Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Waterfront Redevelopment: Mayoral Candidate Forum Responses

Here is additional information from my notes that I was unable to post earlier.

All Mayoral Candidates were asked to answer this question:
‘State briefly, your strongest argument on Waterfront Redevelopment for:
(a) Why it should proceed? [PRO] (b) Why it should not proceed? [CON]

Dan McShane:
Pro: Enormous opportunity, with public expectations for access to the water.

Con: Need to be careful and go slow in agreeing to a Master Plan that carries major funding challenges. City has abrogated its zoning responsibility. Is the Port’s plan worth the investment?

Doug Karlberg:
Pro: Should do it, because it is essential for our future -50 years or more..

Con: What is cleanup level? Port’s vision is being promoted like a machine. May disagree. Wants to keep a working waterfront. Too big. Fears local government will dismiss the public’s wishes, like Seattle did. Disliked legal challenge to public initiative.
Public input needs to be respected.

Seth Fleetwood:
Pro: Agrees this a rare opportunity. The Waterfront Futures Group report inspired him. Supports DOE’s Preferred Alternative for cleanup to fully meet State Model Toxics Control Act [MTCA] requirements, to exceed that level would have un-needed cost impacts that would outweigh any additional benefits

Con: Is it feasible? How will funding happen? Many details remain to be worked out. Inter-local Agreement binds Port and City, but need equitable partnership. Next Mayor and City Council will have to address these important decisions.

Don Keenan:
Pro: Getting good information, community effort and best minds will build consensus to achieve this enormous opportunity, with 100-year horizon. Chance to make waterfront Bellingham’s front door. WWU and NOAA as tenants very beneficial and exciting. Potential as business incubator is possible with mixed-use zoning. Connects to downtown, parks and other people places.

Con: Need to overcome the fear that has been generated. Big space to cleanup and redevelop!

Dan Pike:
Pro: Waterfront redevelopment needs to go forward.

Con: Failure of leaders and local government to sell it better. Need to know level of adequate cleanup and how to retain a presence as a working waterfront. A large park is essential to economic development, but doesn’t have to be just on that site. What other tenants besides WWU and NOAA?

Gil Bernal:
Pro: Should do it. Great opportunity! Those who benefit should pay for it. Cleanup to DOE standards is OK. New jobs. What concessions are possible, particularly for public access? In Hawaii, all beaches are public.

Con: None. No downside.

Bob Ryan:
Pro: Waterfront redevelopment is the best opportunity since Bellingham was founded!

Con: Some hurdles remain: Public process in progress. City is responsible for infrastructure. Port responsible for cleanup and redevelopment. Financing options need to be known. Master Plan will define zoning. Economic benefits for City and Port. If Port wants more than City can provide, then development must pay its fair share. Olympia is an example of doing this sort of thing right.

My Comment: Remembering the Dundee Donut Shop

Years ago as a boy, I saw a catchy sign on the wall of a popular donut shop. It had a motto underneath, an illustration of two cartoon figures, each holding a large donut. One was smiling at a donut so fat that the hole was a mere dimple. The other bore a sour frown while contemplating a donut that looked more like a racing bike tire - all hole and very little donut. The accompanying motto said something like 'as through life you grow old, keep your eye on the donut and not the hole'.

I still remember the moral demonstrated so simply by that donut sign. One's viewpoint is strongly influenced by one's point of view. If one gets up every morning on the wrong side of the bed and decides to be grumpy and negative, that can become habit forming. We all have the power to decide which side of the bed we choose to get up from each morning. Folks who haven't learned this basic lesson are missing out on the real joys of life, and deserve to be the object of our sympathy.

This last question about Waterfront Redevelopment essentially asks the same question: is this a problem or an opportunity? I see it as such an opportunity that it would irresponsible NOT to pursue it vigorously, but also with care. So, that’s a reaction that begins with the opportunity side of the equation, but also does not forget much work needs to be done before committing to anything that unduly burdens anyone. In life, answers are rarely simple black or white, but many shades of the entire spectrum that lie in between. Please, let’s keep this in mind as the public process continues!

Note: I have decided to limit this blog to summarizing what my take was from the Mayoral candidate’s public statements and responses at this forum. Readers get to decide for themselves who got closer to the 'right' answers. One of these candidates will become our next Mayor, so it’s important to elect the one with an approach likely to build on achieving some version of the Vision the City has adopted from the Waterfront Futures Group recommendations.

But, that’s just my opinion!

No similar summary is planned for the other Primary races.