Homeless folks and their advocates from Camp 210 (the Lottie Street address of city hall), finally spoke clearly and without apology to Mayor Fleetwood and the Bellingham City Council last night, Monday, Jan 25. In an epic Zoom meeting, Hannah Stone, president of the council, never lost her cool as she calmly called one speaker after the next, who each told the council and mayor how badly the city was screwing up the homeless situation.
I’m an old white guy, and was texting with another old white guy as we watched the meeting. We both mostly agreed with the points the speakers were making. Although we did not know their ages, and couldn’t see their faces (why not, city I.T.?), the voices were those of educated people in their 20s. Well spoken, coherent sentences, facts and criticisms well worded. My point in mentioning that the speakers seemed young is merely to let readers know there is no dismissing the comments last night by saying they were just a rabble of kids. They were well spoken and they knew the facts as they existed outside City Hall.
Some early commenters slipped in a “fuck” or “asshole” and their microphones were cut off by the clerk - seemed a silly thing to do. Eventually, speakers turned it into a game, inserting more erudite obscenities into their closing sentences, where being cut off was no longer a threat. Elder council members were outraged; Knutson and Vargas in particular. Pinky spoke after Gene and seemed to be trying to escalate the indignation, “out outrage” him. Not a chance. Had either been wearing a pearl necklace, they would have been clutching it. They were so infuriated by the unimportant obscenities, it was obvious they could not hear what the speakers were actually telling them. One council member expressed regret that young students may be watching as part of homework assignments. It was kind of funny; middle school students not only know all the phrases used last night, they use them themselves, regularly. I expect when the video of last night’s meeting is posted online today, all the colorful language will be bleeped out. Too bad, as the comments were reinforced by everything the speakers said.
A repeated complaint from officials at City Hall was that these young speakers could not be bothered to sit through council meetings to learn how much City Hall has been doing for homelessness, and thus, were speaking from ignorance. In my experience of over 40 years of frustrated experiences speaking to City Council, that accusation is empty. Last night’s speakers knew the situation on-the-ground with the homeless campers; they knew of the unannounced and brutal police sweeps; they were aware of the secrecy and lack of transparency by the City on this issue; and they were well versed in the lack of response from the council, mayor, and department managers in spite of years of polite pleading that we actually take homelessness seriously.
Yet City Council has a long history of dissimulation: Back in the day, they couldn’t accuse me of not knowing the details of an issue, so they found other excuses. We are currently witnessing similar treatment of Jon Humphrey, whom the entire city hall is trying hard to ignore. He is an expert. Telling speakers they are not informed is disingenuous, at best.
So my compliments to the speakers. I urge you to not back down. Having been an activist for decades, I will share what gets results. In my 40s, I spoke politely to council and they would pat me on the head and tell me what a fine citizen I was, and how well I spoke. And then they would totally ignore what I’d said. By my late 40s I switched, and spoke harshly to the council. Then they cut me off and chastised me for being rude and angry - sort of like last night. But that’s when I got results! So, speakers from last night, continue to be direct to the council. Let them have it.
After the comment period closed, Mayor Seth Fleetwood gave a rambling commentary where he apparently tried to convince himself that the comments were all off-target, and that he and City Hall were doing great work. Seth looked like he was trying to wash ideas from his brain; like he couldn’t reconcile what he’d heard with his version of reality. He looked like he desperately wanted to return to his normal touchy-feely realm. It was a perfect snapshot of the cognitive dissonance between City Hall’s biggest concern, which is its image, and its actual willingness to help its citizens.
So thank you, young speakers from last night, you have positively impressed. You have given the council and the mayor a wake up call and they ignore it to their future regret. Thank you for telling city hall the facts and pointing out that they are not doing their jobs of taking care of the homeless. To have an impact, you need to stay engaged. City Hall is counting on not ever seeing most of you again. City Hall wants to sit tight for a couple weeks until the storm passes and then go back to the old routine of local government by PR. Bellingham is more of a Token Town than an environmental or liberal or progressive town. Lots of press releases and a lot of administrative time and expense spent to get absurd “awards” - but little concern for doing things right.
