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Bellingham voters could see new initiatives on upcoming ballot

People First Bellingham has begun collecting signatures for a slate of four ballot initiatives

A sign that reads “People First Bellingham” underneath a rainbow on May 6, 2021, in Bellingham, Wash. People First Bellingham recently began campaigning for a slate of ballot initiatives for the November City of Bellingham ballot. // Photo courtesy of Sage Jones

Volunteers are campaigning to get four initiatives added to the November ballot for Bellingham voters that focus on the issue of renting, policing and worker’s rights. 

People First Bellingham is the political organization that is running the slate of ballot initiatives for the working class, according to their Facebook page.  

“Our mission in creating People First Bellingham and working to pass these initiatives is to ensure that everyone in Bellingham has a right to the city,” People First Bellingham campaign manager Sage Jones said. 

People First Bellingham needs to gather 7,500 signatures per initiative by June 25 to get them on the November ballot. 

“These initiatives are the first step in making Bellingham a more just city; one that is affordable and safe for all of its residents, where everyone who wants to works has a good, union job and decent housing,” Jones said. “While three are limits to what can be achieved through the local initiative process, these initiatives will provide material benefits to Bellingham residents as workers and community members.”  

According to their website, the four initiatives are: 

  • Initiative One - Renter protections; renter relocation assistance; expands tenant rights to include rental relocation assistance. 

  • Initiative Two - No invasive police tech; ban on advanced policing technologies; concerns the use of facial recognition technology and predictive policing technology. 

  • Initiative Three - Protect the right to organize; labor neutrality; concerns recipients using city funds to discourage unionization efforts. 

  • Initiative Four - Workers rights; fair treatment of hourly-wage employees and gig workers; concerns employee rights for hourly-wage employees and gig workers. 

Read more about the initiatives here.

“These initiatives are all about taking steps to protect the most vulnerable people in our community,” said Karen Russell, the Hub Coordinator for Sunrise Bellingham.“We know that our community can’t thrive when a huge proportion of the people in it are constantly struggling to find and keep housing, to avoid racial profiling and to be paid fairly for their work.” 

Sunrise Bellingham is a local chapter of the national Sunrise Movement organization. The local hub has endorsed People First Bellingham and their slate of ballot initiatives. 

“Folks in Bellingham should care about Initiatives 1-4 because these are the first citizen-led ballot initiatives the city has presented within a decade,” Whatcom Democratic Socialists of America Co-Chair Amanda Stewart said. 

According to the Whatcom Democratic Socialists of America’s website, the organization “believes that working people should run both the economy and society democratically - to meet human needs, not to make profits for the few.” 

The Whatcom Democratic Socialists of America is an official chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America 

“There is so much to learn when you start engaging with people in your community and listening; we hear so many stories from so many folks on what these initiatives mean to them and how excited they are,” Stewart said. 

Both Sunrise Bellingham and the Whatcom Democratic Socialists of America have been assisting People First Bellingham by collecting signatures to get these initiatives on the ballot. 

If the signature threshold is met, the initiatives will be on the November ballot for voters in the city of Bellingham. 

“Canvassing has become a way to initiate a broader conversation about the conditions in Bellingham that continue to create economic precarity for Bellingham’s working class; I believe this campaign can be a model for the people of Bellingham to create grassroots legislation for the people, by the people, for years to come,” People First Bellingham volunteer Samuel Wambold said. 

Wambold’s work with People First Bellingham includes co-leading social media, canvassing and phone banking for community outreach. 

“I’ve experienced countless community members, whether coworkers or neighbors, that find it hard to work and live in Bellingham, and it’s getting more difficult each year,” Wambold said.  “A lot of students in Bellingham, including myself, can’t work 40 hours a week so inevitably at least half of our income goes toward rent.”

Going forward, People First Bellingham will continue to collect signatures to try and get the initiatives on the ballot by June 25, Jones said.

“By working together to pass these initiatives, we will demonstrate the power of organizing collectively on behalf of ourselves and our communities,” Jones said. “This will change the way politics are done in Bellingham.”


Jake Isom

Jake Isomis a city life reporter for The Front and a third-year visual journalism pre-major at Western Washington University. His work focuses on health and wellness within local communities. You can contact him atjakeisom.thefront@gmail.com. 


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