Hello Loyal Readers,
We are debuting a new feature here at The Political Junkie, the Interview. Look for this logo for interviews with local candidates and opinion leaders. If you know someone who would be a good person to interview, email ideas to me, Riley Sweeney here.
In this interview, I catch Christina Maginnis on her way to another busy community event, after a heavy day of doorbelling. Christina Maginnis is running for Whatcom County Council, Position 2, against that rascal Sam Crawford.
The Political Junkie (TPJ): Let’s start off with the basics, why are you running for office?
Christina Maginnis(CM): I am running for office because I want to work with local business to create clean energy jobs. I want to protect and restore Lake Whatcom and maintain our rich farming legacy. These are different themes, but I feel that they are connected.
TPJ: How so?
CM: You cannot see them as separate things. We need to look beyond the next four, six years, to the future. My son is going to be two, I want him to have clean water, to hike the same trails, pick strawberries and blueberries. Where I grew up, I used to walk past the farms, feeding cows and steers carrots, but then I watched as all those farms turned to condos. When that happens here, we lose that connection to what makes us Whatcom County. We need not just a farming history, but a legacy. Our farmers are second to none. We need to make sure we have clearly defined urban and rural areas so can preserve that strong tie to our agricultural heritage.
I know in the last eight years it gets harder and harder for farmers to maintain their farmlands. Farmers wanting security for their retirement, but how do you make sure there is farmland for future farmers? There is a great project going on at Cloud Mountain Farm in Everson where they are training tomorrow’s farmers. That is how you keep this community strong.
TPJ: Should the government be involved in the process of ensuring there is farmland for those who want to farm?
CM: There should be a third-party group that could do that, to secure loans to purchase farmland that new farmers can buy. If the County could encourage it with economic development funds, okay then, but it should be through a third-party group.
We need 100 thousand acres to make sure that farming is viable, until we have zoning in place to ensure rural lands stays rural we will see the creep of subdivided farms. It is the values of our community to continue our farming legacy.
TPJ: Let’s talk about Lake Whatcom, what would you do to protect Lake Whatcom?
CM: We have to make sure we meet the state water quality standards and to do that, we need a timeline and a budget. Right now, we are “working on it.” How long is it going to take? There are some serious questions to be answered. How much money will it take, and where are we going to get the money? The Watershed Advisory Board is stuck in this chicken and egg question. How much protected land is enough? 20, 40, 60 percent? Right now we are purchasing develop-able properties when they become available so they won’t be developed. We need clearly defined goals, or limits for restoration. We are pursuing great properties, whenever a buyer comes to us. We need to set clear goals for protecting our drinking water. This is common sense, we don’t have another hundred years to clean it up, we have to act now.
TPJ: What about the proposed facility at Cherry Point? What is your take on that issue?
CM: SSA Marine Facility – I don’t think it is an issue we can pass (before much more community input.) We need transparency about what is actually being proposed, the materials and quantity that are being shipped and stored, the impact on our rural traffic, water, and air.
Let’s look at other industries there, such as BP and Intalco, how is it going to impact their operations? If our community is going to commit to a large industrial site, that location is already zoned for it. We should choose industries that match our values. We need to make sure that the citizens know the truth about it. People need to comment, pay attention, and be engaged. At this point I am just reading as much as I can, so I stay informed.
We do need jobs, we need local jobs. I’d love to see a breakdown, what sort of trades, what skill sets are needed for this facility and what the tangible benefits will be to local workers.
TPJ: You mention jobs, the economy is so central to everyone’s thinking here. How can we move our economy forward in Whatcom County?
CM: A number of ways, first we need to build clean energy jobs. To do that we need the education to create the expertise and business base that positions us as a leader on the national level. We need to work with Whatcom Community College, Western, Bellingham Tech, the Northwest Indian College, all of these educational communities to develop patentable business ideas, and then keep those startups here with incentives and a high quality of life. That is one of the reasons it is so important to protect our air and water quality. If we are to convince businesses to build and thrive here, we have to be a place where they would want to do business, live, and grow.
TPJ: What are your thoughts on this proposed 800-bed new jail?
CM: It seems to be a lot of money was spent on a plan that the community is not very invested in. Have we, as a community, been paying attention?
We need to think about if this is the right place, the right size, what is the cost to the taxpayers, what is the staffing levels for each design. There hasn’t been a lot of input. One of the issues that concerns me is the proposed site is on top of a wetlands that we would have to fill in for a sprawling facility. That doesn’t make financial sense, or environmental sense. We need a more compact jail, closer to our courthouse.
TPJ: Now your day job, working for the Department of Ecology, has a few conservatives concerned about the “Eco-Police” kicking down their door and arresting them for not recycling, so I want to get you on record for this right now: Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Eco-Police?
CM: (laughs) Really? That’s your question?
TPJ: That’s my question.
CM: (laughs) That is ridiculous. I have had great working relationships working with landowners and local staff, to do voluntary planting and fish habitat improvement projects for my job. It is a positive experience. No I’m not hunting down anyone down for the Eco-Police.
TPJ: How about Whatcom County’s continued efforts to defy state law? Specifically, the Growth Management Act?
CM: It seems that we need to be really clear for setting appropriate sized UGA’s (urban growth areas.) Most communities have no problem meeting them. Procedurally, we meet them, but philosophically we don’t. I have helped communities and landowners get into compliance with state law when they don’t understand what is required of them. Here, we understand what is required, we just don’t agree.
It does seem that we do need to work with the executive, to normalize our land use laws. To do that, we need all sorts of people in political office, we need to bring small city mayors, work closely with their staff, to the table to chart a good route to get us back into compliance.
The alternative is that we are missing out on a lot of money, tens and thousands of dollars that we are ineligible for because we refuse to adopt common sense planning guidelines.
TPJ: I know you have made Emergency Medical Services a central issue in your campaign, would you like to talk about that a little bit?
CM: Yes, it is something very dear to my heart. We need a coordinated response system to strengthen our level of support for rural emergency services. In general, community preparedness makes us a stronger community. The Community Emergency Response Training (CERT) class offered by Whatcom County is a great example of how citizens can become trained to be prepared for and respond to a natural disaster. When we have such well-trained people who are part of a coordinated neighborhood, our communities are safer.
Right now, we have relatively good levels of service in our urban areas, but out in the county, it can take far too long for our first responders to get there. If there is a situation, they might not get a deputy out there for an hour, two hours, or even till the next morning. There are lots of other dangers here; earthquakes, flooding. Why are we putting homes on flood plains without the services to keep them safe? We need to push for the most cost-effective way to keep everyone safe. Is the best system in place and if not, what can we do to make it better? If people have an issue with cost, why do we have so much rural development? We need to support all the people living here, because I guarantee that at your time of need, you will not be concerned about the cost. Lives are at stake, and this is an issue we cannot afford to ignore.