Common Threads Northwest spoke with Seth Fleetwood, Candidate for Mayor of Bellingham.
CTNW: What do you believe are your qualifications for the job as the mayor of Bellingham?
Seth Fleetwood: I have a lot of experience being involved in government for many years. I have familiarity with the fundamental workings of federal, state, and local government in both the county and city. Years ago, after college, I worked for a congressman—Congressman Al Swift—as an aide in his Washington D.C. office. I got to be the liaison in my role for a lot of different departments. You'd assign staff to monitor all the various departments in the federal government. Anyway, just a broad overview in how the government works. I worked during the 100th Congress, incidentally. I was an intern in the Washington State Legislature working for a representative in the 1986 session. I got to understand the workings of state government.
I went to law school with the intention of doing public interest work when I got out. I know people like to make fun of lawyers, which I understand, but it's very good education for government work. And I served two terms on the Whatcom County Council and two terms on the Bellingham City Council working on an enormous number of different issues over many years, collaborating with lots of different players in Bellingham and Whatcom County. And through the course of all that, I regard myself as having gained experience.
CTNW: Now talking about your job experience, what is your understanding of what the mission is, the job as city mayor?
Fleetwood: Well, of course, you're the executive of the entire municipal operation, close to 900 employees, and you oversee the delivery of essential public services. That's fundamentally the most important job. During campaigns we talk about policies and values and vision, which is very important, but the job itself is operational. You're dealing with department heads and managers. You're in meetings throughout the day being kept abreast of how things are going. Decisions are coming forward to the mayor, or issues are coming forward for decisions. I've talked to some ex-mayors and one of them said the job entails being in lots of 30-minute meetings throughout the day talking with your staff, being kept informed about things. So fundamentally speaking, I think it's making sure that we run a good organization.
CTNW: What do you believe is the leadership style needed to be effective?
Fleetwood: I've had the good fortune of working with different mayors, and I've derived insight into qualities that are needed. I think it's important to have a calm style. I think you need to be emotionally in control of things. You've got to be a good collaborator. I think having emotional intelligence is good. You're overseeing group dynamics which are on contentious issues that are important. I'm going to be a mayor that asks lots of questions in group dynamics. I'm not the subject matter expert, but the staff is. I will be a mayor that is very respectful of our professional staff, and deferential to their expertise. Those are some important qualities that I hope to show.
CTNW: You've been on the county council, you've been on the city council, and you know that when you attend these meetings there are people who show up for specific issues that are on the agenda, and then there are also people who show up on a regular basis. But then there's that much larger sector of people who don't show up at all. What is your sense of obligation to those people who don't show up, you know, as far as making sure that the issues that they care about are also addressed as a mayor to the council? Since you are sort of a liaison between the council, managing the city operations, and then the people who come to you with their issues. And they quite often do not or cannot attend these meetings and feel unrepresented.
Fleetwood: Well your characterization is accurate. Most people of course are busy living their lives, and that doesn't mean that they're not impacted by the decisions of local government. We live in a system of representative democracy, so people are hired to do that work. I think the city can always do a better job to facilitate contact with the residents of Bellingham. There's always room to improve communication. There's always room to improve how we elicit feedback from affected residents.
CTNW: What do you think is the most effective way to do that? Is it through communicating with them, or surveys, or just general feedback? I mean people might not show up to meetings, but they are usually pretty good about making phone calls and sending emails.
Fleetwood: Right. My first observation is the restraints that we live within. We have limited staff delivering the essential public services, and we have annual work plans, and so the question becomes, to what extent can city operations facilitate greater communication outreach with the citizens? One method that is under discussion right now is how we can better employ the Mayor's Neighborhood Advisory Commission. As it relates to outreach, surveys are always a good way to do it, and that requires personnel and resources. If I'm mayor, I'll review the systems that are in place right now relating to communications.
CTNW: You think it's important to make sure that you represent all the residents and businesses of Bellingham — you know, it's a small percentage of the public that show up to the meetings. There's a much larger group of people who are expecting also to be represented.
Fleetwood: Of course.
CTNW: Moving on, what are your goals and what do you believe is the most important issue confronting the city of Bellingham right now, or maybe the top two or three? And what's your goal if elected mayor?
