City Council discuss ballot resolutions, more at meeting

Many residents, labor union members and business owners from Bellingham and Whatcom County were also in attendance // Photo by Schuyler Shelloner

By Schuyler Shelloner 

Washington’s latest carbon-fee proposal carried the day at the City Council meeting on Monday, Oct. 22. The resolution to support Initiative 1631 had nearly the whole council’s support. Councilmember and Puget Sound Energy employee Pinky Vargas abstained due to a conflict of interest.

Sign-holding supporters of the initiative filled the upper rows of the chamber, where they raised and lowered their signs after each supportive speaker had finished.

“We do not have to debate whether or not 1631 may or may not work. We already know it will work, and that it will work extremely well,” Sierra Club Treasurer Ron Colson said. “British Columbia has collected a carbon fee since 2008. According to the world bank, British Columbia’s carbon fee policy has been very effective at spurring fuel-efficiency gains.”

Many residents, labor union members and business owners from Bellingham and Whatcom County were also in attendance and took their turn at the podium.

“I don’t know about you, but I work hard for my money, and I’d like to keep it. I-1631 hurts the most vulnerable citizens, most of whom can’t afford fuel-efficient vehicles or high-efficiency windows or furnaces,” a Ferndale resident said. “And to the gentleman from the Sierra Club: maybe the reason that there are so many Canadians coming down here to buy fuel is that there’s no carbon fee here.”    

The City Council also unanimously passed a resolution to support the low-income housing levy. No residents in attendance took to the podium to protest the resolution.

“We’ve had pretty healthy housing production here in Bellingham, but almost none of it has been for low or affordable income levels,” said councilmember Michael Lilliquist. “The market works, it never stops working, but it works imperfectly and blindly. It doesn’t have values, it doesn’t love its children, the market has no children. We do have children. We need to take care of our community.”

Councilmember Pinky Vargas also mentioned that the low-income housing levy will not add any taxes to Bellingham residents. The proposal, if passed, will extend a tax already paid by Bellingham residents.

The Bennet/Bakerview Drive/Airport annexation was also discussed, although no decision was agreed upon at the meeting. The proposal if accepted would add housing, 750 potential jobs and 64 undeveloped acres, but is also projected to cause a deficit.

The council also approved to put three units of surplus city land up for sale to developers of affordable housing.

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