The Gristle

Camp 210

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

CAMP 210: Camp 210 began as a noble experiment—the use of our most public space to focus public attention on a public problem, both locally and nationally: Homelessness. And whatever missteps the City of Bellingham may have made in its handling and dismantling of the ad hoc protest encampment at City Hall (and there appear to have been several), it was clear from the steady escalation in police reports—from occasional nuisance in November to serious assaults and social unrest by January—that the camp was ultimately doomed by the persistent bedfellows of homelessness: Untreated mental and behavioral health issues.

The under-told story at Camp 210 is that homelessness in Bellingham and Whatcom County has declined by about 8 percent over the past decade, thanks to financial instruments such as the Bellingham Home Fund and other public efforts. That morsel of success is almost certain to be snatched away through the lasting economic impacts of COVID. There is little cause for optimism that eviction rates and numbers of unhoused won’t skyrocket. The persistent bedfellows of untreated human and social health disorders will certainly complicate the solutions.

More money, more public revenue, is needed, and it needs to stretch further. However, if past is prologue and paralysis persists, very little of this assistance will arrive from federal sources and must instead arrive through creative public policy at the state and local levels.

We’ll suggest a couple of instruments:

Expand the enormously successful Bellingham Home Fund levy to include all of Whatcom County. This would add hundreds of millions of dollars of additional assessed property value to build tangible assets in the form of affordable and low-income homes that would benefit all county residents. Likely, that construction of a particular type would supercharge the local economy.

Approved by voters in 2012 and extended in 2018, the city’s lower-income housing levy is projected to generate $40 million in revenues through its extended ten-year term. Funds are dedicated to the production and preservation of scores of affordable homes, as well as rental assistance and homebuyer support services.

A countywide levy would more than double this capacity, and frankly the only thing preventing county voters from considering such a levy is the political will of Whatcom County Council to place such a proposal on the fall ballot.

To stretch this revenue further—and indeed to prevent it from evaporating in the event of economic collapse from COVID—local governments must pursue public banking initiatives. With a surplus of Democratic lawmakers in Olympia this session, the possibility of public banks draws near.

Senate Bill 5188 was introduced into that body’s Business, Financial Services & Trade Committee  last week that would allow local governments to explore public banking options. The concept, long championed by Sen. Bob Hasegawa of south Seattle’s 11th Legislative District, is cosponsored by Anacortes Sen. Liz Lovelett, among others.

“While local governments successfully borrow for infrastructure and economic development capital projects through private sector lenders and the bond markets, other government entities do not have the same access to capital at attractive rates to be used in building out public infrastructure,” the bill sponsors note in the text of the proposal.

“A cooperative Washington state public bank would provide opportunities for state, local, and tribal government entities to competitively finance a broad array of public infrastructure and economic development projects, including housing, at competitive rates with low administrative costs,” the bill sponsors assert. “A cooperative state public bank will complement the existing banking system by filling gaps that the [current] system cannot or will not fill.”

If formed, the Washington public bank would handle state and local tax revenue and could leverage the core of the state’s equity to benefit Washingtonians. Over time, a public bank would establish independence from Wall Street banks and commercial lenders.

After California approved its version of a public banking act in 2019, the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco announced plans to establish their own public banks. To date, more than 25 public banking concepts are circulating in state legislatures around the country.

The reason, Hasegawa has noted in presentations to local governments, is that a state bank can provide enormous financing capacity for public projects without having to sell bonds through Wall Street brokers at commercial interest rates. Repayment of those interest rates steeply cuts into public revenues—our local tax dollars are being shoveled into the pockets of distant lenders.

“While the rest of the world uses public banking as their financing foundation, we in the U.S. have relied on commercial banking instead,” he explains. “We need to find a better way. We simply don’t have enough money to keep going into debt to Wall Street to fund projects in the public interest.”

In the event of a collapse in Wall Street’s fortunes, a public bank could provide an alternative source of capital to keep projects and public goals moving forward.

Public banks’ mission to serve the public interest allows them to extend financing to projects other banks won’t consider, and their internal controls allow them to lend money to local governments for public projects at interest rates far below those of other banks. Indeed, if Bellingham’s financial capacity had not been tied to international banking fortunes in the last economic downturn of 2007, the city might have had snatched up scores of acres of sharply discounted properties as holders and lenders cratered, and access to capital to keep the construction industry working through that downturn building or renovating affordable homes.

This is an initiative our state legislators in Olympia now have the numbers to approve. They should be encouraged to do so, as we use our public space to focus public attention on public problems.