Fleetwood: Well, I would say a couple of things. First off, the community surveys that happen annually show that 85 percent of the people that live in Bellingham enjoy living here and are generally content. That means there are 15 percent of the respondents who don't feel that way. As mayor I want to better understand what causes that 15 percent to not have as good of an experience in Bellingham. That's very important, and I want to better understand that. The same community survey indicated that—again I think it was approximately the same number—80 or 85 percent of people listed home affordability and the homelessness crisis that we're seeing as a concern. Addressing home affordability and the homelessness issue in Bellingham are critical. Those are important things that the next mayor will have to address successfully.
My campaign theme, however, goes up to an even higher elevation. My campaign theme is Preparing for The Future. I believe very strongly that people in Bellingham, this little town that's changed a lot in my lifetime—from a small undiscovered rainy mill town to what we are today—people are only going to continue moving here in larger and larger numbers. And I think there are several reasons that account for that fact. The thing that animates me more than anything as a candidate for mayor is identifying those central attributes that I think we're going to need to have in the context of a future city that's going to have thousands and thousands more people. People are going to continue moving from all around the United States to the Pacific Northwest. And our constitution and our privileges and immunity clause give every citizen of the United States the right to live in any other state. We have a whole framework of laws that require we facilitate those populations. We even have a Growth Management Act that requires us to accommodate the people that statistics tell us are moving here.
CTNW: Do you believe we have fulfilled those mandates thus far, or do you feel that a lack of filling that mandate has influenced some of the affordability issues here, and not proper planning for the growth?
Fleetwood: Well that gets into one’s philosophy on the question of how we grow. I'm very confident that we are going to grow. The question isn't whether we're going to grow, it's how we're going to grow. Depending on your position on a growth philosophy is going to answer the question that you referred to. What I observe is we have a Growth Management Act which is supposed to govern us as to what are the important elements and criteria for us to follow. We have a comprehensive city plan with many legacies that instruct us as to what our highest values are.
CTNW: The last time they did the comp plan update was for this very reason. There were a few people who made comments that both the city and the county had under-projected for growth. Do you agree or disagree with that?
Fleetwood: Well I wasn't on the council when that happened, but I was involved on the county council when we did a comprehensive plan update some years before. I remember very well the guidelines that are to be followed by the Growth Management Act, that you're supposed to base projections on past trends, pick a growth percentage that is reasonable, and pick a high, medium, and low number. I think for purposes of long-term planning, it makes sense to plan for a higher number. Now that gets complicated because if you plan for a higher number, you're obligated to identify all the various capital public resources that are involved in preparing for that. It does have a direct implication with cost of public services, so I understand that it's important to get it right.
CTNW: Because they did shoot for medium this last time.
Fleetwood: Right. Our Growth Management Act was very much a political compromise, and it has a whole series of things that demonstrates a value, and they are elastic in their nature. There's a constant tension going on about what should be emphasized. I mean, we have a policy in Bellingham, for example, about trying to accommodate future growth within the existing footprint, which is based very much on this view that if you expand growth boundaries over time at every review, obviously you urbanize the whole county like they've done in King County for example. Having said that, our comprehensive plan presently, as a preferred method for how we accommodate growth, says that we shall provide: some consideration of strategic expansions of growth boundaries when it's appropriate, some use of lands that aren't presently built, infill opportunities within the city, and a primary emphasis on urban growth, on urban villages. Is that enough to accommodate growth? Well that's something that we're going to have to look at closely.
CTNW: I guess that's why I was kind of asking about what your plans are for dealing with these issues because they all nexus together.
Fleetwood: They certainly do. I mean, if one takes a view that the future is going to be fundamentally different than today—if you accept the view that over the coming decades more and more people are going to be moving here—that obligates us to accommodate growing numbers of people. If you have a growth management plan that emphasizes the need to preserve natural resource lands—we have some of the richest soils found anywhere in the world in Whatcom County that presumably is going to have important value in the future—one can imagine thriving organic farms in the future delivering food to a growing population in Bellingham. If you assume those things, and then take it a step further, and recognize that our comp plan requires us to maintain a sense of place in neighborhoods, but it also directs us to thoughtfully consider how we apply different housing forms within our city, the question then becomes, how do we situate things to deliver the best outcome in a way that maintains the livability of Bellingham? And that's a tension that's going on right now in our community, and I hope as mayor to be a facilitator of that conversation, perhaps even helping to mediate that conversation.
