Letter:  County Executive on Homeless Policy

Satpal SIdhu Responds to Lisa Papp’s article of Oct. 21

Satpal SIdhu Responds to Lisa Papp’s article of Oct. 21

• Topics: Whatcom County, Bellingham,

I appreciate the article by Lisa in your esteemed blog to bring attention to an important issue of Homelessness to public’s attention. It is quite interesting that article is more of an opportunity to ridicule Satpal, under the guise of “homelessness” heading. I accept the criticism gladly as that is domain of elected officials.

It is a general expectation by the electorate that newly elected Administrative positions like Mayor or County Executive (even the Presidents), must have instant solutions to the issues. We hear about ‘score card’ in first 100 days or one year etc. It takes time to bring about policy changes. We elect administrators not dictators, who can just decree policy changes on the spot. There is County Council, there are public hearings, there are vested interests and opposition to new policies, there are unintended consequences of abrupt actions. These are the realities not excuses. I believe in spite of Covid-19 pandemic, a whole lot of work has been done on the issue of ‘homelessness’ by the City and the County (Mayor and County Executive and both Councils), and much more is in the pipeline to change policies about low income and workforce housing, land use, inclusionary zoning, density, public investment of new monies. This process is like building a house first design is approved, ground is prepared, foundations is laid and then the house starts taking shape.

The question: Educating the public on a complex and emotionally-charged issue like homelessness is important, but again, do we need to spend scarce funds on outside PR firms? Regarding the PR agency and “spin”. I believe the word spin is a two way street. The government communications employees (or a PR firm) strive to “educate people” to bring clarity to the issues, which may be labelled as ‘spin’ by the others and vice versa. However, the ‘spin’ by the proponents of certain issues / topics / solutions also needs to be answered to bring clarity, and present different perspectives to allow community members to reach their independent inferences. There is a lot of talk about what I said about ‘activists’ at Camp 210, which has irked some people. I have been and will continue to be truthful to call the way I perceive the issues. The activists at the Camp 210 had their ‘spin’. Let me rephrase my intent, ‘expose the reality of homeless activists’ spin’, and community has the right to know the perspective from the administration. I take full responsibility and would not throw my staff under the bus.


Satpal S Sidhu
Whatcom County Executive

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