Wednesday, November 7, 2007

My Email to the Winners

I sent the following email to each of the winners in yesterday's elections. I also sent a modified version to the two council members whose terms continued through this election.

"Congratulations, you have won! You probably do not need me to tell you that the hard part now begins, but I will indulge myself, especially on the issue of illegal rooming houses.

We cannot effectively deal with the problem of growth in Bellingham without addressing the single family zoning ordinance which is the basis for determining densities in our neighborhoods. We cannot speak to maintaining the character of our neighborhoods when illegal rooming houses are allowed to proliferate within them. We cannot speak to law enforcement when certain laws are ignored because they may be perceived as too hard to enforce or too unpopular. We cannot argue for providing affordable housing when thousands of young students and workers collect in illegal rooming houses. We cannot argue for a safe and healthy community when rental properties go unlicensed and uninspected. We cannot manage growth when a major employer (WWU) does not provide adequate housing or join in the effort to provide such for the students it attracts.

Now that the election is over, I would like to know your plans to deal with each of the issues I raised above."

1 comment:

Larry said...

Thought you might be interested in the letter I sent the mayor the day after his "coronation". It is very similar to yours. I don't expect any response or action, just more study groups, steering committees and other useless meetings to defer responsibility away from those who seek to gain or regain political power. Great blog BTW. If I were home more often I would be knocking the door down at city hall.

November 28, 2007

Mayor Dan Pike
City of Bellingham
City Hall
210 Lottie Street
Bellingham, WA 98225

RE: Neighborhood Code Enforcement

Dear Mayor Pike:

Congratulations on your recent election to the office of Mayor. For what it’s worth, my wife and I voted for you based on the endorsement of Brett Bonner for your campaign. To be very honest with you, except for Brett’s endorsement, we really didn’t see much difference in the candidates for the office. We are hoping you give us a reason to vote for your re-election in four years.

Now that you have been elected, we are hoping you “hit the ground running”, particularly on issues concerning the neighborhoods in Bellingham that are being overtaken by irresponsible landlords and renters. Of course it’s no secret that we are talking about the student occupied boarding houses that have been proliferating in the city for years. We realize that you have a lot of issues to deal with, many of them fairly new on the agenda like the waterfront and inhibiting legal businesses from operating in the city, but this issue isn’t new, has been festering for many years and needs your attention now. It seems to me you have two choices in this matter. The first is to start enforcing a city code that has been passed by some past council and mayor. The second is to ignore, give citizens the run-a-round, make excuses and watch as good neighborhoods and good neighbors become enemies on an ugly battleground of turf wars.

Allow me to expand this discussion to code enforcement in general. I recently received a letter from Kent Butenschoen, Department of Public Works, Street Division, City of Bellingham. He informed me that a tree that was planted during neighborhood development and required by the city, had grown over the sidewalk and was now a safety hazard. He also informed me that I had until December 13, 2007 to take action to correct this “safety” issue. I had the feeling there would be an “or else” follow up but the letter wasn’t specific. Now I certainly understand safety issues, but in this case, how can this be a safety issue when there is a constant and steady stream of cars parked under the tree, on the sidewalk by the rental neighbors I referred to above. No one can walk on the sidewalk to be struck by the tree to begin with. I have complained about this issue to the Bellingham Police Department in the past but nothing was done. Sometimes the vehicles remain on the sidewalk and under the tree preventing pedestrian traffic (including young children going to school) for days. FYI, the sidewalk is only on one side of the street so this is the only path to walk for the kids, unless they walk in the street.

The “flyer” that was enclosed in the envelope with the “tree” letter also stated it was the City’s responsibility to keep weeds and vegetation out of the sidewalk. I’m the original homeowner and in the thirteen years of living here, the City has never taken care of weeds and other vegetation in the sidewalk. Either I or my wife does this.

I would also note that my yard and property are meticulously maintained, including the tree in question. Since I travel extensively in my profession, I contract with a yard maintenance company to mow, edge, fertilize as necessary and maintain my yard in a manner which not only enhances my property, but the neighborhood in general.

What is my reward for this? I look across the street, up the street and down the street at the WWU student “boarding houses”. We hear the loud parties, the banging of house and card doors at all hours of the night. We have a very hard time getting in and out of our driveway due to the excessive amount of cars, most parked illegally, around or in front of our driveway. We see the trash strewn about the yards and streets due to trash bins overflowing with party material, beer and booze bottles, beer and soda cans and general debris. We see houses that are not maintained, the structures collapsing in some cases with old unused furniture thrown out the front door. And we see yards not maintained, the weeds and dandelions’ growing and blowing all over the neighborhood.

As bad as the appearance and disturbances are, the real insult is the response we get from the City. Our complaints and requests for code and traffic enforcement fall on deaf ears, but we get letters from the City about a beautiful tree that is harming no one.

So is the taxpayer to assume that when there is an issue that requires action by the owner-occupier of a home, the city will enforce or fine, but where there is an issue that requires action by the city to correct the problem, the city will give us no action or answers? I believe that question deserves an answer Mr. Mayor.

As I said above, welcome to the office of Mayor. But please understand this office is not ceremonial in nature. It is not an office designed to only serve those with political clout in the city. It is, in fact, an office that requires strong leadership by the occupant to ensure the average working, taxpaying citizen in this city is served as well as the wealth, the politically connected or the large student population that we seem to be bending over backwards to cater to.

I look forward to seeing action on these issues and to see the leadership from you I voted for.


Larry Miller
2169 Wildflower Way
Bellingham, WA 98229