We’ve been very vocal on this site on the subject of the proposed Jail Tax - Proposition 2017-6. Attorney Juliette Daniels has written fourteen (!) excellent in-depth articles which I would urge every voter to read. If you don’t come away convinced to vote NO then perhaps take a look at my one article on the subject which is less lawerly and verbal but a picture does tell a thousand words!
This is the County’s second kick at the can on this - they tried and failed in 2015, in no small part due to the opposition of the B’ham City administration, as well as the B’ham Police Guild and the Firefighters’ Union. So I was quite concerned to figure out why these dogs didn’t bark in 2017. Then hied I down to the Lutheran Church last month for a forum where B’ham Councilors Pinky Vargas and Mike Lilliquist and Mayor Muchler of Ferndale spoke in favor. Mayor Muchler, a pastor I believe, made much of the inhumane conditions in the jail, a Christian argument for compassion - and it doesn’t hurt that the proposed new jail is in Ferndale! However, it was Mr. Lilliquist who provided my moment of satori - he told us with a what-a-good-boy-am-I smirk that we in B’ham got a great deal because we get 20% of the jail tax revenues but only pay 15% of the jail expenses - so any overage is the County’s to bear. AH! The light went on - this is an absurdly small picture view in a room where every single person is both a B’ham and a County taxpayer - we ALL pay if the County continues to overspend on incarceration, Mr. Lilliquist!
Now B’ham Mayor Kelly Linville has weighed in in support of the jail tax , in an open letter signed by her, Councilors Pinky Vargas and Gene Knutzen, and County Councilor Carl Weimer. She trots out much the same line as Mayor Muchler - we need a safe jail, humanitarian ideals require it, etc. Apparently fiscal issues - which have not changed since 2015, only gotten worse - are not a consideration. So what if this thing bankrupts the County - we’re humanitarian and nice - and we got 20% of the tax revenues and only pay 15% of the jail costs!
There are systematic issues which are driving excessive incarceration costs on Whatcom County. I don’t pretend to know all of them - but here are a couple of salient points:
The Average Jail Stay was 9 days in 1998; In 2016 it was 22 days, an increase of 244% ! Why?
60% of Jail Inmates are awaiting trial; 80% of these are non-violent. They just can’t make bail. Are we really operating a debtors’ prison in this day and age?
When crime rates are down 40% since 1998, why have the costs of incarceration tripled?
These are questions our representative should be asking and getting solid answers. Unfortunately, they appear to have been bought off with the promise of more tax revenue. Like the politicians they are.