I was first contracted as a consultant for the city in 1980 to advise on waterfront redevelopment and saw first hand how horribly City Hall operated and how much taxpayer money was wantonly and knowlingly wasted. Just wasted. I was appalled. In the 40 years since, I have been a very active citizen and, with others, we have stopped City Hall and WWU from some neighborhood wrecking schemes. Yes, you can beat city hall. I was the first to raise the alarm in 1996 that the Chuckanut Forest was going to be bulldozed and have several tall apartment buildings constructed - and we have through over 20 years of effort helped save this natural treasure. I am, in closing, a white male, with a college degree, living in Bellingham since 1967 and am in the last weeks of being 79 years old. Other older folks might benefit from watching the video of the council meeting. I’ll post the link below this article after city hall has edited the video and bowdlerized it.
Comments by Readers
Lisa E. PappJan 27, 2021
Thank you, John, for your many years of community activism and education and for your honesty. Especially with Mayor Fleetwood choosing to continue with the same staff from Kelli Linville’s administration, I really don’t have much faith that Bellingham will make meaningful progress solving various issues including homelessness and broadband.
Satpal SidhuJan 27, 2021
Dear John and your readers,
While I appreciate your coverage of the City Council meeting and showcasing how these young citizens knew the conditions outside the city hall, implying the Council members did not. That is not a fact. This homelessness is not a making of policies or workings of the local city (including small cities) or the county. This has been the result of macro-economic policies at the highest levels of our government. It is the result of half a century of mis-placed priorities by both Democrats and Republicans. So, when it comes to the instant solution demanded by citizens (especially younger ones, who are starting their life journey in America) the only people in front of them are local elected officials to vent. This will take time, there are no instant solutions to homelessness and behaviorial health remediations services. I am not trying to make an excuse but showcasing the reality of the situation. This is a regional, state, and national issue not a Bellingham’s issue to solve.
As far as the situation outside the City hall, it has been a more of “protest” than an attempt to find a “solution”. Many of the advocates (collective) are thinking of this as “us vs them” rather than working together to find reasonable solution. These solutions may require small but effective steps at a time. The Mayor and I have been working collaboratively with the “advocates group”, who want all or nothing. Even the ALL they want has no clarity. I have heard arguments like, if you give someone a motel voucher, then that person must be guaranteed a tiny house when the person leaves the motel, or something like City / County shall have 1100 tiny homes placed before “we leave” camp 210. This ownership of “we leave” the camp 210 is more of a threat than an amicable dialogue. It smacks of using the plight of these needy citizens as a negotiation tool. Their first priority is not to get them to a warm place!
We all know that homelessness cannot be solved in 60-90 days and demands like “everyone should get a tiny home” under 60 days are impractical. After 3 months of dialogue with the collective, they have not been able to show their ability to manage a camp of 25 tiny homes. We as government went through the same proceeding with HomesNow two years ago. Today they have learned and earned the credibility of an organizational commitment and dedication to their mission. Talk is cheap!
The County and City Council members, Mayor and I are always open to dialogue and finding reasonable solutions rather than “demands of protesters”. They have hurt the very cause and the very people, who they are trying to advocate for, by inviting outside extremists to bring violence and vandalism to our community.
Whatcom County Executive
Gene KnutsonJan 27, 2021
Thank you for your message, well said sir.
D. CrookJan 27, 2021
The Executive’s Common Argument:
1. These problems took so long to form…decades…centuries even!
2. The people who want to solve them are being so unreasonable!
3. These problems exist in areas outside of Bellingham as well!
4. I’m an engineer!
.: Therefore: Not my problem, go away.
I’ve heard this at such a number of City and County meetings that talk about racism, housing, emergency Winter shelters…
Exec: Stop blaming the advocates at camp210 for the City and County’s failure to plan and respond this year. This perennial “emergency” is not a surprise to anyone.
The volunteers at City Hall—and lets be honest—that includes the volunteers in the neighborhoods providing hot food, the letter writers, peaceful protesters, financial supporters, et al. are there / they showed-up to fill the gap left by the City/County. It was never their job to do this—it was the City and County’s — and if you’d done it, they’d not be there. Sit with that for a moment.
You don’t get to complain about their (or any of your constituents’) critique of your job or whether they use swear words — as though they were not entitled, or hadn’t earned the right to speak to you. I mean, unless they make demands. They made demands? Oh… Oh my. Deep breaths my friend.
What you can do is acknowledge the humans in need of emergency shelter as though their lives were important; as though they were members of our community; as though they enjoy sleeping in a tent on wet ground in 25-degree weather without a fire / heat source about as much as you would.
