Monday, November 19, 2007

WWU - The Good...and The Bad

The following is a response by former mayoral candidate Doug Karlberg to an opinion piece authored by WWU President Karen Morse which appeared in the Bellingham Herald on November 18th. (Read the article by clicking here.) The response, which appeared on the Herald site as a comment to Dr. Morse's article, dovetails with my blog posting, The Real Rental Economy (click here to read it), of November 15th.

“Western's President Morse is great at pointing out the benefits that Western brings to Bellingham, but does not recognize any of the burdens. Honest policy decisions require that she balances the good with the bad. Western places an enormous burden on the lowest paid folks (which there are many), that need housing. Western by not providing housing for all their students forces these young people into our neighborhoods, which is not all bad, but drives up the cost of housing, especially to those who can least afford it.

As the article in today's Herald points out[…], one study puts Bellingham as one of the least affordable places to live in the US. (click here to read the article) Hopefully we can end the debate that we have an affordable housing crisis in our town.

Western is quietly planning a housing project for professors, retired professor, and alumni, like our new Mayor. This project has been quietly planned and the Herald has not picked up this story. To plan view condominiums for professors that cannot afford housing in Bellingham, only reinforces the point that we have a housing crisis. This project is also self-centered as it only takes care of the needs of Western, completely ignoring the impact on housing that Western creates.

Western should be honest about the project, and then the new Mayor should point out to Western that if Western wants housing on the waterfront that it needs to reduce its impact on Bellingham's housing market and provide housing for a higher percentage of their students.

Western brings kids here to get and education, and then many move on. The residents of Belingham are here to stay, and they need Western to remember not only what Western brings to Bellingham, ... but also what Bellingham brings to Western.”


The Bellingham Curmudgeon said...

it's unrealistic to think WWU can house 13,500 students - not to mention the fact that all of the students wouldn't do it anyway. Many schools require freshmen to live on campus - and while WWU does not, 95% of them still do.

There are plans for a new residence hall adjacent to the new recreation facility, but after that - space is pretty limited - so anyone hoping that WWU is going to throw up housing for 8,000 more students is going to be pretty disappointed.

I'm no more thrilled with multiple cars, poor home maintenance, sometimes the garbage and loud parties that students bring my neighborhood - but I get a kick out of people who have lived here for a dozen years or so thinking they have a right to dictate what the University does when the University has been there since 1896 - and is very much the reason Bellingham even exists, and almost entirely the reason Bellingham is such a great place to live. We've all chosen to live in our neighborhoods - and it's not like the same problems weren't there when we bought...

zonemaven said...

Dear Bellingham Curmudgeon,
I think if you read all my blogs regarding WWU, you will not find any reference to a suggestion that WWU house all 13,500 students. I do say that they have not done enough to house substantially more students or to exert disciplinary control over the off-campus students. The plans for one additional resident hall on campus does not represent a reasonable attempt by WWU to house more students but merely allows for an increase in freshman enrollment over the next several years. There are other options open to WWU to provide high density housing through public-private partnerships, exactly their plans with respect to expansion to the waterfront. They just need to step up to the bar and do it with respect to housing. In the meantime, pressures to house (sometimes illegally) 8,000 students distorts the rental market. Read my blog entry from November 15th on that subject.
As for the ad hominem statement suggesting that individuals who have not lived here X number of years have little or no right to speak in the matter, I refer you to my blog entry Who Gets to Speak on the Issue? of 24 September. I own a home, pay my taxes and vote. I have an inalienable say, especially with respect to the omissions and commissions of a government entity (WWU) and the value of my home. It is specious to argue that just because problems have existed for decades, any citizen, regardless of residency tenure cannot work to resolve them, even if the problems originate from an apparently benevolent entity.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to comment on the bellingham curmudgeon's comment concerning the choice to live in our neighborhood / that the same problems were there when we bought..Not so.I have lived in the York neighborhood for 26 years and the problem with illegal rooming house's did not exist as it does now. If it did, I would have purchased a home somewhere else.There was not the problem with parking, trash, drunken parties etc. and so on. The University profits from student enrollment income. The university needs to take a part in providing student housing or cut it's enrollment so it reduces the impact on Bellingham neighborhoods.

Anonymous said...

I read the Morse article also. Morse is being very ozymandian in her aggressive and arrogant characterization of Western's worth to Bellingham. I have lived in Bellingham long enough to remember when Georgia Pacific had the same swaggering attitude about their worth to the community. We all see how that worked out. Western's toxic bad will has reached a point of critical mass. It will be very difficult for the new president to undo all the damage that a laisse faire attitude toward student behavior in the community has created. The lowest common denominator of student behavior is what the community witnesses. Is this intelligent P.R? I live in the York neighborhood so I have direct experience with the problem of students mobbing up in illegal rooming houses and engaging in violent and abusive behavior against neighbors. Everyone is watching you, Western. You've got a long way to go to repair the image damage that your students have done for you in the community. Good luck!

zonemaven said...

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

gearhead said...

I've lived in B'ham since 1041 (long enough for ya). I bought my home in a single family neighborhood for that reason. SINGLE FAMILY NEIGHBORHOOD. Now I have numerous rooming houses with untold extra folks living there. 6-8 cars, parties, trash and so on. Now is up to me to move MY HOME location to get out of grap hole of a neighborhood just because the city will not enforce their own rules. Can't affore it.


Larry said...

I bought in a new neighborhood 13 years ago, so don't tell me the problem existed then. The problem in this neighborhood stared about 4 years later when the first turnover of ownership began. And just because the school has been here longer than most of us have been alive, doesn't give it a blank check to terrorize the community as a whole.