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Gene Knutson Not Running for Mayor

By On

This morning, Gene Knutson sent out an announcement to local news media saying he has decided not to run for mayor of Bellingham in 2019. Most local political junkies assumed Gene had an excellent chance of getting elected. But the potential candidates for the office are increasing by the week, decreasing the possibility that Gene, a moderate politician, would have a solid constituency.

Today, he put that behind him, stating he intended to stay on the City Council. After his statement below, I review who are the likely candidates for mayor in 2019. We are up to six fairly sure candidates.

“After spending this year looking at running for Mayor I have decided the best place for me is on the council. I will continue my moderating voice and use my experience to help Bellingham continue to be the greatest city in the world. I also understand that the torch is being passed to a younger generation as it was passed to all of us many years ago. I see that as a great encouraging sign. I am going to let the citizens of Bellingham choose a Mayor without me endorsing anybody. There will be many great candidates out there I wish them all good luck.

After a year of thinking of it I have to thank my wife Jan and the family on taking that journey with me. It has been humbling to think that a lot of people wanted to see me as Mayor. Now at 63 my thinking of becoming Mayor is gone but the love I have for Bellingham is forever and I will continue to do my job on the council. Whoever the citizens send to the Mayor’s office they will have no bigger supporter than me. I have served with 5 Mayors and I look forward to working with the peoples choice. After 63 years I still believe in a place called Bellingham.”

Gene was elected to the council in 1993 and has represented the 2nd Ward since then. He was reelected last fall and his present term runs three more years, through 2021.

There are now, by my count, six solid candidates with one or two others considering it. But before naming them, I need to give my standard disclaimer. I have talked to some of these candidates but will not identify which ones. I have not asked some whether or not they will run because they are not allowed to tell me the truth, courtesy of a Washington state law. If a person tells me they are thinking of running then that starts the clock ticking on when they must file their intent to file and the paperwork begins. So I work around them, asking others what they know.

We have long known that Michael Lilliquist and Seth Fleetwood plan to run. Gene was the more moderate candidate but now Garrett O’Brien of the Planning Commission is thinking of running and he would get the BIAW and realtor endorsements, taking away much of Gene’s conservative support. In the last week, we hear from multiple people that Mike Hammes, owner of RAM Construction, is looking to run. Mike is a guy who has given generously to our community with his company helping on many local projects. He is well known and well liked by many on all sides of the issues.

Pinky Vargas, since her extremely close run against the supposedly unbeatable Ericksen, has decided to run for mayor. She is currently on the Bellingham City Council. I now hear very reliably that April Barker of the council will run for mayor. April is in her first term on the council and is considered a leader in the movement against single family zoning. A seventh possible candidate is Dan Hammill, also a council member, and an ally of Barker’s for dramatic change to city housing.

Mayor Kelli? Widely expected not to run again. But I am unaware of her closing the door. No information on her intentions.

Gene staying on the council may give him almost as much influence as being mayor, in my opinion. Gene is respected by left and right in this town. He is open to all views and often attends community meetings to sit quietly, listen, and learn. We had another like him in Arne Hanna in the past. Gene is a moderate to conservative who strives to understand the concerns of progressives. He trys to keep an open mind and a civil demeanor. I am glad he will remain on the council. We need his leveling influence there.

About John Servais

Writer • Fairhaven, Washington USA • Member since Feb 26, 2008

John started Northwest Citizen in 1995 to inform fellow citizens of serious local political issues that the Bellingham Herald was ignoring. With the help of donors from the beginning, he has [...]

Comments by Readers

Dick Conoboy

Dec 13, 2018

I respect Gene’s decision and look forward to working with him as a council member as I have done for the last 15 or more years.  We do not always agree but I am always assured that Gene will not only meet with me but listen. 

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Dianne Foster

Dec 13, 2018

I certainly hope there will be someone running who is not tied to developer/realtor interests.   We need a candidate who respects the GMA’s intent to preserve neighborhood character while allowing for appropriate growth that benefits people,  not profits.   Realtors who advertize to bring 50,000 new people here for the “small-town feel” will surely alter that “feel”.    And other cities like New York who suffer from consequences of the Realtor-in-Chief,  have become hollowed-out empty towers of investment capital,  not affordable to their previous ethnic diverse population.   ‘Spose that’s ok if you want to pay a cool million for the 56th floor condo,   and you never have to leave the building to see another human.   (Like the new “Spire” in Seattle,   advertized by Sotheby’s to the international jet-set crowd;  just think,   we could be just like them!)

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Michael Chiavario

Dec 14, 2018

John, please provide evidence of a ‘movement’ or statements of intent from either April Barker or Dan Hammill that they want to eliminate single family zoning.

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Tim Paxton

Dec 16, 2018

Which of these mayoral candidate hopeful/ Council Member candidates voted for the Neighborhood Killing DADU ordinance again?  

The Extra Dwelling unit ordinance that exempts all newer neighborhoods with existing covenants and screws the rest of existing neighborhood Bellingham owner occupied homeowners.

I seem to recall Gene voted against it.  

Anyone else who supported and/or voted for it should consider to drop out of the race now.  I really can’t see : “I voted to destroy Bellingham Neighborhoods”,  as a winning campaign platform to become mayor.

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Michael Chiavario

Dec 16, 2018

Tim,

 The DADU ordinance does nothing to destroy nieghborhoods

The DADU ordinance ordinance does nort exempt any neighborhoods, however some neighborhoods with existing covenants exempted themselves  from many potential ordinances at the time that these ordinances were put into place.

The ordinance actually helps neighborhoods to increase to increase the number of permanently owner occupied homes by requiring those with ADU’s to have owner occupants, thereby eliminating the possibility of absentee owners for that property.