You say “talk is cheap” in your post—I think you’ve got that right. Years and years of City and County talking about this perennial crisis.
Tim SurrattJan 27, 2021
Very nice piece! The comment on token town rings so true. Yesterday afternoon, for example, I had to follow a city truck spraying deicer on the streets for out non-existent snowfall. How else might that time and money have been spent? Homelessness is a real problem requiring real thought and attention, not building facilities to simply get them out of site. Even with the issue literally on their doorstep, our elected officials just don’t get it. Keep it up, John!
Lisa E. PappJan 27, 2021
You make some good points, Satpal, particularly about the complex issue of homelessness resulting mostly from federal government choices, policies, and funding (or defunding) of resources.
However, regarding your comment…“when it comes to the instant solution demanded by citizens”. THREE YEARS AGO during a very cold and snowy winter, concerned citizens, Homes NOW representives and volunteers, and homeless folks asked for an emergency cold weather plan with more shelter beds opened promptly. And for years before that, activists like John Servais and many others have asked for homelessness issues to be better addressed.
We’ve continued to ask, and ask, and plead, month after month and year after year, via emails, phone calls, and attending council meetings…and via protests. An “instant solution”??!! The current 210 homeless camp probably would have never happened if an Emergency Cold Weather Shelter comprehensive plan had been put togther three years ago or a year ago and if Bellingham and Whatcom had done more to create more afforable housing.
I hear and understand that some leading the Collective are not being reasonable, don’t have negotiation skills, and do not have the ability to run a tiny home camp. Homes NOW has had to prove themselves over and over and jump through many hoops to even get approval for a second location. The levels of bureaucracy and inability of the City and County to act more quickly in an Emergency is extremely frustrating.
When people are desperate, cold, wet, hungry, and in trauma, it’s difficult to expect them to be reasonable, commit to polite dialogue, and to continue to wait.
Jon HumphreyJan 27, 2021
Thanks John, this has been a problem for a long time. I think what we see here is the disconnection between government and its citizens. The city/county governments really do believe they’re doign a good job by ignoring tough issues, and ignoring their citizens, espcecially the young ones. Housing and homelessness have been a giant issue since I moved here about 10 years ago. We need public housing and a homeless shelter. Yet affordable housing is never built and homes are overvalued so property taxes can be increased on them, since our government refuses to have a more equitable tax system. This, of course, contributes to the high cost of necessities that lead to homelessness and reduces quality of life for all but the top 10%.Of course, it lines the pockets of a handful of developers that support many of our candidates and expect favors. On top of that, when push comes to shove, our government generally outsources all of its decision making. They never seem to be able to make a decision themselves, and definately not in a resonable amount of time, even during a crisis.
Here is a list of other problems our government has not dealt with, even when citizens have made thesmsleves heard. They even ignored the one that were easy to solve. Like most places in America, wealth inequality is rampant in Bellingham. Yet at least 10% of our structures sit vacant while people freeze and starve to death. So much for Fleetwood being a progressive mayor. He’d have to have replaced Linville’s staff to begin able to do that.
A recap of issues not addressed from another article:
The COB has failed our citizens in every way, especially during this pandemic. There is simply no sense of urgency. Step away from broadband for a minute and look at how they’ve never really addressed homelessness, housing, other infrastructure, really acted on the CATF recommendations (put PSE on the CATF), given our police a tank (ignoring citizens concerns about law enforcement in the wake of the George Floyd murder), placed an employee of WAVE as a voting member on the Broadband Adcisory Group while denying the same right to the PUD and Port, and more. Yet it costs more and more to live here every year. To the point, and Garrett O’Brien pointed out in his article, that average working-class people can’t afford to live here. There is no bottom to this. Having worked in Manhattan I can tell you that the upper echelon is totally fine with making a city that only the rich can live in and busing in the poor to the do the work, for no real wage, every day. Then sending them back at the end of the day so they don’t bother the wealthy. That’s the trajectory we’re on. So, so what if people are cursing during council meetings. They have a right to be angry. Toxic positivity is not the way out of this mess. Real leadership is.