CTNW: Currently, the larger portion of young, middle-class families cannot afford to live in Bellingham in a single-family house. This is one of the primary reasons they're seeking to live outside the urban area of Bellingham. And we're losing—even in rural areas—a lot of our young families, our middle class that is, I believe, an important sector to retain, if not grow.
Fleetwood: Yeah, it's a huge problem. It is the biggest issue going on in Bellingham. We have a crisis—I would submit it's a crisis—that's happening nation-wide. It's a crisis that's particularly distinct in western Washington. It's not unique to Bellingham. It's happening everywhere. I would submit—and I've said this throughout the campaign—any mayor of Bellingham is going to have to, among many other things, join a growing coalition of mayors around the nation in lobbying the federal government for systemic reforms that reverse income inequality in this country. You can't have a system in America where one percent of the people have half the wealth. When you have that kind of system, cities feel and see effects and then we must be very creative in responding to it, even if it’s responding to effects as opposed to resolving root causes. We used to have a federal system that was an important partner in the framework of governments, where the federal government had a role, state governments had a role, and local governments had a role, and they're all in it together, and they all rely to a certain degree on the other forms of government, because it's all related. You can't have a reduction in social services at the federal level, a reduction in the middle class, an increase in the one percent having the vast bulk of the wealth, and not see an effect that plays out at the city levels.
CTNW: So can I quantify that you said one of the largest factors in the loss of the middle class and their being able to afford [housing] is due to income inequality as opposed to the fact that our wage base has stayed fairly low whereas our costs of living, the sectors such as housing and transportation and food, have separated from the reality of where our wage base is at.
Fleetwood: I would submit that there are a whole range of complex factors that account for the situation we're in. Some of the factors, I think the most well-accepted factor of course as to what the problem is, is that wages don't keep up with the cost of living in Bellingham. And what is the effect of that? Well, obviously…
CTNW: And what are the drivers of those cost of living increases?
Fleetwood: And obviously those things get extremely complex when you get into causation. But what we can observe on an easier level is that for various reasons, Bellingham has not kept pace as it relates to living-wage jobs that make people able to affordably buy homes here. I think the driver to that includes the fact that we have a phenomenon of in-migration. People are moving here with greater means, the housing supply that they're competing for is not keeping pace, and it's increasing the cost of living. And the people at the bottom of the economic scale, the people that are on fixed incomes such as social security disability or a low retirement account, those people with static incomes, and increasing higher costs of housing because of these factors—including people moving here with greater means—guarantees that there's going to be some portion of people at the bottom of the scale who can't afford housing.
CTNW: And there's that economic advisory group, and you've seen a lot of the data they've found that part of the solution would be to have, like you said, living wages; which requires that the existing businesses provide those living wages, and any new businesses coming to the area will look at whether or not their workforce can afford to live here. It is a complicated problem. Do you have any plans in order to address that?
Fleetwood: Yes. We need to do a variety of things at once. There's not a single magic bullet. It's going to require multi-pronged, comprehensive...
CTNW: Because we do have a shrinking middle class, and people are very concerned, you know. It's wonderful that we have recreation jobs. It's wonderful that we have service sector jobs. But there's a missing component that really can't be addressed when they bypass this area because their workforce can't afford to live here. Or they're considering leaving because of it — or have left.
Fleetwood: It's a big problem and it must be addressed. We must be a community that works for everybody in the future of Bellingham, not just affluent people or retirees. We want families to be able to enjoy Bellingham.
CTNW: So that's why I was talking about goals and plans, whether you've got, in your kitchen cabinet of people, a plan for addressing these issues. Because if addressed, those goals need to tumble down and benefit other issues that are happening in the community.
