The Gristle

The Real Social Network

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

THE REAL SOCIAL NETWORK: This week’s meeting of Bellingham City Council was a masters’ course in current social justice and social equity issues.

Council appears inclined to continue their ban on the conversion of the city’s dwindling supply of manufactured home parks, one of the last remaining options for affordable homeownership for lower and fixed incomes—and perhaps the capstone to the puzzle of where and how to place tiny homes throughout the city. In June, Council put a moratorium in place that prohibits the acceptance or processing of any application to redevelop or change the use of any of the ten manufactured home parks in Bellingham. Their action drew this week’s public comments.

These parks—and many others scattered throughout the county—are zoned for high-density residential occupancy and are outfitted for utility hookups. Their small lots serve as a fusion of home ownership and rental access advantages, particularly for those on fixed incomes. At their perimeters and centers, these parks might accommodate a increasing demand for tiny homes, and perhaps in their maturity even replace larger, aging manufactured homes. They’re also fairly ripe for plunder and conversion by land speculators. The moratorium is intended to preserve the status quo as the city develops options to permanently preserve this form of affordable housing.

In a tangential action, City Council this week considered actions and code amendments that might forestall the creation of additional food deserts in Bellingham. A food desert is defined as an urban area where is difficult to purchase good-quality fresh food, including fruits and vegetables. One was created in Birchwood neighborhood with the closure of Albertson’s and an existing covenant that forecloses on any other grocer opening and operating in the surrounding area. The city has declined to test the rigor of that “non-compete” in court, but their work this week is intended to ensure no more are created. A proposed ordinance will restrict the ability of a company that closes a grocery store to enforce a restrictive covenant against other similar businesses from opening.

Moving more specifically to the city’s most vulnerable populations, City Council this week strengthened their plan to more ably respond to federal initiatives related to immigration enforcement in light of the increasing aggression of the Trump administration.

City policy already established a passive resistance to federal immigration enforcement, “providing all of its residents with fair and equal access to services, opportunities, and protection and to maximize public safety for the entire Bellingham community,” with the understanding that a terrorized population may seek the protections they are entitled to under state and municipal law.

“There have been recent reports that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is planning large-scale enforcement operations that could affect individuals, families, and businesses in our community,” Council member Hannah Stone reported. Stone is an attorney who specializes in immigration law. “Although it is impossible to know for certain which cities will be targeted, these operations will likely impact multiple cities across the United States. The fear surrounding increased federal enforcement operations is palpable and it is not only felt by undocumented members of our community—the ripple effect reaches to all corners of our city.

“It permeates beyond the undocumented population,” Stone added, “and includes permanent residents who are fearful that because of the color of their skin or the way they speak they may be swept erroneously through an enforcement effort.”

Council also took a shallow dive into the persistent gap in women’s wealth and equity in comparison to men’s, a crushing issue for the city’s most vulnerable populations.

While women earn an average of 79 cents for every dollar earned by men, they only own 32 cents of wealth and hard assets for every dollar owned by men, according to research. These wealth assets may be passed to the next generation, providing a financial cushion and a springboard for better economic opportunities. Conversely, their absence continues a generational pattern of impoverishment among the most vulnerable families.

Mayor Kelli Linville said her office plans to go through a series of recommendations to address the wealth gap, and group them into things that might be achieved in the near term and those that require more discussion for implementation.

One can often best understand social justice through the lens of criminal justice, how the System treats its vulnerable citizens who become ensnared in it.

On that front, Bellingham City Council this week also received the annual report of the Whatcom County Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Task Force, and the central role the city has played in making that a document of encouraging news.

“As of March of 2019, more than 1,000 Bellingham Municipal Court defendants have completed sentences on electronic monitoring rather than in Whatcom County Jail,” the report authors commented. “This has enabled those defendants to remain employed, attend school, continue with treatment, keep children in their custody, attend medical appointments, and still be held accountable for their actions.

“This program has resulted in a savings to the city of over $2 million.”

In addition, the city has championed programs like GRACE and community paramedics to move emergency call loads away from police. The city has instituted changes to how municipal court handles charges related to domestic violence and behavioral health that have begun to percolate in its county district court counterpart.  And the city has played a key partnership role in developing a mental health and substance abuse treatment center. The city and county may break ground on a new 32-bed facility by this fall.

