In News, Wake Up Whatcom by commonnw

Jack Petree – September 22, 2017

In a recent news story posted by the historic Hearst news publication, the Seattle PI, detailed the results of a new United States Census Bureau wage estimates. Data which points to the City of Bellingham’s abysmal economic performance in recent years. 

No surprise!  We warned them. The Census Bureau data which lead the P-I to label the City of Bellingham as the worst performing wage producer in Washington State, was met by skepticism by two of the architects of Whatcom County and Bellingham’s tragic economic performance, former County and Bellingham City planner David Stalheim and Whatcom County Councilman Todd Donovan.

Judging by the Tesla-choked highways and $800,000 starter homes, times are pretty great for Washington state.

And yet estimates released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau tell a different story.

Incomes are up in some of the state’s larger cities — way up in a few east of the Cascades, too — but they’ve actually fallen since 2015 in several. Check out the gallery above to see how Washington’s cities compare when it comes to income growth. ~ from Seattle PI

Here’s what the P-I said which aroused the anger and denial from these two men; “WORST:  — Bellingham: In 2016, the median income of workers in this city was $36,761, down $3,578 from 2015. That’s a 9.7 percent decrease.”

Despite their crocodile tears, both Stalheim and Donovan are well aware of the nature of Whatcom County and Bellingham’s incredibly poor economic performance.  Consider just three of dozens of examples:

  • Data presented to Donovan by Whatcom County Planning while the County Council considered Whatcom County and Bellingham’s future economy (an economy the Whatcom County Council is responsible for co-equally with Bellingham by law), demonstrates that at present rates of growth Bellingham would not achieve its 20-year projection for jobs production until about the year 2110; nearly 74 years late! (see the Common Threads document Failing To Plan Or Planning To Fail presented to the Council in 2016.  Refer to the Bellingham City County Planning Department documentation outlining Bellingham Growth Projections, pages 1 – 15.
  • February 22, 2016 the City of Bellingham’s Council received the grim economic news that its once large and healthy reserve fund would be exhausted within about 5 years. Rather than concentrate on improving the economy discussion centered on “How can we avoid present laws regarding tax increases.  The Bellingham Herald reported on the issue on May 14, 2016.
  • The U.S. Bureau Of Labor Statistics reports on wage levels regularly. Here’s the Bureau’s report for the third quarter of 2016: “Average weekly wages in three of Washington’s large counties placed in the top third of the national ranking. King County ($1,582, 8th), Snohomish ($1,108, 68th), and Benton ($1,042, 92nd) exceeded the national average in the third quarter of 2016. The two counties with the lowest average weekly wages—Whatcom ($844, 275th) and Yakima ($712, 339th)—placed in the bottom third of the largest U.S. counties.”  Using a bit finer comb, the data demonstrates Whatcom County/Bellingham is actually right at the bubble for the county’s being in the bottom 1/5th of the nation’s counties. 

Stalheim and Donovan are two of Bellingham’s most powerful political operatives.  Donovan is currently engaged in electoral shenanigans that would, for however short a time, have him simultaneously be the Councilmember elect for one County Council seat and the occupant of a second seat with a term that does not expire until 2019.  Stalheim ran for Whatcom County Executive, was a formerly head of the Whatcom County Planning Department, and, developed the current Bellingham Consolidated Plan, a plan that points to some of the serious economic shortcomings demonstrated by the data above.  Both men are, unless they are totally clueless, well aware of the disastrous state of the Bellingham economy they now appear to be defending.

The Planner
David Stalheim wants to help guide Whatcom’s future

His (Stalheim’s) desire eventually brought him to Whatcom County, where he led planning staff through a tumultuous period as competing forces seesawed for control of county government as County Council attempted first to comply and then to fiercely resist state goals for managing its resource lands. But whether there is a right way or a wrong way to approach such issues of public policy, there is certainly a lawful and unlawful way to approach them. Stalheim attempted to guide them in the latter respects. –

Quote taken from the Cascadia Weekly, July 27, 2011

Last, it should be noted, much economic analysis is slanted by the eye of the beholder and, any snapshot in time, can be inaccurate in the specific but accurate in the larger picture.  The exact decline in wages pointed to by the Census Bureau estimates can be legitimately questioned but the larger picture, the third world nature of Bellingham economy for the common man and woman, simply cannot be questioned.

For a larger picture overview of both the Whatcom County and Bellingham’s failing economies contact Common Threads for the 2016 report; Failing To Plan or Planning To Fail and my letter to the Bellingham City Council, dated June 3rd, 2016, which directly pointed to this trend and my unfortunately, validated concerns with Bellingham’s economic trajectory.