League of Women Voters City Council Ward 3 Candidate Forum: October 5th, 2019

League of Women Voters City Council Ward 3 Candidate Forum: October 5th, 2019


[ dramatic music ] [Moderator:] Our next debate is for the City of
Bellingham Council Ward 3 position and there are two candidates for this race and that is Daniel Hammill and Ashanti Monts-Traviska. Ashanti will be speaking through an American Sign Language interpreter–
actually we’re going to have two in the court…in the courtroom with us today
that’s the lawyer talking we’re in the council chambers today and currently
signing is Felina Gordon also signing will be Tara Day. The City of Bellingham
Council is the legislative body for the city responsible for setting public
policies adopting long-range plans approving the budget and taxes and
passing laws. Council members are engaged in the community and responsive to
constituent concerns. The council Ward 1…actually Ward 3 term of office is four
years with an annual salary of twenty seven thousand one hundred and
thirty-two dollars. We’ll start then with candidate Monts-Traviska and would you
please make your opening statement. hello [Monts-Traviska:] Hello everybody, thank you so much for being here. I have a personal belief that Bellingham
should become a transformative city and I would like to lead us in that and find
solutions to many of the problems that we have so I think the system itself is
not a hundred percent working for many people who live here for for several
different reasons and also I I love the African philosophy of, if you
want something to go fast then you might have to go along with that. If you want
to go far you need to go together as a group. So we’re in this together and I
recognize that there are a lot of different issues and that we’ve failed
to see even so far because of our educational system or just
because we haven’t had the right information so my campaign is really
built on four things. The first is again transformative justice; decentralizing these issues; and nutritive culture and taking care of
the environment through stewardship. So those four things are goals that I’ve
built to help Bellingham become more of a community that’s taking care of each
other, taking care of the planet, and I think people in the planet need to come
first. [Moderator:] Thank you. Candidate Hammill. [Hammill:] Thank you League of Women Voters for hosting this forum today. Bellingham faces incredible
opportunities and challenges as we continue to grow we need to continue on
the pathway of building a fairer, equitable, and accessible city for all
residents. In 2012 I was the campaign manager for the Bellingham home fund
that delivered over 700 units of affordable housing. Last year
voters overwhelmingly approved that measure again. Over 40 percent of our
residents are asset limited, income constrained, and employed yet only 7% of
our housing is affordable. I will continue to act to increase access to
affordable housing. I’m the only city council member to have voted twice
against the failed jail initiatives. I believe in prevention, intervention,
treatment, and aftercare. That’s why along with the hospital, County Health
Department, Opportunity Council, Mayor’s Office I started the grace program that
is a direct response to homelessness, mental health illness, and substance use
disorder. Grace or ground-level response and coordinated engagement is treating
people and getting them the help that they need. I voted to approve one of the
most aggressive climate-action plans in the country. Climate change is real it’s
caused by human beings and we need to do our part at the local level to address
this threat this existential threat to people and the planet. I’ve been a leader
in supporting every protection for Lake Whatcom:
the drinking water source for over 100,000 people. I voted to purchase over
two-thousand acres on Galbraith Mountain to protect that mountain from further
development. I will continue working with the Port to ensure that a vibrant and
accessible waterfront is developed and I’ll continue to work with our partners
at the county and state legislature to address homelessness and affordable
housing. Thank you. [Moderator:] So the first question will go to candidate Monts-Traviska and
candidate please explain why you believe the process is or the process for
developing the waterfront is or is not on the right track and what
contributions do you want to make as the plans move forward? [Monts-Traviska:] Are you talking about
the waterfront development? I’m just clarifying. [Moderator:] I believe that’s what the
question is addressed to, yes. [Monts-Traviska:] Yeah, I have only lived in Bellingham here for about
six years so I’m learning all of these different areas and I feel that we need
to leave some things more natural the waterfront area it is very connected to
