The Jail Dog That Didn’t Bark

An examination of why only elected representatives are for this execrable tax proposition - was there ever a tax they didn’t like?

An examination of why only elected representatives are for this execrable tax proposition - was there ever a tax they didn’t like?

• Topics: Whatcom County, Bellingham,

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.

About David Camp

Citizen Journalist • Member since Jul 12, 2009

David Camp is a cpa (Canada'86, USA'96) and MBA (Schulich'88) who toiled thirty years in the corporate salt mines, counting beans and telling stories to the auditors and whatnot. Now [...]

Comments by Readers

Joy Gilfilen

Oct 26, 2017

Cryptic, and clear.  You touch the outrage that every citizen who trusts their local law enforcement officials, their elected officials should feel when we are betrayed by the system of money talks. Big money talks bigger.   It is a false logic that  CEO’s of municipalties assume:  think they will get more money if the people pass a new tax.  No, that is more money for the corporation and less money for the people who need it to buy goods and services.  It is upside down, downside down, zero sum thinking.   

No new taxes…instead we need justice reform. 

1)  Emergency action calls for Reductions…not expansions at the expense of our community’s multipliers.  We need to downsize the escalating and spirallnig costs of mass incarceration…it is unsustainable.  It is a lose, lose system of addictive abuse of people, of families, of society.  Science, logic and experience all proves that the more you punish children, the meaner they get.  Abuse, denial and condemnation produces a habit pattern of more of this.  You get what you train.  As parents (or sports coaches) we learn this. Sure while some timeouts are necessary…it is far better to get the kids out on the game field learning how to practice skills, rather than benching them all the time.  You learn nothing useful sitting on the bench..and it is a pain in the butt for coaches to deal with this kind of stuff.  

2)  Regenerate circulation of money locally…don’t give it to the banksters and international corporation who make money from the top down.  If you take more essential needs money out of the lower levels of commerce to give it to big government, and bigger corporations that make millions on punishment for profit - you are adding to the government addiction/tax extraction death spiral of depreciating commerce.  You are harming communities, you are stealing from the poor, you are stealing cash flow from local businesses, you are doing the EXACT OPPOSITE of what needs to be done to revitalize your cities.  

What we must do is give education, recovery and our money back to the people so it stays in circulation LOCALLY, so it drives retail, and local business people to become stronger, and so we educate people, not put them in poverty.  

Please go watch the Privateering video I did called “No Bigger Jails” on You Tube.

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