Fleetwood: We need a plan in Bellingham that reduces the price of housing at what we refer to as the market rate, so we need to address that. We need to increase supply. We need considerably more units that are permanently affordable through a variety of means, and that involves finding developers who will develop housing solutions that are permanently affordable made possible by a one-time subsidy. Bellingham has a goal to dramatically increase the number of homes in Bellingham that are made permanently affordable. The question becomes: how do we do that? There is—to use the term that's become popular—we need more housing that addresses the 'missing middle.’ As you know, one half of housing is unaffordable by the definition we use: one third of income, not more, going to housing. By that definition, housing is unaffordable in the city of Bellingham to half of the people that live here. That is appalling. That needs to change. So, we're going to have to increase the supply of homes in Bellingham. I would submit that one way to do that is to find better ways to incentivize the urban villages, which right now is the preferred method for housing lots of people in Bellingham. There's a task force going on, the climate task force, that is going to be promoting land use forms that make us more compact. I think there's going to be an opportunity to consider marrying to some degree urban villages in Bellingham with some of the infill toolkit forms to those urban villages in areas that we might refer to as "transition zones." By that method, we would be able to maintain our single-family neighborhoods which people in Bellingham love. Many people in Bellingham love our single-family neighborhoods. I also believe that there's going to be an opportunity to consider in a very thoughtful public process, ways to permit new housing forms within the single-family neighborhoods. It can be done in ways that maintain the character of our neighborhoods while dramatically increasing the potential yield. We're reviewing multi-family neighborhoods right now. There are high, medium, and low densities. Often someone will go in and own land within a multi-family zone and build it out at a low density. The question becomes: how can we increase unit yield within those zones? The city's looking at that right now. In the long-term, the planning department is presenting the city council with options as it relates to that. There's a whole variety of things that are going to have to happen in Bellingham. I think we're going to need increased use of public-private partnerships. We're going to have to find some creative ways through state grant opportunities, and utilization of existing funding sources in Bellingham including the Bellingham Home Fund, which close to two-thirds of Bellingham voters supported, and which I was proud to promote and sponsor when I was on the city council. For the low-income segment of Bellingham, the Home Fund has become a very popular tool which has created hundreds of units. I want the future of Bellingham to be a full mix of citizens.
CTNW: We've got the upper end and we've got the lower end. We're missing the middle.
Fleetwood: We're missing the middle, and so we're going to have to dramatically increase opportunities for the market to deliver in that regard.
CTNW: Would you be doing zoning changes in order to accommodate that, or expanding some of these urban growth areas to accommodate it?
Fleetwood: I think that the mayor's job is to implement a comprehensive plan, and so I would thoughtfully implement that plan. As it relates to the future city of Bellingham—which again, going back to my central observation, is going to be fundamentally different than today—I recognize with the way people live we're going to have to create a far more sustainable city where we are creating local renewable energy. We're going to have to have a city that is greener. We're going to have to have a city that is denser. We didn't even talk about the effects and the opportunities for downtown. My point simply is that—and this is a very broad observation—the fundamental problem with reliance on growth boundary expansion over long periods of time is it theoretically gets you to a place where you urbanize the whole county. And under the Growth Management Act, at least theoretically, that's permissible. Although there's this tension: you're supposed to maintain rural character, and create urban form, and accommodate the needs of the total population. The state mandates that we accommodate, but they give enormous discretion to local government for how you're going to do that.
CTNW: And just wrapping it up, the mayor doesn't get to set those policies, but the mayor does need to effectively communicate with the council, would you agree?
Fleetwood: I was just having this conversation with a council member the other day. It's easy to make too stark a contrast between the mayor and the council and say the council is the policy maker and the mayor implements policy. I would submit that there's an enormous role for the mayor to participate in policy, because the staff are the ones considering it and delivering it at the request of the policy makers.
But to wrap up as it relates to expanding growth boundaries. I started by saying that the mayor is under a duty to implement the charter, and the preferred method by which we grow right now according to the charter, identifies infill opportunities in the city, urban villages, and some consideration of strategic expansion of growth boundaries where appropriate. That's the present comprehensive plan. So, would I be open to discussions on growth boundary expansion? I would see it as a duty for me to consider that.
CTNW: Let's move on to the finances for the City of Bellingham. Have you studied them? It's been my interpretation from what I have listened to prior candidates say that the City of Bellingham has a lot of things they need to pay for, and they don't have the money for it. Are you aware of that, and how do you plan to deal with it?