Karen SteenJan 27, 2021
Thank you, Mr. Sidhu, for a circumspect, realistic response to this simplistic article. I read Mr. Servais’ article as that of a seasoned provocateur exploiting the immaturity of the “collective” and the intellectual laziness of Bellingham’s left-liberal community.
As Mr. Sidhu notes, our local and regional housing crisis is the result of decades of national policies reflected at every level of U.S. society. These policies have been progressively corrupted by corporate lobbying and campaign finance in every economic sector from banking to the military/industrial complex. These corrupted policies have now deprived most Americans of affordable housing, affordable education, affordable healthcare, and a functional public health system – especially a functional mental healthcare system that is needed by many chronically homeless people. Solutions for this historically evolved tragedy is not to destroy our community and public spaces by relenting to simplistic demands from those with little to lose or well-defended provocateurs.
Certainly, the recent collapse of the commercial real estate market offers timely options for basic housing. The more daunting problem is the lack of mental health and social services for chronically homeless people, including formal programs of community service for recipients of those services.
While many young activists are articulate about their claims and demands, they generally speak from a compartmentalized perspective informed by cherry-picked articles and podcasts from narrow online searches. Their analyses and demands usually lack historic and systemic context. Older left-liberals content themselves with complacent silence and righteous yard signs. And the rarer seasoned provocateur grandstands and presumes to speak for everyone while genuinely respecting no one.
I’m certain there are creative solutions to basic local housing needs. Real solutions won’t destroy the public commons, private property rights, nor the tax base and quality of life in Bellingham. And real solutions aren’t served by profanities, coarseness, nor abuse of elected public officials.
Beyond local housing solutions is the national context of an American democracy that is deeply flawed and in need of critical reform and upgrade. NW Washington is blessed with intelligent, mature organizations that are increasingly recognized as national leaders in democratic and policy reforms to support community welfare. The League of Women Voters, Fix Democracy First, and the Faith Action Network offer creative, real solutions for anyone with a genuine call to justice and reform work.
Jon HumphreyJan 28, 2021
Karen, what you identify as “leftist views” are known world wide as decency. Even with the “recent collapse of the commercial real estate market” as you tell a fairy tale of here, the price of all real-estate is still too high and has been for years. Also, in case you forgot, we are in the middle of a pandemic which our government has done almost nothing to respond to. So only the wealthy can capitalize on purchasing properties right now. In fact, if you use a well researched source that takes into account the needs of a family to eat well, like “Intro to Nutrition” by McGraw and Hill, the amount a family needs to earn to even break even here is a minimum of $42,500 a year. That leaves 50% of Bellinghammers poor and another 20% very close to it. SO 70% of our citizens have been taken advantage of by the top 10% who is protected by our government. Yet some of the candidates that the LVW, FDF and FAN (only really useful if you’re ultra religious) have supported don’t even belive in a minimum wage. (Ex. Sharon Shewmake) Always putting corporations and corporate ideals ahead of the average citizen.
Then there is the gigantic list of other issues our government hasn’t addressed that you entirely ignored. Here is my statement again. “Step away from broadband for a minute and look at how they’ve never really addressed homelessness, housing, other infrastructure, really acted on the CATF recommendations (put PSE on the CATF), given our police a tank (ignoring citizens concerns about law enforcement in the wake of the George Floyd murder), placed an employee of WAVE as a voting member on the Broadband Adcisory Group while denying the same right to the PUD and Port, and more.” They are corrupt. That is not a “leftist view” by every metric they have failed most of our citizens.
So John is not a “seasoned leftist provocateur” he is telling us the truth. All you’ve done here is identify yourself as someone who is disconnected and benefitting from the status quo which is unacceptable.
Further, you get down on the “young people” for “the way that they talk” and pretend that that has something to do with their level of intelligence. It does not. In “Bright Sided” the author goes over another regime that refuses to talk to people that don’t act the way that they like. It’s the government of North Korea. In fact, they don’t rule through fear as often as people think. They rule through toxic positivity, by making sure dissenting voices are never heard and the grand majority of information that is printed has a positive spin put on it. Just like the local Bellingham Herald usually does for our government. They use many of the same excuses you and our governments do to try to silence people. But they start by attacking them for the way that they speak. Here is a link to the First Amendment you might want to review. It helps prevent fascist governments from forming. https://www.history.com/topics/united-states-constitution/first-amendment
The worst rulers have alwasy demanded they be treted with respect, especailly when they’ve abused their citizens.
