Budget, growth, top concerns for Blaine residents
Candidates for Blaine and Whatcom County offices answered voter questions about budget issues, water quality and growth management Tuesday in a forum sponsored by The Northern Light.
Blaine City Council Ward 3, Position 5
David Gallion, 56, is a former manager of the transportation department at Kern Community College in Calfornia and a past president of several PTAs there. He moved to Blaine four years ago and, after retiring due to a back injury, he currently sits on the city’s volunteer planning commission.
Incumbent Jason Overstreet, 33, a Seattle firefighter and Blaine business owner, is seeking a second term.. He has two years of experience as a city council member and is a former volunteer with Bellingham Big Brothers and Big Sisters.
Both candidates said they had specific goals of working with the public works department to find funding for the city’s planned water reclamation facility and also working with the General Services Administration to alleviate traffic congestion as a result of construction.
“Finding funding for the water reclamation facility is something we need to be proactive about,” Gallion said. “I can’t see burdening the citizens of Blaine with higher sewer rates – they’re already high enough.”
Gallion said his other goals include reviewing the city’s budget to identify areas where money is not being properly spent, working to alleviate traffic congestion as a result of construction and making streets safer for children who walk to school.
Overstreet, a long-time advocate of relaxed signing ordinances for businesses, meanwhile, said he would also focus on increasing signage on I-5, as well as work to create a financial plan to close the city’s airport.
“We have a huge airport issue
to deal with,” he
said. “We also have millions of cars passing by us
every year; we’ve got to do a good marketing job
to let them know how beautiful Blaine is.”
Other city council positions
Blaine Planning Commission member Harry Robinson is running uncontested for the council’s Ward 2, Position 4, previously occupied by Bruce Wolf, who resigned earlier this year. Max Shelton, who had also filed for the position withdrew from the race after his employer, Smith Barney, cited a conflict of interest.
Voters will see Shelton’s name on the election ballot because he withdrew after deadline.
As a seven-year member of the volunteer planning commissioner, Robinson said his biggest accomplishment was encouraging citizens to come forward and speak about development proposals as well as the general direction of planning within the city.
“We’ve encouraged people to come forward, and we have listened to them and heard what they have to say,” he said.
Robinson said his goals as a city council member would be to continue public involvement in the planning process as well as promote revitalization of downtown and speeding up the development approval processes.
“We need to find ways to improve the process for those who are trying to develop a piece of property and make sure developers understand the rules,” he said. “Once that happens, the process can go very quickly.”
He added that with the recent increase in the value of the Canadian dollar, the city should be addressing border congestion issues and seeking out Canadian businesses that want to expand their operations here.
Responding to a question from a Blaine resident about paying for the airport closure and the water reclamation facility project, Robinson said there is no easy answer.
“There’s no magic bullet, you’re going to pay for it. The question is how are we going to pay for it because no one’s going to come along and give us $32 million and say it’s yours,” he said.
Blaine resident Scott Dodd, is running for Ward 2, Position 3. He was a 9-year service member of the U.S. Navy and a graduate of Blaine high school. He also coaches wrestling and football at Blaine high school.
Dodd, a staunch airport opponent, gave a short speech that included a quote from his father, the former Blaine mayor and council member Bill Dodd.
“You can’t sit back and complain about things if you’re not willing to jump in and help out,” he said.
In response to a question from fellow city council candidate David Gallion regarding the disparity in the community between central Blaine and Semiahmoo, Dodd said he would work to bring those two communities together.
“To me, it’s all one city,” he said. “I have a lot of friends out there. In my mind, it is together, and I will do my best to bring them together.”
Dodd also said he agreed with Robinson about being realistic about securing funding the city’s water reclamation facility.
“No one’s going to come along and
give us money,” he
North Whatcom Fire & Rescue Service
Incumbent Roger Hawley was unable to attend because of a family medical issue. His opponent, Kathy Stauffer, made a brief personal statement in which she recognized Roger’s 18 years of service and long-term residence in the area.
“I’ve been here 15 years,” she said. “During that time I served on the Blaine city council where I was their designate to work out the interlocal agreement with [Whatcom County Fire] district 13 to provide paid 24/7 fire protection for the city.”
She said she’s running because she likes to give her time to public service, something she described as part of “the things that matter. I’m good at bringing people together. I can make a difference and can be a new voice on the fire commission for what I see as a really important role.”
Richard Blackburn and Trevor Hoskins both asked about funding and impact fees for new developments in the area. “You have to pay for the services you want somehow,” Stauffer said. “I don’t think there’s an issue that the developer should pay, it’s a timing and numbers issue.”
School district board of directors
Campbell McClusky and Chuck Green are facing off over Shelly Button’s seat..
Green did not attend the forum despite numerous attempts to confirm attendance through several phone calls, email and letter from The Northern Light.
McClusky, 70, would be the third board member from Point Roberts to have served.
When asked about the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL), he said, “What’s the purpose of education? To produce a person who can function in the real world, not necessarily by an imposed measurement. We don’t want to leave anyone behind but we also do not want to apply an artificial or non-representative standard.” McClusky is a retired foreign service officer.
Joe Ellenbaas is running against current assistant treasurer Steve Oliver, who was unable to attend due to a prior commitment in Bellingham. His wife Teresa attended but did not speak. “I chose to run when I saw there were problems in the treasurer’s office revealed by a state audit,” he said, but he did not go into specifics and was asked no questions.
Pete Kremen, 55, a former state representative for the 42 district and disc jockey and radio news broadcaster, is seeking another term as Whatcom County executive against newcomer opponent Lois Garlick, of Bellingham.
In response to a question from Jon Benz, of Blaine, about the repairs of Lincoln and Drayton Harbor roads, Kremen said the county is making efforts to address both of those roads in the near future despite soaring construction costs.
“We have put those as highest priorities for the whole county,” he said.
Garlick, who admitted she was relatively new to the issue, said she hopes to work dilligently to bring communities together on such issue, but her main focus was maintaining water quality in the county.
“When I say that I’m interested in drinking water, I’m not just talking about Lake Whatcom, I’m talking about all sources of drinking water.”