Fleetwood: The City of Bellingham has limitations. Our funding methods are authorized by the state and they're limited. The amount that we can assess in taxation is limited. And we have limited personnel in carrying out all the various obligations. That's just a broad observation. We can't do everything that we want to do. We're going to have to do what we've always done which is prioritize. To answer your broad question: am I familiar with finances? As a member of the Whatcom County Council and a member of the Bellingham City Council we have the 'power of the purse.' We're the ones that make the decisions relating to generating revenues and spending. Council members have legislative oversight of the entire operation, so I'm informed and aware of the dynamics. I think there's a common conversation you hear amongst politically active people in Bellingham who promote funding initiatives, and it's always: when is the largess of the Bellingham voter going to reach its apex? So, reviewing the finances is going to be the job of the mayor, and communicating it to the council and the public.
CTNW: Because my personal understanding from conversations is that the council sometimes asks the mayor to find the money because they have something they want to do. Are you going to be able to, you know, bridge that gap with the priorities and everything?
Fleetwood: One thing I've learned in my years working in local government and working with ex-mayors and executives is that the mayor is the person that must be able to say 'no' at times. Or if not saying 'no,' has to say, 'we don't have the means to do that right now'. I can help us reprioritize things in ways that might make something like that available, but we as leaders in local government are then going to have to identify what can't be done.
CTNW: But you have sat down with the people in the finance department and have an understanding where things are. One way, of course, in dealing with some of these issues is building the economic base for the community. Do you have any plans for that?
Fleetwood: What I can say about building the economic base: first off, I've always been a collaborator. I've always been somebody who utilizes expertise. I have great respect for people with expertise. The mayor is going to have a unique opportunity to work with the economic leaders in Bellingham and better understand what it is they need. There's that aspect. Bellingham of course is not the creator of private jobs, but we do have a job to do that relates to that effort. I think the business leaders in Bellingham expect us to do our unique job, and that is to ensure that we run an efficient, intelligent city. As I said at the beginning, we deliver essential public services...
CTNW: And one of those biggest services is safety. What are your plans for keeping Bellingham safe? That's another one of the issues that people are concerned about. And I'm not talking about the homeless, I'm talking about safety overall.
Fleetwood: I'm going to be a mayor that is very respectful of our public safety personnel, including our fire and police [departments]. I've met with leadership of both organizations. They both make a solid case that they are under-funded and that we need more personnel. And that in some critical respects we're falling beneath the required level of service. So there again it's going to come down to a question of, how can we provide that? I would like to, in my job overseeing creation of the budget, find ways to make strides in all those areas. I know that the current city government has done that. I'm not second guessing anybody, and I'm certainly not going to be an armchair quarterback. People are doing the best they can. But I will be empowered as mayor to increase funding in public safety. So, I think that we're going to need increases...
CTNW: What you’ve said is that whether its shifting priorities, raising fees, taxes or whatever, to be able to pay for that you will consider all avenues? Because that's the biggest issue. They're losing more police officers than they're gaining, and that's an issue.
Fleetwood: Right, and as it relates to a proportion of the personnel to a growing city, obviously it's getting wider and wider, which has direct implications as it relates to the level of service. I would be cautious about making any immediate assertions about raising taxes for new revenue, just based on what I understand about the extent of how people are presently taxed. I know that there are several taxing authorities presently in Bellingham that are coming up for renewal, for example. The transportation benefit district is due to sunset soon. As you know that's been in place for 10 years, and it's been a needed—additional funding source for street paving, alternative transportation, pedestrian bike paths, a whole variety of important things, including for a period, assisting WTA and increased bus service. There are a lot of competing funding sources, and I need to review all of them. My first impulse would be to try and find increased funding within the existing budget because I think public safety is vital.
CTNW: Would you implement a task force and maybe find some volunteers to go through the budget and see how they can revise it in order to address and prioritize so that some of these critical things of importance happen?
Fleetwood: I would certainly want to. That sort of goes to another question which is the whole process that we utilize for crafting our budgets. Are there opportunities for thoughtful, informed groups of people to review things like that? Given the fact that we're a transparent public organization, potentially yes. All I can say as it relates to that is, I would utilize whatever methods are necessary to get information that we need to make informed, thoughtful decisions.
