2012-2013 Priorities from City Council

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• In Bellingham,

I attended the special work session of the city council on Monday morning (February 27th) during which the members reviewed their priorities list (draft) for 2012-13. (Click here to read the agenda item with the priorities list.) The beginning of the meeting was notable for the fact that after the council had been discussing how to go about the business of the meeting (while at times referring to city “staff,”) Mayor Linville, who was in attendance, spoke up. She emphasized that it was not city “staff” about whom the council should be speaking or referring, but about the “mayor” who actually runs the city staff. That did not mean the council should have no communication with “staff,” but that all requests for the “staff” to perform for the council will go through the “mayor” and be prioritized or otherwise discussed. This was not a confrontational exchange at all but a clarification of the manner in which business was to be conducted. Everyone in the room seemed to be quite “pleased” that the mayor made her declaration.

As for the priorities list, I will not belabor all the points made on the 34 items except to say, in general, that the council narrowed the list by eliminating some points and consolidating others. Mark Gardner was to redraft the paper based on council comments. That being said, I would like to point out two discussion areas of particular note.

As for the specific legacy, Sense of Place (items 15-21), Jack Weiss said there was no genuine overall infill strategy as to where, what products, etc., and that was the reason he placed the tool kit and “financial barriers” to land use on the list. He wanted to arrive at an overall policy to provide incentives for infill and discourage density elsewhere. Focus should be on certain areas of town and city economic centers, and downtown planning. All agreed the items under Sense of Place should be consolidated, with specific strategies listed as sub-points. Somebody joked about the 16 screen Cineplex at Barkley, to which there was some tittering agreement and acknowledgment that Barkley was not an urban village but a commercial center and a car magnet. Not mentioned, but probably also on their minds, were the two large developments, Padden Creek (492 units) and King Mountain (over 3,000 units) on the edges of town – and probably also the old DOT site in Sunnyland.

The Legacy of Equity and Social Justice housing standards (rental licensing/enforcement – their words not mine) was presented by Jack Weiss. He wanted to put action on licensing forward again by making it something “acceptable.” Mayor Linville said there should be agreement beforehand with alternatives that would work. She indicated she and Jack Weiss had been speaking about the issue and she had some ideas. There was agreement that any plan would have to be “revenue neutral.” I know what the term means in general, but I am not so sure I know what they mean by it as it applies in this instance. Neither gave any further details.

Also mentioned at the very end of the meeting was the possibility of conducting a review of the charters (or lack thereof) for the various commissions and advisory boards. It appears some people are not happy with the current and apparently ad hoc setup.

About Dick Conoboy

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Member since Jan 26, 2008

Dick Conoboy is a recovering civilian federal worker and military officer who was offered and accepted an all-expense paid, one year trip to Vietnam in 1968. He is a former Army [...]

Comments by Readers

Ham Hayes

Mar 11, 2012

Thanks Dick!  Any sign that Mayor Linville has established her “imprint”, values and priorities on city government yet?

Item 29, IT Master Plan was interesting.  It looks as if the city has not developed an IT Master Plan.  That’s amazing and scary in this day and age, given our total dependence on valid information in our society. 

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Dick Conoboy

Mar 12, 2012

It appears that the new Mayor has moved out on a number of fronts.  I got the following summary from an attendee at a recent Sehome neighborhood meeting:

1.  Two challenges facing the city:  1) budgets (capital budget in pretty good shape; operating, not so good); and 2) getting city council to “re-center” on a mayoral type govt, essentially a cultural shift

2.  No more guard booth upon entering city hall

3.  Kelli is hiring an “info specialist” and an admin assist for her office

4.  She has visited city work sites, instituted dept head mtgs every Monday, still working on shaking every city employee’s hand

5.  Has instituted a “book club” for dept heads.  Currently reading Great By Choice

6.  Has reogranized the Ex Br—Bellingham does not have a city manager type govt but a mayor who is responsible for staff

7.  Agenda for MNAC will include other items, not just Planning agenda

Questions from attendees:

8.  Coal:  Kelli believes that the community wide initiative will be found “untenable”, but certainly the city council can pass a resolution

9.  Community gardens:  Pea-patches are on her list to talk to Planning

10.  Safety:  Public safety is #1 responsibility of City; we need police presence and community policing

11.  Rental licensing: Kelli is working wtih Jack to develop a solution to fix the problem and come up with a revised plan from the one initially proposed.  It sounded like she was supporting an initial permit (she didn’t refer to it as a license) to be granted to a landlord with an initial inspection of the property.  The system would be complaint driven. Consequence for not taking care of property means that permit would be revoked.  New point:  Kelli said that Steve Swan had indicated that WWU students could complain to a WWU office for action, the WWU office in turn would work with city.

I think her comments at the beginning of this council work planning meeting speak for themselves.  She is in charge.

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