Whatcom County’s Future is in Your Hands
Editorial Opinion by Jim McKinney, July 16th, 2019
About Apple Mountain, LLC
In 2014, Jim and Laura McKinney returned to Blaine, Washington, with their family and formed Apple Mountain LLC, Consulting and Development. Laura and Jim have a combined 45 years of experience in leadership, communications, national security, economic development, strategic planning, and public relations. The vision of Apple Mountain is to see purposeful growth and development and to assist in building a better community.
Whatcom County is a unique and special place to live. I believe that most residents would like our home to stay special. They want to protect the environment. They want to avoid urban sprawl. They want a thriving, and eventually a green economy. They want to protect their jobs and their quality of life. And they don’t want to turn into Seattle. But, local activists, power politics and bad policy are changing this wonderful place, and undermining Whatcom’s future and bringing Seattle closer to home.
According to all economic indicators and U.S. Labor Department statistics, the U.S. economy is strong. The 3% GDP growth rate over the last 2-years has far outpaced the previous 6-years of dismal 1 to 1.5% growth. Unemployment is at a 50-year low. The U.S. workforce participation rate is the highest ever. Manufacturing jobs are returning to the U.S. from overseas. Economic activity and workforce shortages are creating real wage increases.
All this should be good news, but for local builders, farmers, and our largest employers’ things are not going so well in Whatcom County. Seattle’s problems and politics are encroaching.
There is a significant homeless problem in Bellingham with a .3% homeless rate; Seattle-King County has a staggering homeless rate of .5%, with Snohomish County coming in at a much lower rate of .1%. According to U.S. Census statistics poverty in Bellingham is above 21%; almost twice as high as the overall rate for the State of Washington at 11% and well above Seattle’s 12%. Homelessness, a lack of top paying jobs, and poor infrastructure; limit our ability to protect our people and our environment.
But, Whatcom County is still a beautiful place, people love it here and want to move here. The overall population has increased 12%, since 2010. Retirees from Seattle and California buy homes at a discount compared to their former high-priced neighborhoods. So what’s the problem?
Growth, poor planning and over-regulation have created a shortage of affordable housing and home prices are skyrocketing. Top-tier, family-wage jobs have diminished, and drug use is prevalent; contributing to a mental health crisis. Farmers and businesses are making the difficult choice to sell or move out of the region due to over-regulation and an inability to find good workers. It takes far too long, and a small fortune, to build a new housing development. All of this diminishes the quality of life we seek.
Why is this happening? Bad, local policy — that is the biggest threat to our local environment, infrastructure, quality of life and economic growth for Whatcom County.
Progressive politics and fear-mongering encourage radical activists to misinform and use political trickery to shape electorate outcomes that will promote the “progressive-agenda.” These same activists use fear to enrage us to believe that fossil fuels will destroy the planet. They wail at County Council meetings that, “we are facing extinction if we don’t act.” They lobby to stop growth. They want to protect farmland by shutting down farms. They trigger extremists and refuse to accept rational discussion.
Whatcom County and Bellingham City officials are responding to their rhetoric. They’ve enacted policies well beyond already stringent State and Federal regulations. They’ve shown no will to facilitate reason and balance — they don’t listen to average people who are not politically motivated. They use their power to regulate through legislation — creating more power to ensure that these policies keep Progressive activists happy and themselves them in power.
The sitting County Council enacts moratoriums that restrict improvement and expansion at the County’s only designated, heavy industrial, growth zone — Cherry Point. They’ve passed moratoriums on County building permits and enacted stiff regulations to local farmers in the livestock and dairy industries. Construction permits take years to get approved for housing, industrial facilities, or even a new “Green” industry.
The Bellingham City Council is looking for ways to fast-track and outlaw the use of natural gas to heat your home and water - the most efficient, cheapest and plentiful energy source in the nation. How much will it cost you to change over to all electric appliances?
Cherry Point industries, mainly energy, are being attacked by environmental, no-growth political activists and their local government. The loss of these companies, by any economic measure, would be devastating to the County. These industries are the highest paying employers in the County. The average salary at Cherry Point is over $110,000; compare that to the approximately $47,000 annual wage for the County. They impact a large percentage of our workforce and are the largest tax contributors for our local schools and communities.
Cherry Point industries are heavily regulated, clean operations — working toward emission reductions and the eventual transition to renewable fuels. Their overall economic impact provides the funds we need to pay for environmental protection, charity and philanthropy for our county and state.
The closure of our refineries will not slow CO2 emissions – they can and will move to countries with less regulation, which does not help the environment. We need more of those jobs, those tax revenues and businesses to sustain and improve, not hurt, the people of our community. Yet the Council spends precious tax dollars to find legal loopholes that would restrict their ability to compete in globally competitive markets. How long will they stay? How long can they stay here and compete in the global economy?
Whatcom County and Bellingham City council policies have not improved our community by responding to extremists. Ask yourself — are the incumbent council members fighting for your job, your farm or your home? Or, are they fighting for their power, or worse, a political ideology?
Limitations on property development increases demand, conflates prices and contributes to homelessness. Population increase without increased business and employment opportunity, creates inequality. Limiting growth in the private sector keeps those valued, well-paying jobs and new income, from coming into the county. Our political leaders have scared away the growth and employment needed for the social fabric of a healthy community.
The political balance has tipped in a way that undermines Whatcom County’s quality of life. Businesses and employees pay the taxes that clean and protect our environment, fund our schools, pave our roads and support the disadvantaged. Closing our biggest and best employers is not a solution. Climate change is inevitable. We can find ways to adapt in a way that balances and protects our needs, and prepares us for the future. To get there we need common-sense approaches, resources and innovation.
We’ve all seen how these types of policies have destabilized Seattle. It doesn’t have to be this way. Whatcom County and Bellingham residents need elected officials that not only value the environment, but understand the value that entrepreneurs, jobs, careers, business and industry bring everyone’s lives. We need less activist-leaders and more compassionate-leaders who have empathy for the people who live here and desire to continue to live — work — and raise their families here.
Whatcom County’s future is in your hands. Make a change this November. Vote to keep Whatcom County a special place to call home.
All candidates from these races were invited to be interviewed by Common Threads for publication to our website: Whatcom County Executive, Whatcom County Council, Whatcom County Assessor, Port of Bellingham, Mayor of Bellinghsm, Bellingham City Council, Mayor if Ferndale, and Ferndale City Council.
If your candidate has not included it is due to a non-response to our invitation.
These interviews are not endorsements by Common Threads Northwest. These interviews are strictly for the purpose of educating the voters of Whatcom County.