The Associated Students will be hosting their second annual local lobby day to discuss key issues affecting the Bellingham community.
The event will take place from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 13 at the Bellingham City Hall. Students registered for the event will meet with local elected officials including the mayor, City Council members, County Council members, the city planning and community development director, the county executive and the county sheriff.
“Student voices are often not represented well in city and county politics. And there are a lot of laws and decisions that are made at the local level that really affect us and our entire community.”
Galen Herz, AS local issues coordinator
The issues to be discussed include housing affordability and livability; equity and inclusiveness; public safety and criminal justice; and voting accessibility, according to the lobby agenda.
AS local issues coordinator Galen Herz has a primary organizing role. Herz said the first local lobby day in 2016 had around 20 students in attendance. This year, attendance has reached the registration cap with over 40 students, Herz said.
“Student voices are often not represented well in city and county politics. And there are a lot of laws and decisions that are made at the local level that really affect us and our entire community,” Herz said.
He said local lobby day is important because student and community voices deserve to be heard.
Specific reforms that the students and community members will lobby for:
- Ending mass incarceration
- Capping move-in fees and lowering application costs for housing
- Providing safer housing options (which primarily affects low-income people, people of color or first generation students)
- Environmental stewardship
- Supporting the Western Blue Group, which advocates for undocumented students
Bryce Hammer, AS vice president for governmental affairs, is Herz’s boss. Herz and the AS board of directors have the most influence over setting the lobby day agenda, but Hammer will provide support for the lobby day event as needed, she said.
“I coordinate between our Legislative Affairs Council and our board. We wrote the agenda through the Legislative Affairs Council and then I brought it to the AS board of directors to get the final approval,” Hammer said.
Junior Rosa Rice-Pelepko, AS representation and engagement programs organizing and outreach coordinator, has worked with Herz on local lobby day for months. She was prompted to apply for her position at the AS by her involvment in local social movements, she said.
“It was suggested to me by a community member to apply for this job. I thought it would be a cool opportunity to get involved with an organization that had a lot of structure and bring my own student organizing experience to that,” Rice-Pelepko said.
Rice-Pelepko will be helping prepare registered students with the trainings and going through a mock lobby a few days beforehand. She has also given her advice and input at the legislative level on the issues that will be discussed at local lobby day.
Rice-Pelepko believes these kinds of events help students have a voice in local politics through gaining more knowledge about social issues that affect students and the community.
Hammer said there are many opportunities for students to get involved in local politics, such as joining the Local Issues Team or Legislative Affairs Council. More information can be found on the AS website.