the natural land resources and we need to have more of…we don’t I don’t
necessarily believe we need to have humans taking over all that natural area
when we have animals and other natural essentials there. So I’m honestly a
little bit on the fence about renovating that waterfront and adding any more
businesses. I want to make sure that we’re able to match the needs of the
people but also match the needs of the planet. [Moderator:] And Candidate Hammmill. [Hammill:] Yeah, the waterfront is nowhere near where it needs to be in terms of
development in my opinion. Harcourt Development has been lagging behind and
they’ve been allowed to have an extended timeline which is not helping to develop
the waterfront. There’s a lot of residential building that could be done
down there that could be housing for our residents. Whatever development that is going to happen at the waterfront needs to make sure that it’s
tied with Old Town which is going to be 1,000
units of residential and 400,000 square feet of commercial and it also needs to
tie in with the downtown. It can’t be a competitor to downtown. It needs to
enhance the the downtown. That’s why support a connectivity at the
Chestnut Street bridge to the waterfront area. [Moderator:] And this question will begin with Candidate Hammill. How would you describe the current relationship between the
City and its local business owners and developers and how do you plan to engage
with the local business community to address whatever challenges or
opportunities or strengths are currently present? [Hammill:] So we’re in Ward 3
right now. So Ward 3 is downtown and extends all the way to U Street and
downtown businesses are vital to the health and well-being, I think, of our
residents. The relationship between the City and the downtown business owners, I
think it’s healthy. We’ve done our fair share in terms of creating development
incentives in the urban village areas. Urban villages account for 38 percent of
the growth in Bellingham yet only account for 3.8 percent of the land mass.
So I think in continuing and fostering those relationships with the
development community can help us get to the residential housing initiatives that we’ve undertaken in this community. I think we need to continue those
relationships. [Moderator:] And Candidate Monts-Traviska. [Monts-Traviska:] I co-manage a social embrace with the deaf community and the colored community here in Bellingham. We’re
small business owners and a small group of people but my concern is that we
don’t have enough economic support for small business owners who are people of
color: black, brown, Native American, deaf, disabled. I don’t see the support there
and I’ve noticed that the business owners are…they’re just like really
trying to find where that support can come from and where that advocacy come from. So I feel like that we need to lead in providing the needs and
make that relationship happen so then that can actually influence the City, the
City’s knowledge and accessibility and diversity and inclusiveness. [Moderator:] And this question then will begin with Candidate Monts-Traviska:
if elected what legislation would you make your number one priority to get
passed and describe the with specificity why it’s your number one priority please? [Monts-Traviska:] The priority actually would be
accessibility and inclusivity. The deaf community here doesn’t actually know
what’s going on with legislation and the laws and the policies that are being
made so I want to make sure that there are caption access and ASL interpreters
available so that they can come in and provide their feedback but also know
what’s happening in Bellingham and I feel like they could bring a great a
great information to the collective wisdom of the city and then also there’s
like rent control issues and then supporting a relationship with the
tribal treaty rights. And then those are those are important to me but I but
I really feel like the most important and priority is access to information so
that we can again move forward together. [Moderator:] And Candidate Hammill. [Hammill:] I serve as the
City’s representative…one of the City’s representatives on the incarceration,
prevention, and incarceration, or prevention and reduction task force. You
know I see people that are entering the system as adults that should not even be
in the system so I’ve been looking upstream; three weeks ago I was in Denver
in two weeks from now I’ll be in Boston discussing children’s funding
initiatives. I believe firmly in bringing forward a policy in 2021
of a children’s funding initiative that would provide for universal childcare,
universal pre-k, and family and parent and child therapy and interaction
because that’s that turn turns the spigot down at the front end of life. I
believe in investments in prenatal, postnatal, and birth-to-three and I’ll be
