Mayor: Candidate – April Barker
1. Background: The Bellingham Municipal Code 13.16 outlines city regulations for 5G small cell installations. These were drafted in response to a 2018 City Council vote to support 5G installs. On January 14, 2019, new FCC regulations went into effect denying local municipalities the right to refuse 5G installations. So, Bellingham is set to proceed, yet there is an increasing outcry nationally and globally about the lack of scientific testing for safety, environmental effects, security and privacy issues. There is strong scientific basis for all these concerns. Some cities and states are suing against the FCC overreach. The Portland mayor refuses to proceed on the basis of health safety concerns, as well as FCC overreach.
What is your stance on supporting 5G installation in Bellingham?
Access to broadband determines access to opportunity; yes, I support increasing everyone’s access. I also take the scientific concerns seriously about the negative health implications from 5G technology’s use of radio frequency (RF). As mayor, I will continue to work with our representatives to require the FCC update old findings and determine whether RF standards remain protective of public health. We will work with providers to monitor RF levels of 5G devices in place, remove any that are non-compliant and work with our community to find a path forward for accessible, affordable and safe broadband access.
2. Background: The current Bellingham Comprehensive Plan envisions that future population growth will find housing in high-density urban villages. How best to provide additional housing in the city is an ongoing discussion. For example, new city code now permits backyard dwelling units.
Do you favor permitting multifamily housing, like triplexes, in areas of the city now zoned exclusively for single-family, detached homes?
Yes. As your mayor, we will address climate change and improve our sense of community and quality of life by creating more affordable housing in every corner of our city. This means housing for seniors, diverse housing options for our increasingly diverse community, and housing that matches the jobs we have. The most important thing Bellingham can do to address climate change is to welcome more people into our city, so we can protect the lands that produce our food and the natural environment that we all treasure. We will find solutions that put community, fairness and environment first.
3. Background: Until 2012, the Mayor’s Neighborhood Advisory Commission, composed of representatives from every neighborhood, was by city code a party to the planning process which included review and comments on the city’s Comprehensive Plan and the individual neighborhood plans. Comments and recommendations from the Neighborhood Advisory Commission were submitted for consideration to the Planning Commission. In 2012, the city council, at the behest of the mayor, removed the Neighborhood Advisory Commission from the city’s planning process, thus eliminating neighborhoods from the planning process.
Would you be supportive of restoring, by city code, the role of the Mayor’s Neighborhood Advisory Commission in the process of updating the city’s comprehensive and neighborhood plans?
I support neighborhoods having input and influence in their government, but we need to be more innovative than we have been. We have gotten stuck trying to make people fit structures. With me as your mayor, we will evolve the structures to fit the people and find solutions that work. I will convene an intersectional group of folks from neighborhoods to develop recommendations for improving the structures of MNAC and neighborhood associations, making sure these groups are representative, have the tools and resources needed to communicate, and advocate for the needs of both current and future residents.
4. Background: “Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Bellingham, making up 32 percent of all community emissions.” (From the Bellingham Climate Action Plan.)
In recent years, Bellingham has made progress toward an active transportation network that helps reduce our carbon footprint as well as families’ transportation costs. More people are able to get where they need to go by walking, pedaling, and rolling (such as wheelchairs).
However, the connections for safe and active transportation are a long way from being complete, due to U.S. transportation planning that has for decades prioritized the movement of motor vehicles.
What transportation planning and funding solutions will you champion to accelerate both Bellingham’s reduction of carbon emissions and progress toward a safe and connected active transportation system for all ages and abilities?
When we create a transportation network that works for the youngest and the oldest, it benefits everyone in between and the environment. I’ll continue my work toward expanding free WTA ridership to youth like we provide for seniors, so kids can safely explore our city and grow up knowing how to navigate the system and advocating to improve it. I’ll continue supporting WTA’s transition to electric buses, advocating for protected/separated lanes and increased housing along transit corridors. I will work with folks with a range of abilities to inform how we become an accessible city that works for all.
5. Background: Mayor Linville has proven to be very pro-development, and, despite some sporadic and largely bureaucratic interest in the topics, has not carved out a legacy of environmental stewardship in this era of species extinction and climate change. Some nations and municipal jurisdictions, in response to environmental chaos, are currently declaring a “climate emergency.”
If you were to use your position to declare a “climate emergency,” what specific actions would accompany it, and where would you foresee the most pressing need for change in order for Bellingham to survive the threats we are facing?
My kids have only known climate reality. We are in a climate emergency, and I am absolutely committed to action. Together, we will find solutions that put community, fairness and environment first. As mayor, I’ll make sure we have actions to back our words up. We will update the Climate Action Plan using the task force’s recommendations, putting climate in all policies. Urban densification in a just way is the most important way to combat climate change. We must welcome more people into our city and resist expansion into our surrounding natural environment to preserve its beauty and our farmlands.
6. Background: For businesses to be effective in our information-intensive economy, they need bandwidth delivered on a fiber-optic infrastructure, which provides speed and reliability. Bellingham city government has not yet made the commitment to pursue an effective fiber-optic infrastructure that is offered as an open-access network, giving co-ops, as well as telecoms, access. Doing so would attract new businesses and would provide a wider variety of internet options for existing businesses and residents. We have our neighbor, Mt. Vernon, as a model for success in doing this.
Do you feel that identifying the city’s current network, and adding to it as necessary to create a reliable fiber infrastructure is a priority?
Yes. Affordable and accessible broadband is necessary; our solutions need to put community, fairness and environment first. Access to broadband is important to community health, because of its influence on our access to education, economic stability, health care, and other opportunities. As mayor, I will convene a short term, action-oriented work group to develop recommendations, policies and funding options for the council to consider regarding open-access network, dig-once policy, and concerns over the health impacts of 5G.