Karen SteenJan 28, 2021
Jon, there is nothing you’ve said here that accurately reflects or responds to the content of my post, and you extensively misquote and misidentify me. Fact is, you know nothing about me or my life work, and you haven’t fairly considered my post. Rather, you’re apparently looking for a fight and a dog whistle. You owe me an apology; until then, go argue with the man in the mirror.
Jon HumphreyJan 28, 2021
Karen, everything in my response was a reflection on your comments. I am not the one that will have trouble looking in the mirror or sleeping tonight. You are here arguing old policies, that don’t work and haven’t worked for at least a decade, along with Satpal to harm people that we could be helping. Since you brought religion into it, here is what Jesus actually says about speech, “What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.” What he is saying is that as long as the young people you vilify had good intent in their hearts, like helping the homeless, then the words they used to convey it are not important even if it offended people in power who refuse to help their fellow men. Do you think Jesus would have used the police, and their tanks, to run homeless people out tomorrow? So don’t hold your breath waiting for an apology. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one, and I won’t apologize to someone that defends a government that is letting people starve and freeze to death while lining the pockets of wealthy developers the whole time. Satpal should know better too. Yes, the federal government could do more, but there is a lot our government can be doing too. It’s time for people who call decent people, “leftist”, and vilify them to admit that they are actually the ones that don’t care about others and stop trying to take the moral high road. It’s disgusting.
John ServaisJan 28, 2021
No one owes you an apology. Indeed, my guess is you know little about me yet you were quite casual about demeaning me and imagining my motives. I did not react. While we try to not get into ad hominims here, a bit of characterizing others is often needed in order to put context to a criticism and so is acceptable. While we have never met, I did work with you a year ago via email to enable you to post an article on NWCitizen. At that time, you wrote: “It’s a privilege and pleasure to have the opportunity to work with you, Deb and Dick.” Yours was a good article and garnered complimentary comments.
We host sharp and energetic dialog here, but for you to demean others and then insist on an apology for an imagined slight is a bit absurd.
Karen SteenJan 28, 2021
John, Since when is repeatedly misquoting someone not worthy of at least an apology? And I certainly haven’t imagined Jon’s misquotes – they are all here in writing…unless they are subsequently edited. Repeated misquotes is a wholly different matter than “sharp and energetic dialogue”. I hope as a publisher you agree that in today’s polarized social climate, misquotes and baseless attributions as Jon levels at me are beyond irresponsible.
While I don’t know you personally, I know the character of your regular articles and comments here these past couple years. My original comment was about this article that is consistent with most of your articles that I’ve read.
Rather than demeaning anyone, my original post offered a well-founded critique of Bellingham political dynamics from my perspective these past couple years, and the character of your article. “Sharp and energetic” critiques are your main fare as I see it. But you (and Jon) deflect the same, not unlike the behavior you attribute to our elected officials.
I hope NWCitizen will consider evolving from “sharp and energetic dialogue” – the stuff of ivy league debate teams whose goal is to dominate and defeat - to solutions-based community information and journalism. That was the purpose of my comment on your article: to suggest an inclusive, systemic, solutions-based approach to our housing crisis. I stand by this and my earlier posts.
Dianne FosterJan 29, 2021
As an old leftist activist and Marxist, I see the shenanigans at City Hall as a bunch of hooligans who want to destroy our society, end the social contract. To have a collapse, as in the Soviet Union, rather than an evolution away from capitalism, would leave us with nothing - no way to negotiate nuclear arms agreements or regulate banks. I’ve fought with police in the past, and worked with Karen in Seattle to end redlining and the war machine. I recognize these kind of provacateurs when I see them - they used to infiltrate SDS and the Black Panthers; they are not leftists. No real leftist would harass the Bellingham Herald photographers from taking pics of the event, unless they had something to hide.
The real criminals are Hammer Properities, who is about to tear down old neighborhoods like New Whatcom on Billy Frank Jr. street, and put up stick apartments that are not affordable for college students. Let’s stop that crime right now. Jon, you are right about the COB employees being from the old guard, such as the Hearing examiner who jost denied the appeal from York neighborhood to stop the teardowns. They are corporate-driven, like Dems such as Sharon Shewmake, for whom I have no respect.