bringing that forward. [Moderator:] And beginning this time with Candidate Hammill,
what strategies are options do you see as alternatives to a large, low-barrier
shelter for our homeless population? [Hammill:] I serve on the homeless strategies work
group that is led by Councilmember Buchanan from the County Council. I serve
on that that group with Councilmember Lilliquist and the Mayor and others. We
have significant challenges when it comes to housing unsheltered folks in
our community. I support House bill 1406 which would provide for housing. That
could be to the tune of 9.1 million dollars that could be bonded against and
that would provide for housing. Shelters… we need another addition
to shelters other than the Lighthouse Mission. I support the shelter the City
is putting in at the Civic Field locker rooms that will provide for 40 beds for
women but we need to do more than that and I’m on a constant move to try
to get more beds for folks. [Moderator:] And candidate Monts-Traviska. [Monts-Traviska:] I am in support of inclusive zoning, ADU, small home, the tiny homes, a co-op housing
program or social housing program. Also I’m in support of community day program
center that would allow people who don’t have homes can come and have that have
access to services, have socialization. They can have affordable health
insurance and services provided there. Also I am in support of rent control and
that way those people can feel like they have access because housing really is a
basic human right and human need. If we take that away then you know…we need to not support landlords who are trying to make their profit off
of people. [Moderator:] Thank you and the next question will begin with Candidate Monts-Traviska. What do you identify as the City’s three biggest financial
challenges now and in the next ten years? [Monts-Traviska:] I think the first biggest financial
challenge would be the affordable housing issue that we’ve been discussing
already. Accessibility; following the Americans with Disabilities Act; and also
transportation for the deaf and disabled community: making sure that they have
equal access to that. And I feel that that’s actually kind of related to the
third one which is the climate issue. So I think those are the three top
financial challenges that we face but I’m also in support of an economic
reinvestment plan for impacted communities, smaller communities,
underrepresented communities. I would support that as well. And food and
agricultural support: making sure that especially in Birchwood where… [Moderator:] And Candidate Hammill. [Hammill:] The largest capital investment that the City of Bellingham
will make in our lifetimes will be the wastewater treatment plant at post point
it’s 160 million dollars that is pursuant to the climate action goals
that this the City Council and the Mayor have put forward. That is by far
the largest carbon footprint contributor. The other pieces would be the
annexation phasing plan that will bring in Alderwood, we’re bringing that in
right now. We brought in Dewey Valley last year. We have five urban growth
areas that kind of ring the city. Bringing in those those land masses will
require new fire and new police. And fire…Fire Department uniforms make a
hundred-thousand dollars a year and police make one-hundred-five
thousand dollars a year and those create a constant continuous bow wave into the
future. And then the last item would be for a for housing. [Moderator:] And specific to
housing, starting with Candidate Hammill: several herb…
oh I’m sorry I missed that so please state your challenge. [Monts-Traviska:] So one of
my concerns about the police investment is that the community members especially
people of color, deaf, making sure that they it’s easy for them to get
racial profiling so I want to make sure that we provide the correct training. We
don’t want to increase harm by the police and brutality so I want to
make sure that people are aware that not a lot of community people feel safe
around specifically law enforcement. [Moderator:] Candidate Hammill, anything you’d like to say
in response to that statement? [Hammill:] Our police department’s one of the most well
trained departments in the state. When we have lateral hires that come from other
departments from some similar sizes they remarked that the trainings that are
provided in particular amongst anti-bias training and trauma-informed training
are, are…exceed the the standard. I think that our police are well trained and I
believe that they need to continue to do to do more on training. [Moderator:] Ok so our next
question is…begins with candidate Hammill. Several urban village buildings have
been built recently: apartments and condos above with retail and office
space below. Many appeared to have unused space on the ground floor. Do you feel