CTNW: So, you'd be open to suggestions?
Fleetwood: Of course, yeah.
CTNW: Homelessness and shelter capacity is a growing issue in Bellingham. They're in crisis right now. Do you have any plans or thoughts on that and how to address that?
Fleetwood: Yes, and I would start with a broad observation about how I perceive the conversation, how the conversation has evolved in the last year-and-a-half amongst community leaders. I think there's a broad coalition around an observation that having one massive 200-plus bed facility is not the way to go. I sense that there's expanding community consensus around the idea of having smaller transitional shelters appropriately placed regionally so that it doesn't have to be centralized. Obviously, there's compelling reasons to have services available, but I would observe that we have the resources, we have the will, and we have the expertise in Bellingham to address this issue thoughtfully. I was a proud cosponsor 11 years ago of the mental health sales tax which passed at the county level and brings in several million dollars a year that's helping to address a variety of issues including mental health concerns, and people with drug and alcohol addiction. That's a helpful source. We have the Home Fund as a potential source of funding to assist in this issue. I think the most fundamentally necessary thing that we need is more homes. So, shelters, of course, are important. But the even greater over-arching need is simply more homes. I'm a strong proponent of Homes First. Homes First, amongst providers of subsidized housing, has become a broadly accepted rallying cry of the most fundamental need which is homes first. The thing you emphasize most with limited funds is the creation of brick-and-mortar homes. The vast majority who are homeless, contrary to what I think is a popular perception—that the causation relates to domestic violence or mental issues or drug and alcohol issues—is simply a lack of housing for people.
CTNW: But also, a large percentage of the homeless do have drug and mental health issues. Is providing them a home going to allow them to continue functioning in that capacity? I mean, because that's the biggest concern that I have heard out there is that taking somebody who has mental health issues, who has drug issues, who has a combination of all of that, and then just putting them into a home doesn't solve that issue. They might not be homeless, but...
Fleetwood: Right, there are unique populations that need special services without a doubt. As mayor I would work with the Lighthouse Mission, PeaceHealth, housing providers, public safety personnel, and others to create appropriate facilities for people that have no other place to go. We can create robust and humane sheltering programs, at state-of-the-art facilities, that provide the services that people experiencing homelessness need to be safe and stable. And I really think that we can make improvements that address the concerns for all the people in Bellingham.
CTNW: Yes, it's complicated. Like you say, there's a lot of people who want to solve the issue, but nobody wants it next door to or in their neighborhood.
CTNW: Okay moving on to wanting to make Bellingham greener. There is the Climate Action Task Force, who are proposing that all Bellingham homes and businesses convert to electric for energy to heat, cool, refrigeration, and getting rid of natural gas as the source for their water heaters, furnaces, and I'm not sure about ranges and stoves and things of that nature, etc—but having electricity or solar or wind as their energy source—we just talked about affordability—do you think that will help the affordability issue? If so, why?
Fleetwood: The reality is that adapting to the realities of a changing climate and the effort to convert to renewable energy is going to have significant costs associated with it.
CTNW: Economic disruption is what some people call it.
Fleetwood: And others call it saving the world. It's sort of near-term thinking and long-term thinking. I'll tell you this as it relates to climate science: I am of course a believer, and the governments of the entire world agree. That's why they entered into the Paris Conference on Climate, where for the first time the entire world agreed that we have to address the climate crisis with an understanding of the essential cause. When you burn 37 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere, it has the effect of trapping heat and warming the planet. That's well accepted. I'm a believer in that. I'm a believer that all governments in the world need to do their proportionate share to address the problem. We have the technical means to convert to renewable energy and we need to do so. The task force is charged with delivering recommendations on how to do it. I would first observe that the task force presently has not reduced anything to a formal recommendation. Those are going to be coming forward at the end of this year. We can only assume that something like this is going to be proposed, and as I've gone around Bellingham and met with people while knocking on doors, I've met a lot of people that are very animated about this. Single family residences being required to electrify their space and watering systems within a couple years of getting a new home, for example, buildings larger than 10,000 square feet being required to electrify. So, I mean, there's going to be a lot of impacts. So how are we going to do that? I have a gas stove.
