What does the resignation of Iris Maute Gibson [see resignation letter below] portend for the city’s Planning Commission? Appointed in 2017 by Mayor Linville to replace commissioner Tom Grinstad, Maute-Gibson was to have served at least until April 2021. In December 2016 the mayor had appointed Lisa Anderson to the commission and then later, in February 2017, the mayor appointed Mike Estes to replace Jeff Brown. The appointment of Estes and Maute-Gibson marked the fact that the City Council amended the Bellingham code to require that no more than three of the commission members be working with or associated with the development industry. This was done to break the total lock that development industry members had on the commission. Since four of the current (2019) members, Ali Taysi, Phyllis McKee, Steve Crooks and Garrett O’Brien still are in or have come from the real estate or development industry, the current appointments do not comply with the city code so the next four appointees must all be from occupations unrelated to development. [see current member roster here]
However, two current commission members are running for elected office, Lisa Anderson for Ward 5 of the City Council and Garrett O’Brien for mayor of Bellingham. Since Taysi, Crooks and McKee are all appointed until 2021, the allowed three development positions on the commission will remain filled. Consequently, the current mayor will have only one more appointment to make and that is to replace Maute-Gibson. Any other appointments, depending on the election results and barring resignations of current members, will likely fall to Linville’s successor.
The next mayor will have an opportunity to shape the planning commission into the mid-2020s. This is important since the current mayor and city council of seven years ago engineered the diminution of the duties of the Mayors Neighborhood Advisory Commission, removing it from the planning process for the city’s Comprehensive Plan and Neighborhood Plans. Representation from non-development industry residents thus becomes important for the voices of the neighborhoods to be heard.
You who are active and interested in your neighborhoods and their future should apply for this upcoming vacancy in the Planning Commission. (Application process here)