this is a viable model for development and for additional housing units why or
why not? If not, what is your vision for future housing? [Hammill:] I absolutely support
urban villages I think that that’s where we and previous councils have committed
to putting residential construction. I don’t support having ground floor being
exclusively commercial I think that that’s kind of a waste of potential
residential. If you look at Walton place over here on State Street they’ve got
residential all the way to the ground floor. If you look at the development
that’s further down on State Street before the roundabout,
there’s residential to the ground-floor. If you look at Broadway station across
from Fire Station One across from the Bellingham School District
administrative offices they’ve got commercial
on the ground floor. There’s an abundance of commercial space in the city that’s
just…we don’t need that we need more residential we need more housing for our
residents. [Moderator:] And candidate Monts-Traviska. [Monts-Traviska:] Yeah, like I said before I’m really in
support of creative housing options and different opportunities for example if
there is space that’s not being utilized then we can maybe set that up for small
businesses to take advantage of that space. That way they can live there but
also they’re not having to worry about rent and paying that as well. And plus I
also am supportive of, you know, other creative ideas like, for example, the
social housing that builds up on top of each other. [Moderator:] Okay, beginning with candidate Monts-Traviska, what is your assessment of
the actions the city has taken to reduce carbon emissions and do you think these
efforts are satisfactory or should the city be doing something else? [Monts-Traviska:] So my personal feeling on it I think the city can do more to reduce the carbon
emissions. For example maybe thinking more of how we can create…how we
can represent those underrepresented communities for making sure that they’re
able to adhere to these carbon emission changes. Making sure…and again making
sure that people don’t rely on having a car to get around…what kind of
transportation opportunities they have. I am in support of the plastic bags ban; I’m in support of that but I want to make sure that disabled
people still have access to for example plastic straws for their health care
needs. And again a variety of different things I think we can do to reduce our
carbon emissions for example walking, biking, and improving
those structures. [Moderator:] And this one will begin with I…I’m getting myself turned around…Candidate Hammill. Describe the… [Hammill:] Was there an opportunity to respond to that
question? [Moderator:] Challenge card? Oh thank you I appreciate
it. it does take a village. Yes, of course,
please. [Hammill:] I’m sure moderating is very challenging.
Um, so I got the last City Council meeting I brought forward a policy
framework for a single-use plastics ban that would eliminate polystyrene which
is the styrofoam clamshells that you can still get to go food in. It’s 2019, we
need to get eliminate that from the waste stream. Also plastic cutlery to-go…that’s I’m also going to be looking at banning that as well as hospital…pardon
me, um, hotel single-use shampoos and soaps and things like that. Those should
be wall-mounted dispensers. I do believe that the City is on the right track for
climate change and working towards eliminating the carbon footprint again
with the wastewater treatment facility at Post Point. The city won
a governor’s award for our transportation implementation plan. We are only one of
five cities to receive that award and we just won the Association of Washington
Planners award for transportation bike ped infrastructure. [Moderator:] Okay I’ve gotten if
I’m back on track now Candidate Hammill, please describe the role the city has in
ensuring that all residents will have use of computers and Wi-Fi and the
skills to effectively function in an online world. [Hammill:] My wife Kelly Bashaw who’s
a also elected official from the Bellingham School Board and I were in
Belgium and Holland a couple years ago and you can go into a city center and
look up Wi-Fi on your phone to to to get accessibility to wayfinding for
directions and things like that. I think the city needs to provide free Wi-Fi in
the downtown core. I think the city needs to provide free
Wi-Fi in our parks and our and alongside our municipal facilities and make that
accessible for everyone. We are…the internet is real and we are an online
world now so we need to make sure that it’s accessible for all people. [Moderator:] And
Candidate Monts-Traviska. [Monts-Traviska:] I am in support for public co-ownership of the fiber-optic network and the reason is because if we have that that would actually
guide the deaf community to be able to have access to video remote interpreting.
