Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Blog Reader's Letter to the Mayor

The following was sent as a comment to a previous post. I found his presentation compelling and decided to post it as a blog entry. The writer lives on Wildflower Way near the city's Clean Green facility.

"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"


Anonymous said...

What a great letter, Larry! I have had the same kind of experience in my neighborhood. I own a Victorian that I have worked on for years to restore. I have landscaped my property and I keep it free of trash and junk. I have a tree on my parking strip that was planted years ago during a block planting for street trees. I also was served notice a couple years ago because a limb on my tree was a"hazard" though I had a difficult time figuring out how.I complied with the notice as any good law abiding citizen should.If I didn't I'm sure the city would fine me, or perhaps the police would come and get me and put me away. Why? Well, it's due to the fact that I am an old lady, a home owner and a taxpayer. I'm expected to follow the rules, unlike some of the student population and some of the landlord's operating these illegal rooming houses.Let's pray that Mayor Pike views this as an important issue to many of us "old timers" who are weary of having our rights trompled on by the City's refusal to enforce the municipal codes.

Anonymous said...

Why didn't someone tell me that Bellingham was a college town before I moved here?

Anonymous said...

I agree that the City is not very effective when responding to student criminal behavior. The feeling that many of my neighbors convey is that it is useless to complain because the police respond to the Mayor's direction and WWU has been controlling the City. I hope that Mayor Pike will recognize the danger that allowing a growing number of citizens to believe that students can commit any number of crimes with no consequences because Western is the 800 pound gorilla-thug on the hill. Negative reactions to students are growing because of the irresponbility of Western and its strangle hold on this city. Let's see about converting Western to a correspondence college before it's too late.