Dianne FosterJan 29, 2021
Oh, and I almost forgot - we need more subsidized public housing like the old Aloha Motel around the corner from my house. It will be lovely and provide permanently affordable housing, not like vulture capitalist Hammer for students. Let’s get BHA to build more - there are dozens of empty lots north of the Re-Store.
Karen SteenJan 29, 2021
Thank goodness for Dianne’s posts that bring balance and a high level of personal and political integrity to this thread. Dianne’s lifelong work demonstrates disciplined left activism based on an historic class analysis and focused on solutions and social evolution, rather than divisive rhetoric and hate-mongering that now characterize both sides of the political spectrum. Carry on, Dianne.
Tip JohnsonJan 29, 2021
I write a bit about contentious local issues and, like other writers on NWCitizen, I try to avoid facile name calling to make my points. So when Ms. Steen calls John Servais “a seasoned provocateur” I wonder what she might call me!
Steen concurs with Mr. Sidhu’s assertion that these problems are the “result of half a century of mis-placed priorities”, and proceeds to quite correctly enunciate several of them, especially focusing on a deficit of mental health services. I agree. However, after that I have some trouble with the logic.
She says that solutions to the problem are “not to destroy our community and public spaces by relenting to simplistic demands”. OK, most solutions are not just not something. They are something. And demands for housing are not “simplistic”. They are in fact quite complicated and exacerbated by many factors not mentioned, including the deprivations of our legal system, not to mention bulldozing homeless camps.
The bottom line is that people cannot afford housing. That puts them at risk, physically and mentally. Steen is “certain there are creative solutions to basic local housing needs”, but doesn’t offer any. Honestly, just solving the affordability problem would go a long way, but I haven’t seen much progress in that regard. The City and County have helped with transitional housing. That’s a great idea, but fails when there are no jobs or affordable housing to move people toward.
Somehow, Steen believes that the “collapse of the commercial real estate market offers timely options” for housing, but fails to explain how we can take advantage in the face of precipitous declines in B&O tax revenues that are tanking local government budgets.
The final straw for me is her dog-whistle promotion of “real solutions for anyone with a genuine call to justice and reform work” after denigrating the “immaturity of the “collective” and the intellectual laziness of Bellingham’s left-liberal community”.
Yes, it was a mess and made folks uncomfortable, but Camp 210 should be viewed as a protest in the context of our citizen’s constitutional rights. And to those who cannot see the value in comforting the disturbed while disturbing the comfortable, I have little to say, except…I disagree.
Dianne FosterJan 29, 2021
Do you really think it moving toward solutions for these out of town hooligans to grab cell phones out of the hands of Herald reporters so they couldn’t take pictures for the media? How valuable is that? I was part of the Occupy tent encampment, and we had objectives and purpose.
Tip JohnsonJan 29, 2021
OK, I have not been nearly so involved, and thank you for your effort. I do try to pay attention.
No, I do not condone interrupting the press, interfering with others’ rights or any form of violence. I was there only briefly to see folks hold pallet lines and issue verbally abuse against the police who, in my opinion, comported themselves professionally and exercised considerable restraint.
Quite a few of the camper/hooligan/protesters were pretty well-dressed, not apparently homeless, younger people, disproportionately women. But as with the Women’s March, quite a few guys show up in solidarity, and I don’t mind that. A friend thought it was probably a good thing the protesters chose the pallets because it likely kept a lot of them out of trouble. BTW, I heard that when the “hooligans” “stormed” City Hall, they did not roam the halls, enter offices, disrupt or damage things, but sat in a circle in the lobby and eventually left when police arrived. That’s something.
It’s so easy to conflate hooligans with protesters and protest with agitation. Who said politics is like a washing machine…it’s the agitator that gets the dirt out? I just hope we can find a way to shelter folks without housing, and invent ways to make and keep housing affordable - or jobs more plentiful, remunerative and less destructive.
Meanwhile, I try to appreciate almost anyone’s efforts to steer this juggernaut (if I generally like the direction) and try to honor the solidarity others less affected might lend a cause. If I don’t get it I don’t first object. I try harder, because there wouldn’t be an issue without at least two legitimate sides.
Karen SteenJan 29, 2021
Since you asked “what she might call me”: answer - star of the male chauvinist tag team in evidence here. That’s how I see your work in the context of this thread and local journalism. One who selectively hears/reads what others say - perhaps especially women – and ultimately sees everything as an intellectual pissing contest to win. Hands down, you’re the best at this.