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John Servais

Dec 16, 2018

Cmon guys.  This thread is going off topic.  This is not about neighborhoods - it is about who might run for mayor.

Besides, the article uses the word “against” and Michael turned that into “elininate” which is totally different.  Please do not distort what I wrote.  “Against” could mean they do not want any more or some such, while “eliminate” definitely means remove the existing.  Michael, please do not put words in my mouth.

For articles on zoning, ADUs, DADUs, etc, there are plenty articles on this site that touch on that directly.  

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Michael Chiavario

Dec 16, 2018

No John, you don’t get to make this decree when you brought up the subject of zoning and two people responded about the issue of zoning. By including information ablut the potential Mayoral condidates, you have opened the discussion to those  issues.

As to the meaning of “movement against single family zoning”, ‘eliminate single family zoning’ is not at all different from ‘against….’. Sure, ‘Against’ COULD mean ‘they don’t want anymore or some such’, but  I doubt that anyone but you would read it that way. 

Having been involved in affordable housing issues in Bellingham for a few years now, I am not aware of any ‘movement’ against single family zoning. ‘Missing Middle’ policies that some council members and the Planning Department support, advocate for increased density at the edges and in some cases within single family zones. Advocating for these policies does not constitute being ‘against single family zoning’. 

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John Servais

Dec 16, 2018

Michael,  would you like to write a guest article on zoning, neighborhoods, and the housing issues that are a current topic in Bellingham?   Give us your perspective on affordable housing solutions?   We would welcome an article from you.

The articles on housing on this site have been written by others.  It is not an issue that I have written on.   I merely used the word “against” to inform readers of the main issues and positions of April and Dan.  It was not perjorative. Now, if you want to take me apart over the use of that one word in the article, then feel free to carry on in this thread.  But I think you made your point.  And it is a weak one.  I did not use the word “eliminate” and you are putting that word in my mouth.

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Larry Horowitz

Dec 17, 2018

Michael, attempting to read the mind of a politician is always going to be a challenge.  As we’ve seen time and time again, politicians tend to say what a particular audience wants to hear.

As we all know,  the existence of single-family (SF) zoning is being threatened in many ways.  Zoning changes that allow more than a single family residence on a SF zoned lot changes the nature of SF zoning.  Things like detached ADUs, duplexes, triplexes and even short-term rentals change the dynamic of single-family neighborhoods, severely impacting families who have invested their life savings in their homes.

Actual rezones of SF zoned areas, such as HALA in Seattle, eliminate SF zoning in certain areas.  Recently, the  Minneapolis’ City Council passed Minneapolis 2040, which plans to eliminate SF zoning by allowing triplexes on all SF lots.  In Oregon, speaker of the House Tina Kotek is drafting a bill that would require Oregon cities to allow apartments in all residential neighborhoods.

Rather than attempting to read the minds of our politicians, perhaps it would be simpler to ask them where they stand on these proposed changes.  Personally, I’d like to hear what they say (not that I’d completely believe them).  

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Larry Horowitz

Dec 17, 2018

For anyone who doesn’t believe that CM Barker would love to make significant changes to single-family zoned areas, perhaps this 1-1/2 minute montage of her comments at the Nov. 10, 2017 Housing Week panel might be of interest.

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Jon Humphrey

Dec 17, 2018

Well, what can I say. Gene supported Dig Once and a Technology Advisory Board. While I don’t think he cared about tech as much as Michael Lilliquist, he certinally was more of a straight shooter and more reliable. I believe he would have given us more transperancy. This is not something most of the other council members care about, and something we desperately need. I cringe to think of Bellingham with another 4 years of mayor Linville or April Barker. Both who are easily proven to be wolves in sheeps clothing if you look just beneath the surface of what they say, and at their decisions against the welfare of most of the citizens of Bellingham instead. For example, both still hide behind the homelessness issue, but it took them 3 years to even act on it. Both are landlords that overcharge for their properties. Both back anti-net neutral, anti-first amendment companies. Both cant’ be bothered with learning about technology and both, refuse to look into Public Works even when they threaten citizens on behalf of PSE, and consistently come back with nubmers anywhere from 2 to 13.5 times higher on installs than just about every other city in the US. Manhattan level costs in Bellingham don’t bother them at all. I can’t say what Dan Hamill thinks, since he’s so immature that he blank replies on topics he can’t be bothered with. Things are NOT looking good. We need another option for mayor than any of the current council members or the current mayor. One that belives in transperancy and can think more than 3 months ahead.  

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Dianne Foster

Dec 17, 2018

I’m hoping James Erb will run,   but he needs some recovery time before we set up a draft….

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Jon Humphrey

Dec 18, 2018

Yeah Dianne, James seems like a good guy to me too. For example, I really appreciate his help with getting the city to actually respond to public record requests. Also, he seems progressive on many fronts. Mostly, he seems well organized, intelligent, willing to do proper research, and willing to listen. Still, I am not sure that he grasps the role that new technology plays in every aspect of daily life or cares to. This can be because either:

1. He is still a staff member of the COB and doesn’t want to go against the pro big-telecom Linville administration. (He will need to do this to grab the progressive vote…)

2. He actually just lacks interest in learning about technology. Even technology that would give us more humane, more cost effective, alternatives to incarcertaion.

Personally I’m hoping that Matthew Endrizzi runs for mayor. Who is more progressive than Matthew on any issue, including James? 

Either way, most of the people on this list (note the keyword most here) would be way better than most of the current members of the city and county councils or our current mayor, who are all still putitng all of their eggs in one basket with the Waterfront… Note: There are some scary ones on the list too.

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