CTNW: I just paid $9.57 for my gas bill, and I love that my stove top is available to use when the power goes out.
Fleetwood: Yeah, I know. There’re all those observations. Having said that, recognizing that there's nothing convenient about the climate crisis. It is going to be profoundly disruptive. But I also recognize that it's something humanity must do.
CTNW: But don't we have to be able to pay for it?
Fleetwood: We must pay for it, so thank you, that gets right to the heart of it.
CTNW: That's what I'm talking about. It all has to be paid for. The more money you have, the cleaner you can make your home.
Fleetwood: Right. It all must be paid for. So how to achieve those goals in ways that are fair and equitable is going to be everything. It's going to be financially infeasible for many people to do this. So, we're going to have to do it in an equitable way. Well what does that mean? That means that we're going to have to identify through some process, and some means, funding sources so people with lesser means are going to be more capable of doing the conversion. In a perfect world, the easiest assist to achieve these goals would be through some wonderful market device where people are motivated to convert because there's a technology that's easier. I think we're going to see increases in that regard over time. We're going to see greater and greater use of community renewable energy systems, for example, in the next 10 years. They're going to make new utilities easier and easier, but that's going to take a while.
CTNW: My question that I want to drill down to is the task force makes a recommendation that they want to see all these things happen within a certain period of time, and are you just going to say: 'okay let's do it?' Because the task force has not looked at costs, they have not addressed cost at all.
Fleetwood: They're going to identify what needs to be done, and we are going to have to figure out how to do it. And perhaps that's not fair to the task force. Maybe they do offer proposals for how to do it, but I think fundamentally they're going to identify what needs to be done in their view. This is important to the degree that the task force recommendations that come forward eventually are going to be implemented by the City of Bellingham by and through the city council. There's going to be a robust public process before any votes are going to happen on task force recommendations. We can just imagine the public hearings that are going to be coming forward in the 2020s.
CTNW: Yes, and one of the reasons that I asked the question is to determine how you can not just represent, but communicate to, the entire community so they're not hit over the top of the head because they're unaware that this has happened.
Fleetwood: Well you underscore something that's important, and as mayor I want to be very good at communicating to Bellingham in very coherent ways, in ways that are successful at informing people about things that need to be done. If Bellingham in the 2020s is going to be doing a lot of ambitious things, we're going to have to have an understandable way that we're communicating that to the people.
CTNW: One more question. This is a question that I've asked each one of the executives, mayors, and city and county council, is that Governor Inslee enacted the 'sanctuary state' [law], and how do you believe that will affect the City of Bellingham with regards to implementation and safety? And do you agree or disagree with Governor Inslee having used his executive powers to make Washington State a 'sanctuary state'?
Fleetwood: I've read the statute. I think it's Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5497. I would make this observation about that statute. First, it spends a considerable amount of time in the recitals; the now therefore, the whereas, the things that support, that give public reason for why we would want to support something like this. It talks about the fact that there are one million immigrants in Washington State out of seven million people or so, and about 14 percent of our population are immigrants. And it observes the economic benefits that we receive because of their presence here, which I think has been something that perhaps has been misunderstood to a large degree for a long time. They are valuable human beings that live in Washington State, and so the statute observes that, and honors that fact to help substantiate their dignity. And then it talks about the stuff that's sort of more classically sanctuary based and asserts that local law enforcement is not going to assist ICE agents as it relates to citizens and documentation. My understanding is that a lot of what's expressed in that statute is to a large degree already codified by ordinance in the City of Bellingham. I would need to better understand the detailed distinctions between the state statute and our current ordinance to highlight the fine distinctions, but based on what I know, I support Senate Bill 5497.
Fleetwood: I offer thoughtful, trusted, and experienced leadership. I've been involved in important issues facing our community for many years. I've been an advocate for the public’s interest for a long time, and for someone with my interests and my background, being mayor would just be a really great job I'd love. And I know I'd be a mayor that cares about a lot of things facing our community.
You can find out more about Seth Fleetwood and his campaign at sethfleetwood.com.