Vote Yes On Jail Tax - A Personal View

It is time to stop the injustices that have been propagated over the years.

It is time to stop the injustices that have been propagated over the years.

[Guest Writer Adam Bellingar is a lifelong Bellingham resident. He owns Traditional Karate of Bellingham where he teaches martial arts. You can usually spot him running around Lake Padden. ]

I wish to provide my own reasoning for voting for the tax to construct a new jail. My perspective is driven by my own experience with lawlessness around 22 North—a 40 unit permanent-supportive housing project that, starting back in 2018, began to degenerate into an open air drug market that continues today. In 2022, Dick Conoboy reported on 22 North—I recommend you read his article, Is 22 North Going South, and the first hand accounts.  

The business I have had since 2013 shares the alley with 22 North. It started as a joint venture between the Opportunity Council and Northwest Youth Services in November of 2018. The crime started on day one and accelerated into 2022 when numerous people died both inside and outside the building. I’m including a list (see FILES below) of all the police incident reports for 2018 to 2021 to give a sense of the escalation going into 2022. There were 156 incident reports for the location in 2019 alone. 22 North was widely regarded as the fentanyl capital of Bellingham until 2022 when the Bellingham Police Department (BPD) conducted a large scale raid on the drug dealers operating out of the building.  

While the individuals below deserve much better, here is a brief description of their demise:

In January 2022, Desiree Faliciano died in a nearby encampment from methamphetamine intoxication. Her burned body was discovered when police investigated a fire at the encampment.  

In February 2022, Kassaundra Booker was murdered in the stairwell of 22 North over a $40 drug debt. She was shot in the head after smoking fentanyl with her accused murderer. 

In June 2022, Jordan Terry died of acute fentanyl and ethanol intoxication a half-block from 22 North. Mr. Terry had fetal alcohol syndrome as a child and struggled with addiction.  

In August 2022, Ward Simmonds Jr. died of acute fentanyl, methamphetamine, and ethanol intoxication. Mr. Simmonds was a Lummi Tribal member who developed a fentanyl habit after the death of his wife.  

During 2022, my neighbors and I began protesting loudly against the crime we had all been witnessing. We called on the police and our elected officials to respond immediately. Once we coordinated with law enforcement and elected officials, we learned that there were clear reasons why the lawlessness couldn’t be resolved in short order: there was no room in the jail for the people committing most of the violent crimes we witnessed.  

A jail’s primary purpose is to serve as a timeout for criminal acts.  This timeout function is essential to allow the justice system to work. It provides essential relief for the victims of criminal acts. If you can’t get respite from your tormentor, you get no justice. The timeout function of the jail allows the defense attorneys, prosecutors, police, and courts time to facilitate justice via court hearings where the truth is sussed out.  

Looking into the jail as it sits today, there are 148 beds to service the county’s population of over 230,000 (.06%). This doesn’t make sense. While the original jail was built to last 50 years, it wasn’t built for capacity of the current population of Whatcom County or its accused. We’ve had jail booking restrictions since 2015 - meaning we don’t have room in the jail for every person accused of a jail-able offense. Our justice system is now at the point of having to decide which violent acts should be jail-able based jail capacity - NOT LAW! I’ve personally witnessed the same offenders commit crimes over and over again… escalating their criminal activity.  

We’ve built up diversion programs in response to this crisis, but they have reached their limits. Multiple individuals in these diversion programs have been present at 22 North. One man has over 25 police incident reports with BPD and yet still stalks a female at 22 North. When I asked why his arrests hadn’t resulted in jail time, I was told that arrests on the jail log don’t mean jail time. In fact, most of the folks “arrested” don’t see the inside of a jail cell in Bellingham. Again, this doesn’t make sense to me.  

When I think about who suffers the most from a lack of jail capacity, it is the poor. If a middle class white person suffers from a crime, they often have insurance and support to work through the inconvenience. The poor have no such backstop. A woman and child suffering from domestic abuse but cannot get relief from their abuser - suffers mightily. This lack of jail capacity only hurts the most vulnerable. I’ve seen these folks suffer personally and it haunts me. We cannot allow injustices to propagate the way they have been over the past number of years.  

We clearly need more capacity for our jail. There is no perfect jail, but what we are allowing to happen with our current jail is clearly and terribly wrong. This is why I’m voting yes on Proposition 4.  

Attached Files

About Guest Writer

Citizen Journalist • Member since Jun 15, 2008

Since 2007, this moniker has been used over 150 times on articles written by guest writers who may write once or very occasionally for Northwest Citizen, but not regularly. Some guest writers [...]

Comments by Readers

Thomas R. Scott

Nov 05, 2023

All passable to great arguments.

However, what about the past jail taxes passed and paid that resulted in no new or greatly improved jail?

