Sunday, August 26, 2007

Jack Weiss Flies Solo in Ward 1 - Icarus Redux

Jack Weiss is the sole candidate for the Ward 1 council seat. Nonetheless, I think it is instructive to read his take on the issue.

Here are his comments to me on 7/25/2007. My comments can be found inserted in red.

“...First, let me copy you a response I wrote a few days ago to one of your neighbors also expressing this problem:

"Thanks for the clarification. Yes, this issue is a mess for some neighborhoods throughout town that are impacted by excessively modified uses of zoned property such as outlined in Mary's letter. The impacts from university students are by far the worse.

I would not say "excessively modified" but "illegally modified." And yes, the university needs to step up to the bar on this. You can find my suggestions on the WWU role in my comments of 8/17 and 8/23 below.

I agree and am supportive of the efforts of your neighborhood to bring this to the attention of the City Council and to legislate some tools to help correct this situation. Early on in my campaign, I posted on my web site ( a bullet as part of a long list of what I labeled as a Neighborhood Bill of Rights. This language said:

"A Property Owner/Renter Accountability Ordinance must address responsibilities and consequences of inappropriate impacts on the surrounding neighborhood such as noise, litter, excessive parties, etc."

This is pretty much what I have been hearing from some Samish neighbors. Others have labeled it a "Landlord" ordinance, but I feel that renters also must be held accountable in ways that can effect change.

This is another case of being hijacked by the tangential issue of landlord accountability when the root cause is lack of enforcement of an existing code, i.e., single family zoning. We already have legislated “tools” on parking, noise, litter, public urination, disorderly conduct, etc. One more “tool” will not solve the issue as long as the root cause of non-enforcement of existing zoning codes is the status quo.

I would be curious to know what Terry Bornemann's response has been to this issue and what he has agreed to do as your representative to cure it - as he should. Terry's ward has the most impact from university students and as such, it is his turf to come up with solutions to fix it. At this point, of course, I cannot help out other than to encourage you to continue to expose the problem. If Terry or other council members are unwilling to help out this year, I would be willing, after being sworn in in January, to talk to next year's council members and to your neighborhood to determine the best remedy to quickly resolve this problem."

I have every intention of continuing to expose the problem and to press Mr Bornemann (Ward 5 candidate) on the subject. I have already had an email exchange with him which you will be able to read here soon. However, my home is located in Ward 3, not Ward 5 in spite of the fact that I am in Samish Neighborhood. I am disappointed though that you would wait until January to develop some plan to resolve the issue, especially since you have the luxury of time while running unopposed. I would suggest you start at the several web site links on this blog (see right-most column below the photo) to discover the proven efforts of other jurisdictions.

Adding on to this previous response, I would say that outgoing Councilmember John Watts also has a role in addressing this problem in the areas on 34th Street you are speaking of. I say this because of I am sensitive to council protocol, but only up to a point - neighborhoods cannot be saddled with unacceptable problems just because of a unresponsive councilmember.

Too late to address this issue to John Watts who has already had his time to take a whack at the piƱata of non-enforcement.

Specifically to your concerns of "unforceability," my experience with the City in the past is that they took the issue seriously and promptly investigated problems once a complaint was issued. I have been unaware, until now, that complaints are not being addressed in your neighborhood. As I said above, I am more than willing to meet with the neighborhood to determine the extent of the problem and design an acceptable solution. As you may know, I am unopposed and will start in January.

The city does react promptly to complaints of violation of the single family zoning ordinance. The problem is the utter lack of follow-through. A complaint is made. A letter is sent to the landlord or property manager. They present a lease with 3 names on it. The city says “dandy!” End of story. All those other cars, people, etc. must be visitors. The acceptable solution is already present. Enforce the law. As I have said below in previous posts, similar statutes have been enforced in other jurisdictions and their legality has been upheld in state supreme courts.

That said, a suggestion that might be useful is to invite the candidates - now - from Ward 3 (Barry Buchanan and Larry Farr) and Ward 5 (Terry Bornemann and Bill Geyer) to a neighorhood meeting to further discuss this issue in more detail. Get more from them than a simple written response by meeting face-to-face as they are running against each other. Do this while it is still campaign season. I will come too.

This subject has been brought to the Samish Neighborhood board. They agreed it was not feasible to move forward on such a gathering largely due to the lack of personnel to handle the logistics of such an event. This activity is not in the realm of just saying “y’all come.” Perhaps something might be possible at the level of the Association of Bellingham Neighborhoods.

As a current neighborhood association president (Birchwood), I must say that unfortunately, many things like this problem are only solved by neighbors collectively being the squeaky wheel. I will help where I can and where it is appropriate. I will lead if other councilmembers from your neighborhood drop the ball. Let me know. Thanks. Jack-“

How about just leading?

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