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6 new Ferndale City Council members along with newly elected Mayor Greg Hansen share the dais for the first time (January 6, 2020) (l-r City staff Riley Sweeney and Jori Burnett, Mayor Greg Hansen and councilmembers Ali Hawkinson, Erin Gunter, Paul Shuey, Ryan O'Larey, Kate Bishop, Ramon Llanos). Photo: My Ferndale News

How would you vote on items on the Ferndale City Council agenda (POLL)

The following letter to members of the Ferndale City Council is provided courtesy of Ferndale City Administrator Jori Burnett. It is regarding the Ferndale City Council meeting agenda for the regular meeting scheduled for 6pm, Monday, March 2nd.

Councilmembers –

Your agenda for Monday night is as follows:

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Item A: Public Comment

Item B: Consent Agenda, including approval of February 18, 2020 Council meeting minutes, authorization of February 20, 2020 payroll, approval of January 2020 claims, resolution surplusing vehicles and computer equipment.

Surplus Resolution: The Finance and Administration Committee has placed a resolution to declare two vehicles that were seized by and forfeited to the Ferndale Police Department as surplus. The resolution would also surplus a Dell laptop computer.

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Item C, Presentation – Sara Berndary, Census Coordinator for Whatcom Council of Governments:

Sara Bernardy is currently working with the Whatcom Counts Complete Counts Committee, (WCCC) which is sponsored by the Whatcom Council of Governments and co-chaired by the Whatcom Community Foundation and the Opportunity Council. She has been coordinating education and outreach about the upcoming Decennial Census to ensure the community is aware of the importance of a complete and accurate count on Census Day, April 1.

Item D, Private Developments Update: Assistant Planner Jesse Ashbaugh will provide his monthly update to Council on private development projects.

Item E, Resolution Supporting Renewable Energy Projects: The City Council is asked to consider approving a resolution that would support renewable energy projects within the Ferndale Market area. If adopted, the resolution would signify the City of Ferndale’s support for projects that protect existing and create additional living wage jobs. The resolution also discusses the manner in which these projects may include new or transitional technologies, that existing businesses may be ideally suited to introduce these new projects, and that permitting uncertainties have the potential to delay such projects.

As discussed in the accompanying staff report, the Ferndale Comprehensive Plan does address the importance of industries within the Ferndale Market Area, their importance to the local economy, and changes that may take place as existing industries diversify or transition to new technology.

This represents one of the first, if not the first, resolution considered by the full Ferndale City Council.

Resolutions do not have the same force of law as an ordinance. Whereas an ordinance enacts legislation (creates law), a resolution reflects the general opinion of the Council: “a formal expression of opinion or intention agreed on by a legislative body, committee, or other formal meeting, typically after taking a vote.” (Oxford English Dictionary).

Item F, Discussion – North Whatcom Poverty Task Force Recommendations: Communications Officer Riley Sweeney and other representatives of the North Whatcom Poverty Task Force will summarize the conclusions and recommendations of the task force. Poverty is not a new issue in Ferndale, though it is largely misunderstood – and growing. As will be discussed, no one option will solve poverty and scarcity for all individuals, but there are likely some steps that the City and community can take to lessen the impact or to avoid falling into a vicious cycle. However, the central recommendation of the Task Force will be asking the Council to place an Affordable Housing levy on the November 2020 ballot. A discussion of the levy itself is scheduled for the March 11th committee and March 16th council meetings.

Item G-J: Mayor, Council, Department, and Committee Reports.

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Final Thoughts.

Councilmembers –

The North Whatcom Poverty Task Force represents an effort that is unique, or relatively unique, in the City of Ferndale’s history. As a small city, Ferndale has typically addressed the issues that are tightly confined to its direct regulatory authority, and with staff stretched relatively thin, sometimes the City struggles to address even those issues proactively.

The Task Force was developed, perhaps not because the City as a governmental organization must do something about poverty (though this can be debated and may ultimately be decided in November), but because it should. Right now, Ferndale has a competitive, strong economy – for most people. Right now, homes are not only being built, but are selling in Ferndale for over $400,000 on average, and some new homes are being offered and sold for over $600,000. By these measures, Ferndale is a fairly affluent community.

Yet Ferndale also has a significant number of people living below the poverty line, individuals and families who struggle for food, housing, and other basic necessities. This poverty may not be as obvious as in other cities like Bellingham, Seattle, or Olympia, but it is there, nonetheless. The North Whatcom Poverty Task Force was established in order to understand what poverty in Ferndale and other communities outside of Bellingham looks like, and to develop recommendations for action that are Ferndale specific.

One of the great tragedies of the poverty struggle is that communities and community members often equate poverty with “the other,” or “those people:” both broadly stereotyping those people who are struggling, while also separating them from the rest of the community, mentally or physically. The Task Force’s work is intended to not only put forward recommendations to help address poverty in Ferndale (in general and on an individual basis), but to better understand who these people are and how they have found themselves in this situation. Without spoiling the conclusion: for the most part, these are our friends and neighbors – people already living in our community. And in many cases, they have found themselves in this situation as a result of one missed payment, a large doctor’s bill or significant illness, or a one-time decision, long regretted.

Thank you to all of those who contributed to the Task Force’s work over the last year. Their work has certainly opened my eyes on this subject.

See you Monday – Jori

The public is encouraged to attend City Council meetings. They are held on the 1st and 3rd Mondays of each month (or on the following Tuesday in event of a national holiday) at 6pm in Council Chambers at the City Hall Annex at 5694 2nd Avenue. Council packets with supporting material can be viewed by clicking here.

If you were a city council member, how would you vote on the following item(s) coming up for a decision the meeting agenda?

Item E, Resolution Supporting Renewable Energy Projects

  • Yea (59%, 68 Votes)
  • Nay (23%, 26 Votes)
  • Undecided or it needs to be changed before it can be approved (18%, 21 Votes)

Total Voters: 115

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