Much more work needs to be done, but all of it circles back and is reinforced by a more humane treatment of the city’s transient, immigrant and economically vulnerable populations. Making the rules better, more inclusive and equitable, can help people stay inside the rules.

Past Columns
Ground Zero

August 21, 2019

Fire and Frost

August 14, 2019

The Fury and the Folly

August 7, 2019

Due East II

July 31, 2019

Due East

July 3, 2019

Thin Green Line

June 26, 2019

A Journeyman’s Journey

June 12, 2019

Her Story

June 5, 2019

Do Overs

May 29, 2019

E Pluribus Unum

May 15, 2019

The Millworks

May 8, 2019

State of the County

May 1, 2019

A Change in Climate

April 24, 2019

The Raucous Caucus

April 17, 2019

Dragged

April 10, 2019

Edge City

April 3, 2019

Fixing the Fix

March 27, 2019

Events
Today
The Spitfire Grill

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center Mainstage

Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Skagit Guided Adventures

12:00pm|Skyline Marina

An Iliad

7:30pm|Maritime Heritage Park

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Seaside BBQ

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Ferndale Street Festival

6:00pm|Downtown Ferndale

The Phantom Tollbooth

7:00pm|BAAY Theater

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Dynamic Duos

9:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Post #154

Fidalgo Bay Day

9:00am|Fidalgo Bay Resort

Lake Whatcom Park Trail Build

9:00am|Lake Whatcom Park

Twin Sisters Farmers Markets

9:00am|North Fork Library

Anacortes Farmers Market

9:00am|Depot Arts Center

Concrete Saturday Market

9:00am|Concrete Community Center

Mount Vernon Farmers Market2333

9:00am|Riverwalk Park

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

The art of arrangement

10:00am

The Flower Festival

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Sumas Writers Group

10:00am|Sumas Library

Lynden Farmers Market

10:00am|Centennial Park

Blaine Gardeners Market

10:00am|H Street Plaza

Lummi Island Saturday Market

10:00am

Airfest

10:30am|Bellingham International Airport

Cemetery Tours

11:00am|Lynden Cemetery

Weavings Pop-Up Sale

11:00am|Vida Nueva Rugs

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Modern Quilts Final Weekend

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher Building

Sumi Fun for All Ages

1:00pm|Museum of Northwest Art

Summer Jazz Combo

2:00pm|Jansen Art Center

The Poetic Apothecary with Judith Adams

3:00pm|Upper Skagit Library

Nooksack River Walk

3:00pm|Horseshoe Bend Trailhead

Summer Fun in the Park

4:00pm|Blaine's Marine Park

Janie Cribbs and the T.Rust Band

5:30pm|Heart of Anacortes

Seaside BBQ

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Lummi Island Crabfest Dinner

6:00pm|Lummi Island Grange Hall

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Tomorrow
The Spitfire Grill

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center Mainstage

Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Skagit Guided Adventures

12:00pm|Skyline Marina

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

The Phantom Tollbooth

7:00pm|BAAY Theater

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Weavings Pop-Up Sale

11:00am|Vida Nueva Rugs

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Modern Quilts Final Weekend

12:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher Building

Seaside BBQ

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Birchwood Farmers Market

10:00am|Park Manor Shopping Center

Langar in Lynden

11:00am| Guru Nanak Gursikh Gurdwara

Community Free Market

11:00am|Flora Street

Dog Days of Summer

11:00am|Whatcom Humane Society

Bellingham Handmade Market

11:00am|Goods Nursery and Produce

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Big Band Bonanza

12:00pm|Fairhaven Village Green

Skagit History Cruise

1:00pm|La Conner Channel Lodge

Summerfest

1:00pm| Josh Vander Yacht Memorial Park

La Conner Live!

1:00pm|Gilkey Square

Skagit History Cruise

1:00pm|La Conner Channel Lodge

Audubon at the Museum

1:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

International Concerts on the Border

2:00pm|Radost Folk Ensemble

Monday
Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Skagit Tours

10:53pm|Highway 20.

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Bark Week

12:00pm|Boundary Bay Brewery

Camp Korey Classic Golf Tournament

12:00pm|Eaglemont Golf Course

Poetrynight

7:00pm|Alternative Library

Open Mic Night

7:00pm|Village Books

Guffawingham

9:00pm|Firefly Lounge

see our complete calendar »