Monday, August 27, 2007

Mr Buchanan, Candidate for Ward 3 Council Seat, Replies

Candidate Buchanan replies to my request for comments on the single family zoning non-enforcement issue.

His comments are in italicized blue.

"I have an idea on a start to enforcing our Single Family Zoning and the rooming house problem. Let me know what you think.

1. We need to make sure the code is written such that it is enforceable and has a substantial financial penalty. I would sponsor this effort on the Council.

2, Establish a new process in which to submit a complaint and educate the public on that process through the Mayor's Neighborhood Advisory Commission and then on to the Neighborhood Associations.

3. Use the Bellingham Police Department Officer assigned as the representative for the specific Neighborhood as the point of contact and coordinator of the effort.

4. Use your volunteers in the Retired Senior Volunteers at the Bellingham Police Department as the investigative resource to collect evidence of a violation (Note to Dick: I think this is where we fall short as a resource constraint with the BPD. Could your volunteers perform this function and are there enough resources?).

5. Issue citation to the Landlord and proceess through Municipal Court

These are just some pragmatics steps to the enforcement issue. We need a good long-term solution to address housing the WWU students.

Barry Buchanan"

My comments:

Thanks for your reply and your plan.

As you asked, point by point, here are my reactions. Your first point assumes that the current code is not adequate when it has never been tested in a court of law. Until that time, for what reason would we change it? What leads you to believe that the legal minds of the city would do any better this time in producing a single family zoning code which is guaranteed to pass judicial scrutiny? Statements by the city attorney, the mayor and others are not judicial reviews but executive declarations and advisory in nature. At some point you have to test what you have in court. What has the city been waiting for, Godot?

With respect to number 2, there does not seem, at this time, to be a problem with process except that it does not go anywhere beyond the Planning Department. The procedure beyond that is shrouded in mystery as nobody I know has ever had a complaint about single family zoning violation move forward beyond Planning. Discussions with the city attorney’s office become kafaesque – trust me - I have gone that route. If you know of any complaints which moved beyond Planning, I would be delighted to hear about them.

As for number 3, I would have to defer to Chief Randy Carroll but I do know that we already have a code enforcement officer at the Bellingham Police Department. The role, that you suggest, for the neighborhood police officers is unclear.

Although I am the coordinator for the Senior Volunteers, I certainly would not be able to commit those resources for anything other than their current services nor is it appropriate for me to promote their use in this blog. There are also questions of guild and union prerogatives not to mention that the current number of volunteers is woefully insufficient. Such a vital function should be exercised by paid city employees whose availability and accountability are assured.

Number 5 sounds fine to me.

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