Past Columns
Pandemic Pandemonium

November 24, 2021

Preexisting Conditions

November 10, 2021

Consensus from the Census

September 29, 2021

An Expanding Agenda

September 15, 2021

Primary to the Left

August 18, 2021

‘Free Dirt’

July 21, 2021

Roll On Columbia

July 7, 2021

Court in Court

June 23, 2021

Crisis In Court

June 9, 2021

A Community of Color

May 26, 2021

Grand Slam

May 12, 2021

Carbon Pricing Reality

April 28, 2021

Third Time’s A Charm

April 14, 2021

Salmon Need Water

March 31, 2021

Mid-Point

March 17, 2021

Carbon Pricing

March 3, 2021

‘Stop The Steal’

February 17, 2021

A capricious flower

January 20, 2021

Friday
Paintings of My Life, In Dialogue

11:00am

View Beth Anna Margolis’ “Paintings of My Life” from 11am-4pm Tuesdays through Saturdays through Feb. 23 (closed on Thanksgiving) at Gallery Syre, 465 W. Stuart Rd. The show features a…

Fall Juried Show Closing Week

11:00am

View a “Fall Juried Show” in Lynden for the final week from 11am-7pm Tuesday and Wednesday, and 11am-5pm Friday at the Jansen Art Center, 321 Front St. Also on display are “From Then ‘Til…

Free Parks Day

8:00am

Celebrate autumn by taking advantage of the last Washington State Free Parks Day of 2021. A Discover Pass won’t be needed for day-use visits at state parks, so explore nearby locales to your…

Holiday Bazaar

8:00am

Peruse glassworks, woodworks, metalworks, jewelry, paintings, knit-wear and more at a Holiday Bazaar featuring one-of-a-kind gifts from Whatcom County artists from 8am-5pm daily through…

Wild Things

9:30am

Kids, adults and adventurers can join Wild Whatcom for a “Wild Things” community program exploring local trails and parks from 9:30am-11am every Friday. Please bring a simple, healthy snack,…

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am

Allied Arts’ annual Holiday Festival of the Arts takes place from 10am-7pm daily through Dec. 24 (except on Thanksgiving) at 1411 Railroad Ave. The five-week-long festival will feature works…

Salmon Sighting with NSEA

10:00am

Join the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association for the final Salmon Sighting events of the season taking place from 10am-1pm Friday, and 12pm-3pm Saturday at Bellingham’s Arroyo Park. Join…

Whidbey Art Market

10:00am

After a year’s hiatus, Whidbey Art Market returns from 10am-4pm Friday and Saturday in Freeland at Freeland Hall, 1515 Shoreview Dr. There will be something for everyone—oil, acrylic,…

Future Artifacts

10:00am

“Future Artifacts” shows from 10am-5pm daily through Nov. 27 in La Conner at the Museum of Northwest Art, 121 S. First St. The exhibit features work by Lummi Nation glass artist Dan Friday,…

Amy Popelka at Good Earth

11:00am

Works by featured artist Amy Popelka can be seen for the final week from 11am-5pm daily through Saturday, and 11am-4pm Sunday at Good Earth Pottery, 1000 Harris Ave.

Among the Trees

11:00am

Check out the invitational exhibit “Among the Trees” for the final week from 11am-5pm Friday through Sunday in Edison at i.e. gallery, 5800 Cains Court. The show features works by numerous…

Studio Conversations

11:00am

Anita Lehmann’s “Studio Conversations: Short Stories” can be viewed from 11am-6pm daily (except Tuesdays) through November in Mount Vernon at Perry and Carlson Gallery, 504 S. First St. Masks…

Quilt Exhibits in La Conner

11:00am

From 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday, visit La Conner’s Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, 703 S. Second St. Currently on display are “Dia de los Muertos: A Day of Remembrance,”…

Morris and Obbink

11:00am

View works by sculptor Ann Morris and landscape-inspired watercolors and colored pencil works by Kim Obbink for the final weekend from 11am-5pm Friday through Sunday in Edison at Smith &…

Small Arts Works Juried Show

11:00am

Stanwood-Camano Arts Guild’s “Small Art Works” regional juried art show can be viewed from 11am-5pm Wednesdays through Saturdays through Jan. 13 at A Guilded Gallery, 8700 271st St.…

Dendritic Signals

11:00am

View “Dendritic Signals” for the final week from 11am-4pm Wednesday through Saturday at Allied Arts, 1418 Cornwall Ave. The show features abstract artwork in a variety of mediums and colors,…