Sorry to leave you on your own here, but I stopped spoon feeding debate baiters a long time ago. Johnson is no exception.
Dianne FosterJan 30, 2021
Thanks for your thoughtful response. I do know that Antifa sent out an all-points bulletin to bring people here to demonstrate, and I felt the homeless were just part of their self-aggrandizement. When we had the Occupy encampment, there were some personality disorders, but they at least were local, and we were able to deal with them - though it sucked energy away from our cause. There are so many low-income housing buildings here in Bellingham that people are coming from other places. I just let a friend in Everett know about the Mercy Housing, as she would like to move here for that. Most of the still-unhoused are extremly mentally ill, like the guy that moved in on my schizophrenic sister’s section 8 apartment behind Fred Meyer. He was thrown out of his place for threatening neighbors, and it took me months to get a restraining order to get him out. I had to work with the section 8 police, who were very helpful, as this is apparently not uncommon.
My understanding is there will be more low-barrier housing, even allowing pets. I love the new Aloha Motel around the corner from my place - it is beautiful, and will be finished soon - for both middle class and poor people. The design involved both neighborhoods with the BHA, and it won’t look like those stick apartments built by Hammer for “student housing”, though posing as affordable for families.
That is where we need Seth to speak up - keep historic houses like the Old Whatcom ones on Billy Frank Jr. street from being demolished by Hammer for more ugly and expensive apartments.
Jamie K. DonaldsonJan 31, 2021
Karen SteenJan 31, 2021
From the street level, I retired from public health nursing and I live three blocks from City Hall. I can attest to Dianne’s account of the un-housed living on our streets. More functional homeless people mostly live with others and in their vehicles. Toward solutions for the seemingly intractable twin crises of housing and mental health…
Thank you, Jamie, for acknowledging what COB has and is doing to address homelessness. By extension, all citizens and tax payers of Bellingham provide these measures. COB, the Opportunity Council, faith-based organizations, and numerous collaborative groups are providing substantial, albeit inadequate, piecemeal solutions to our housing and associated mental health crises.
Local solutions suggested by Dianne are spot on. As noted in my original post, national and state policy reforms are needed to support and sustain local programs. These citizen organizations are now doing a yeoman’s job for systemic reforms to effectively address local housing and community welfare: LWV-WA at https://lwvwa.org/2021Issues; Fix Democracy First at https://www.fixdemocracyfirst.org/: Faith Action Network at https://fanwa.org/advocacy/legislative-agenda/.
Mr. Johnson, if my “promotions” here and above are a dog whistle, I’ll blow it louder.
Tip JohnsonFeb 01, 2021
In my first response to your comment, I tried to give credit to the quality of your understanding of homeless issues, but maybe over-challenged a couple others. In hindsight, I probably overreacted to your characterization of NWCitizen publisher, John Servais.
I have long been involved with local issues and am all too familiar with the “troublemaker” or “provocateur” labels that are frequently pasted over such efforts. A lot of times it seems like labeling is just easier than thinking about the problems. Certainly easier that pushing for solutions. This is a continual source of frustration and irritation for those who try to do good.
I apologize if you found me harsh. I do respect your opinions, and I acknowledge that more divisiveness is not really what is needed now. I’m sorry.
I recall a very well reasoned piece you did on our Neighborhood Associations last year, an article that spurred a good deal of productive discussion. I’d like to see more from you.
And I don’t have a problem with the organizations you promoted. I was again reacting to your recommendation that activists refocus from the urgency of their issues. True, many would benefit from broader, longer-term perspectives, but urgency demands attention too.
BTW, I attended my first LWV meeting in my mother’s arms and have attended more than many members - in at least four different chapters. I can personally attest to the public good these fine citizens consistently afford our society. We are lucky to have them.
There’s my olive branch. I think there is more common than disparate cause and hope we can forge ahead in some semblance of solidarity.
Karen SteenFeb 01, 2021
Thank you for your thoughtful follow up here. Olive branch accepted. And your deep affiliation and positive acknowledgement of LWV work is much appreciated.
I am traveling for family care purposes this week and will give your message further thought. I’ll contact you offline when I return, so I can bring closure now to my participation on this thread.
Best wishes in your work for the welfare of our community.