will not adequately fund treatment programs. Let’s figure out how to fund treatment and diversion so that our jail is not filled with the mentally ill or low-risk inmates who can’t afford bail; the proposed 36 mental health beds in a jail is not an effective mental health program.

Whatcom Democrats and others urge you to say no to this latest jail tax. This new tax is for a large, expensive jail. Vote no on this massive tax.

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