Lorna Libert at Scott Milo

11:00am

New Pacific Northwest oils by Bellingham-based artist Lorna Libert will be featured from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Saturdays through Nov. 27 at the Scott Milo Gallery, 420 Commercial Ave.…

Mindport Exhibits

11:00am

One-hour reservation slots are now open for household groups or pods of up to 10 people from 11am-6pm Tuesdays through Saturdays at Mindport Exhibits, 210 W. Holly St. In the months they were…

Up Close and Personal at Whatcom Museum

12:00pm

View “Up Close & Personal: The Body in Contemporary Art,” “Artists x Artists,” “The Fairhaven Hotel,” “People of the Sea and Cedar: A Journey Through the Tribal Cultures and History of the…

Deck the Old City Hall

12:00pm

The annual “Deck the Old City Hall” returns starting this weekend from 12pm-5pm Friday through Sunday at Whatcom Museum’s Old City Hall, 121 Prospect St. View a variety of themed, decorated…

Rebel Artists Black Friday Market

3:00pm

Rebel Artists of Whatcom County will host a Black Friday Market from 3pm-7pm at the Commercial Street Plaza, 1315 Commercial St. The outdoor vendor market will feature local artists and…

Fairhaven Fourth Friday Art Walk

5:00pm

Attend the Fourth Friday Art Walk taking place from 5pm-8pm at galleries and venues throughout historic Fairhaven. Meet artists, see demos, enjoy entertainment and celebrate local creative…

The Lights of Christmas

5:00pm

Attend “A Drive-Thru Christmas” from 5pm-10pm Friday through Sunday in Stanwood at Warm Beach Park, 20800 Marine Dr. The illuminating experience features more than a million lights, festive…

Genre Legends

7:30pm

At 7:30pm and 9:30pm on Friday and Saturday, “Genre Legends” will take the stage at the Sylvia Center for the Arts, 207 Prospect St. Watch the players pick multiple genres for each show and…

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

7:30pm

Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and, of course, Rudolph will make appearances when Music Theatre International’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed…

A Christmas Carol

8:00pm

One of the Skagit Valley’s favorite holiday traditions continues when A Christmas Carol opens this weekend with showings at 8pm Friday and Saturday, and 2:30pm Sunday in Mount Vernon at the…

Shakedown Shows

9:00pm

Fretts, JP Falcon Grady, and an “It’s Kizmet” drag show start at 9pm Fri., Nov. 26 at the Shakedown, 1212 N. State St. The COVID Relief Benefit Show for Make.Shift Art Space will be followed…

Saturday
Paintings of My Life, In Dialogue

11:00am

View Beth Anna Margolis’ “Paintings of My Life” from 11am-4pm Tuesdays through Saturdays through Feb. 23 (closed on Thanksgiving) at Gallery Syre, 465 W. Stuart Rd. The show features a…

Fall Juried Show Closing Week

11:00am

View a “Fall Juried Show” in Lynden for the final week from 11am-7pm Tuesday and Wednesday, and 11am-5pm Friday at the Jansen Art Center, 321 Front St. Also on display are “From Then ‘Til…

Free Parks Day

8:00am

Celebrate autumn by taking advantage of the last Washington State Free Parks Day of 2021. A Discover Pass won’t be needed for day-use visits at state parks, so explore nearby locales to your…

Holiday Bazaar

8:00am

Peruse glassworks, woodworks, metalworks, jewelry, paintings, knit-wear and more at a Holiday Bazaar featuring one-of-a-kind gifts from Whatcom County artists from 8am-5pm daily through…

Wild Things

9:30am

Kids, adults and adventurers can join Wild Whatcom for a “Wild Things” community program exploring local trails and parks from 9:30am-11am every Friday. Please bring a simple, healthy snack,…

Holiday Festival of the Arts

10:00am

Allied Arts’ annual Holiday Festival of the Arts takes place from 10am-7pm daily through Dec. 24 (except on Thanksgiving) at 1411 Railroad Ave. The five-week-long festival will feature works…

Salmon Sighting with NSEA

10:00am

Join the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association for the final Salmon Sighting events of the season taking place from 10am-1pm Friday, and 12pm-3pm Saturday at Bellingham’s Arroyo Park. Join…

Whidbey Art Market

10:00am

After a year’s hiatus, Whidbey Art Market returns from 10am-4pm Friday and Saturday in Freeland at Freeland Hall, 1515 Shoreview Dr. There will be something for everyone—oil, acrylic,…

Future Artifacts

10:00am

“Future Artifacts” shows from 10am-5pm daily through Nov. 27 in La Conner at the Museum of Northwest Art, 121 S. First St. The exhibit features work by Lummi Nation glass artist Dan Friday,…

Amy Popelka at Good Earth

11:00am

Works by featured artist Amy Popelka can be seen for the final week from 11am-5pm daily through Saturday, and 11am-4pm Sunday at Good Earth Pottery, 1000 Harris Ave.

