Monday, October 10, 2011

Mayor Pike! Stop the Obfuscation on Rental Licensing & Inspection

Mayor Pike,

Twice in the last several weeks you have spoken to the issue of rental licensing during debates with your challenger, Kelli Linville. Both times, to justify your lack of support for the licensing and inspection of rentals, you referred to problems that the city of Puyallup had with its program that you heard from a former employee who is now works for the city of Bellingham. Perhaps you misspoke, but the fact is that Puyallup does not have a rental licensing and inspection program. I checked.

Might I remind you that in the past you have brought up the city of Auburn as an example of licensing that did not work. In that case, you referred to Mr. Jim Tinner who was hired by Bellingham from Auburn. The story at that time was that they had tried licensing but that it did not work for reasons that were never clearly delineated. Moreover, you failed to mention that they have licensing but have never tried inspections for health and safety.

You have also stated that there was some difficulty in Puyallup (or was that Auburn?) and that 90% of the "costs" there went to trying to figure out who owned the houses and that there was not a way to know who owned these rentals (My readers can view the Mayor's response by clicking here and going to 145 on the video counter.) 90%? What does that mean? Is this a percentage of start-up costs? Of total program costs? The figure does not make sense but it does tend to stoke the fear factor, if that is, in fact, the objective.

Mr Mayor - there is an extensive property data base run by Whatcom County that can easily provide the vast majority of the information to identify rentals. One need only compare the address of the owner with the address of the property. If the addresses differ, it is likely a rental in that landlords would not normally have their business mail go to the rental's mail box. Part of any such ordinance can also call for landlords to register with the city by a certain date. A substantive fine for not doing so would ensure compliance. Pasco succeeded. So did Gresham, Oregon. Why do we continue to talk about failure in Auburn (Puyallup?) when this has all been done successfully elsewhere?

[If you need a volunteer to assist in identifying these rentals, I would be happy to help - no charge. The last 15 years of my career were spent, in part, managing the installation of computer systems and supervising the creation and modification of data bases.]

Over a year ago, I wrote to you about the claims you make on this issue. My comments were very specific. Your reply ignored them. My readers can look at my letter and your response by clicking here.

I find it disingenuous that you keep bringing up Auburn (or Puyallup in a forgetful moment) as the poster child for licensing and inspection that failed, when Auburn never tried inspections. (I called them to check. They have licensing only.) You seem to avoid talking about Pasco, WA that has had a successful licensing and inspection program for over a decade. You also avoid mentioning that the cities of Prosser, Tukwila and Seattle have recently passed rental inspection and licensing ordinances.

I think you need to be straight with the electorate and stop fuzzing over your objections to licensing and inspections to ensure the health and safety of our rental population. If your opposition to licensing and inspection is based on facts, let us hear them. That you do not think an ordinance is appropriate, we need to know the reasons. References to mythical programs in other cities will not do. Reliance on FUD* tactics is not in the best interest of the voting public.

Mr. Mayor, if you have some definitive facts and figures that you wish to convey to the citizens of Bellingham in order to support your opposition to licensing, I would be happy to publish that information. You can reach me at zonemaven AT hotmail DOT com.

*FUD - Fear - Uncertainty - Doubt