Here in Bellingham in the Whatcom area we don’t have enough ASL interpreters so
it’s just not enough. And so if we had that kind of system up for the…up here
for access for the deaf community then we can actually have access to an
interpreter any time any place here in Bellingham. And so that’s why I’m in
support of that fiber-optic…the owning the fiber-optics broadband
program. [Moderator:] And candidate Monts-Traviska, what if anything should the city do to ensure
a safe and adequate supply of water now and into the future? What if anything
should the city do to ensure a safe and adequate supply of water now and into
the future? [Monts-Traviska:] I feel the city could have or could
build a relationship with the Lummi Tribe group and work together with them
over the water issue and discuss with them their treaty rights and their income diversity needs and that being sure that there’s clean water and
access to all. I feel like the priority would be making that relationship with
the tribal nation to start that work. [Moderator:] Candidate Hammill. [Hammill:] I voted to secure over a
thousand acres in the Lake Whatcom watershed on Galbraith Mountain and an additional 100 of strategic acres in the
Lake Whatcom watershed. I support the aquatic invasive species
program. That’s that boat inspection program that inspects boats for zebra mussels
and things like that. I don’t think boats should be on Lake
Whatcom at all but but we only control 5% of that Lake so it’d be a County/City
coordinated effort to get the boats off the water.
I support the homeowner incentive program that’s the program that incents folks to create rain gardens in their lawns that are along the
lake and along lakeshore properties. It takes about a hundred-thousand dollars
to prevent one pound of phosphorus from entering the lake in capital projects
but only it cost forty five thousand dollars per pound when we do the
homeowner incentive program so I really support that program. [Moderator:] And now for our
final question and it will begin with Candidate Hammill.
What should the Council’s strategy be when it comes to bolstering future
economic development and vitality across Bellingham and please include job
creation in your response? [Hammill:] So we we have a we have a deficit in our workforce
when it comes to those who work with our most vulnerable populations so
people with mental health illness or substance use disorder are making
probably $20 an hour. Our police officers make a hundred and five thousand dollars
per year. I believe that our healthcare workers should make at least that
because they are…every day they go into trauma, they work with people who are
experiencing trauma and I think that the city can work with the state legislature
to provide for funding to create a livable wage for those healthcare
workers. That is an emerging sector of our economy and I think that we need to
support it. [Moderator:] And Candidate Monts-Traviska. [Monts-Traviska:] I feel like the income inequality is
common for this time and we… …I think we’re focusing too much on
profit and then we’re not using that money to give back to the community and
to kind of kind of change the balance of power with the people. And so I feel like
so like what do we need to do about that and what solution would would work:
I’m actually really in support of a circular economy. And that would keep the
money in the community and going between the people in the community and then
that would take care of of those basic needs and of the income of the people
across the board. And so I would like to focus on that and to make sure that
and take care of everything on that level. And so then there’s access to
employment without discrimination and use that moving forward. [Moderator:] And now for our
closing statements beginning with Candidate Monts-Traviska. [Monts-Traviska:] I am maybe not
the uh, what you would picture for a stereotypical politician, you know, I
haven’t always been involved with politics but I do believe that now is a
time for change in Bellingham. I’m a very creative person. I’m not afraid to try
new things. I’m not afraid to challenge different ideas that maybe we’ve had for
a long time. And here in Bellingham we need…I think we need a different
perspective on a lot of different issues, you know, not only how to solve them now
but how they developed in the first place. And I want to make sure that all
kinds of issues have their own space to really be focused on, really pay
attention to, and can come up with good solutions. Again I’m a big believer in
transformative justice which means reducing community harm and eliminating
issues that cause harm to us. [Moderator:] Candidate Hammill. [Hammill:] I’m running for re-election to
Bellingham City Council to complete the body of work that I started during my
first term. I won a MacArthur Foundation Award for my work on criminal justice reform. I started the Grace program and have
championed multiple pieces of legislation that benefit working-class
people. If reelected I’ll pass a comprehensive
children’s initiative that will benefit kids and families I’m endorsed by Lummi
Nation, Washington State Federation of Democratic Women, Whatcom County Democratic Women, Sierra Club, Washington Conservation Voters, Teamsters, NARAL, Riveters Collective, Washington Bikes, Mayor Linville, Port Commissioner
Shepard, Councilmember Buchanan, Councilmember Satpal Sidhu,
Representative Goodman from the 45th and Prosecutor Richey and I asked…I’m
asking for your vote. [Moderator:] Please join me in thanking both candidates. [ upbeat music ]

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