Also, some past jail designs and their targeted site(s) were questioned due to being outside the county seat (Bellingham).  Is that an issue, will this jail tax collect money only to be stopped cold due to State law?


Steve M. James

Nov 05, 2023

I agree with the articles premise. A new safe jail is an absolute necessity and an overhaul of our social service systems is absolutely necessary. It’s not an either or argument, it’s a both isuue. The issue seems to have degraded into the good falling prey to seeking the perfect. There is no one simple answer. 


Satpal Sidhu

Nov 05, 2023

Dear Thomas,  The question of past jail tax in 2004 is genuine question and has been answered many times in public domain. I will be happy to talk to you in deatil, as it is a long convulated history, with so much mis-information surrounding this topic.  There are no laws about the “seat of the Colunty” for jail.  That is about Sheriff’s office, which will be maintaiined in Bellingham. The new building for the jail is a necessicity and we need to provide treatment services both outside and inside the jail. The current ballot measure allocates almost half of the tax receipts to treatment service programs over its life.

As a community we cannot continue the current inadequate jail system.  Please vote YES on this ballot measure.  Perfect is enemy of good. 


Adam Bellingar

Nov 05, 2023

Mr Scott,

The concern about funds being repurposed or co-opted is present on any voter approved measure.  Circumstances change, political priorities change, and sometimes what is sold to the public isn’t what is actually contained in the measures.  While this is certainly a concern of mine, it is lessened by the general consensus about the need for a new jail amoungst all of the local municipalities and the broad based stakeholder group that formulated the plan.  

I will have to defer to Mr Sidhu concerning past measures as I don’t have specific knowledge about them or the rules regarding location.  

My purpose on this article was to present why I was voting for Proposition 4.  The downside trade-offs are worth it from my personal calculus.  I don’t like paying additional taxes either, but this proposition would result in some solutions to our community’s most serious problems regarding criminal justice.  The human and social justice costs are outweighing the rather modest increase in sales taxes by my judgement.  

Thank you for the questions and feedback.  


Kerry Johnson

Nov 06, 2023

A reply to Steve M. James.

I first became aware of the phrase “the perfect can be the enemy of the good”, when Obama said it, in order to sell his sack-of-shit healthcare legislation

I really disliked it then, and I really dislike it now

this is one of those phrases that are deceptively simple and appealing (similar to commercial advertising) … until one thinks about it a bit more

it is often used by manipulative folks, to sell a ‘special agenda’ [I’m NOT saying that this is you, Steve, but you are repeating a mantra used by manipulators, to the point that it is picked up by the public in general]

while we all realize that “nothing is perfect”, we may not consider that many social proposals are ever some mixture … of “good” with “bad” (or something in between)

of course, all social proposals are going to involve some compromises, in the need to address concerns of various interests

we need to decide WHEN to compromise, and on WHAT items

a more analytic approach would be to suss out and enumerate those items that are on the ‘plus’ side, and those that are on the ‘negative’ side (at least from one perspective), so that we can reasonable discuss the issues, and our differences in particular

given that some proposal may actually do some ‘good’, we need to ask the amount and type of ‘harm’ that accompanies it

and … are there some ‘harms’ that are simply NOT acceptable because they cross the limit for our moral tolerances?

an example is Obama’s healthcare proposal, that was a compromise from the start, and fell extremely short of every citizens right to adequate healthcare – “life and death matters” … that we should collectively NOT tolerate (and can ‘well afford’, considering the waste of money on other items)

as to the proposed new jail is concerned, another factor to consider is our “level of trust” involved

do we ‘trust’ the ‘process’ involved?

do we ‘trust’ the ‘people’ involved?

I am NOT personally very knowledgeable about the jail proposal, except that it has been kicked around for some years now, and it has always carried with it a whiff of deception, self-serving, or incompetence/incompleteness of analysis

we ought to do better, including with our so-called arguments



Dianne Foster

Nov 09, 2023

I must admit I voted for the new jail for a couple of reasons.   First,  is that a friend of mine spent a night in the current one for protesting the coal terminal, and said it was damp, cold, and awful.   No one, not even violent criminals,  should have to live in that.   There is also no outside recreation area possible in town.  Second,  I noted multiple times in the paper that violent criminals were not kept in jail because of lack of space;  one guy was busted 3 times in one day and let go, then raped a woman later that night, and was finally jailed.   That horrible Lynden woman who raped and tortured her adopted children is now out free pending bail.   This is not justice;  it’s criminal.   I’ve heard there are some people in jail who should not be there,  such as an elderly Lummi woman.   The public must keep an eye on this process and make sure it’s fair.  We also need to make sure the new jail isn’t built by the same contractors that build the current stinky one….  that would be a waste of money.

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