For over ten years now, Dick Conoboy has been researching and writing on Bellingham housing and city hall’s approach to neighborhoods, rentals, zoning, safety and planning. His efforts to inform his fellow citizens and the Bellingham City Council have improved our city - the most obvious improvement being the rental safety inspections that are now conducted. These especially are aimed toward safer student housing.
Like most activists and citizen writers, Dick did not plan or consciously start this time consuming work. Upon retiring, he moved to Bellingham and bought a house in a single family neighborhood. Before long, he was confronted with neighborhood issues. He became more involved and quickly realized many of the issues were citywide. As a retiree, he had the time to investigate. He found city codes and laws were not being enforced while city hall staff provided less than clear, honest answers to his questions. It was a situation that drives most people to abandon any effort to solve a neighborhood problem. Not so with Dick; he pressed on.
Speaking to the City Council was an empty act. The Bellingham Herald said he was not an expert on housing and would not post letters much less guest articles. So Dick started the blog, Twilight Zoning In Bellingham, in 2007 and posted his articles. In 2011, he joined NWCitizen and posted his articles here as well.
Dick has expanded his public concerns and written about other subjects, especially veterans issues. A veteran himself, Dick had a career in the U.S. Army and later as a civilian with the Department of Defense. He has also researched and reported on the minimum wage, charter schools, fireworks, health insurance, meth issues, rental landlords, and national issues.
He has involved himself in trying to better our community at his own expense and with no plan for generating income or rewards from his research and writing. He represents the best in citizen journalism, being better informed than many professional reporters and more transparent than paid consultants, planning bureaucrats, or elected officials. His motivation is the improvement of our city and communities. There is nothing in this for him, and he could have chosen to spend his time playing golf, watching sports on TV, sleeping late and enjoying a leisured retirement. Many other retirees also commit to civic action by volunteering; Dick “volunteers” by going to endless meetings, researching issues, then speaking out and writing for the benefit of all of us.
In 2018, Dick plans to monitor and investigate as the city tries to open the floodgates to Airbnbs and short-term rentals while pleading they do not know how to increase low cost housing for residents. He will follow and continue to inform us about city hall’s efforts to further destroy single family neighborhoods. In 2017, Dick posted over 30 articles on NWCitizen and, over its lifetime, over 300 articles on his blog. You can review his NWCitizen articles by going to “Writers” at the top of any page here and clicking on his name.
This is the fifth year of the Paul deArmond Citizen Journalism Award. A few days before Paul died of cancer at age 60, he approved this award because, as a highly respected Bellingham citizen journalist, he knew citizen journalism needed recognition and encouragement. This award is an acknowledgement of Dick’s years of writing on issues of community concern in the interest of public good.
The award will be presented at a dinner in February. Seating is limited so past attendees and other local writers will be given first chance at reservations. I will post here in a couple weeks as to whether seats remain available and how to reserve.
In announcing this year’s recipient of the award, the Cascadia Weekly has printed one of Dick’s articles from last September in today’s edition. It showcases Dick’s willingness to strongly speak out. Pick up the Weekly and check it out.