Among the Trees

11:00am

Check out the invitational exhibit “Among the Trees” for the final week from 11am-5pm Friday through Sunday in Edison at i.e. gallery, 5800 Cains Court. The show features works by numerous…

Studio Conversations

11:00am

Anita Lehmann’s “Studio Conversations: Short Stories” can be viewed from 11am-6pm daily (except Tuesdays) through November in Mount Vernon at Perry and Carlson Gallery, 504 S. First St. Masks…

Quilt Exhibits in La Conner

11:00am

From 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday, visit La Conner’s Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, 703 S. Second St. Currently on display are “Dia de los Muertos: A Day of Remembrance,”…

Morris and Obbink

11:00am

View works by sculptor Ann Morris and landscape-inspired watercolors and colored pencil works by Kim Obbink for the final weekend from 11am-5pm Friday through Sunday in Edison at Smith &…

Small Arts Works Juried Show

11:00am

Stanwood-Camano Arts Guild’s “Small Art Works” regional juried art show can be viewed from 11am-5pm Wednesdays through Saturdays through Jan. 13 at A Guilded Gallery, 8700 271st St.…

Dendritic Signals

11:00am

View “Dendritic Signals” for the final week from 11am-4pm Wednesday through Saturday at Allied Arts, 1418 Cornwall Ave. The show features abstract artwork in a variety of mediums and colors,…

Lorna Libert at Scott Milo

11:00am

New Pacific Northwest oils by Bellingham-based artist Lorna Libert will be featured from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Saturdays through Nov. 27 at the Scott Milo Gallery, 420 Commercial Ave.…

Mindport Exhibits

11:00am

One-hour reservation slots are now open for household groups or pods of up to 10 people from 11am-6pm Tuesdays through Saturdays at Mindport Exhibits, 210 W. Holly St. In the months they were…

Up Close and Personal at Whatcom Museum

12:00pm

View “Up Close & Personal: The Body in Contemporary Art,” “Artists x Artists,” “The Fairhaven Hotel,” “People of the Sea and Cedar: A Journey Through the Tribal Cultures and History of the…

Deck the Old City Hall

12:00pm

The annual “Deck the Old City Hall” returns starting this weekend from 12pm-5pm Friday through Sunday at Whatcom Museum’s Old City Hall, 121 Prospect St. View a variety of themed, decorated…

Rebel Artists Black Friday Market

3:00pm

Rebel Artists of Whatcom County will host a Black Friday Market from 3pm-7pm at the Commercial Street Plaza, 1315 Commercial St. The outdoor vendor market will feature local artists and…

Fairhaven Fourth Friday Art Walk

5:00pm

Attend the Fourth Friday Art Walk taking place from 5pm-8pm at galleries and venues throughout historic Fairhaven. Meet artists, see demos, enjoy entertainment and celebrate local creative…

The Lights of Christmas

5:00pm

Attend “A Drive-Thru Christmas” from 5pm-10pm Friday through Sunday in Stanwood at Warm Beach Park, 20800 Marine Dr. The illuminating experience features more than a million lights, festive…

Genre Legends

7:30pm

At 7:30pm and 9:30pm on Friday and Saturday, “Genre Legends” will take the stage at the Sylvia Center for the Arts, 207 Prospect St. Watch the players pick multiple genres for each show and…

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

7:30pm

Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and, of course, Rudolph will make appearances when Music Theatre International’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed…

A Christmas Carol

8:00pm

One of the Skagit Valley’s favorite holiday traditions continues when A Christmas Carol opens this weekend with showings at 8pm Friday and Saturday, and 2:30pm Sunday in Mount Vernon at the…

Shakedown Shows

9:00pm

Fretts, JP Falcon Grady, and an “It’s Kizmet” drag show start at 9pm Fri., Nov. 26 at the Shakedown, 1212 N. State St. The COVID Relief Benefit Show for Make.Shift Art Space will be followed…