Q&A with Whatcom County Council candidates

County Council At-Large Position A, 4-Year Term

Barry Buchanan

Q: What inspired you to run?

A: I was inspired to run for county council back in 2013 as part of an environmental slate of candidates that believed that the then proposed Gateway Pacific coal terminal at Cherry Point was a bad idea. Constant coal trains running through our county would cause public health and safety issues as well as transportation impacts. With Congress lifting the ban on the export of crude oil, a new threat looms for turning our refineries into crude oil export terminals. Along with the dangers of increased oil trains and huge risks to our environment, the export of crude oil also puts our family wage jobs risk. Jobs follow the raw materials. Export of unrefined fuels is not good for our public health and safety, the environment and our local job market.

Q: What makes you the right person for the position?

A: I believe I am the best person for the job because of my experience and deep roots in Whatcom County. I have the experience to run our county efficiently – I am the current chair of the county council, a military veteran, and I have worked on big projects like the space shuttle, Hubble Space Telescope, and Trident nuclear submarines. I was president of the Lettered Streets Neighborhood Association for four years and served on the Bellingham City Council before being elected to Whatcom County Council. I also served in the US Navy and was selected Sailor of the Year in 1979 for Attack Squadron VA-122. I believe we need to protect our environment, promote and preserve family wage jobs, and have a focus on public health and safety. I was on the team that crafted the voter approved EMS Levy in 2016.

Q: If elected, what are your priorities for Blaine and Birch Bay?

A: I want to help get an Amtrak station opened in Blaine. I want to work on getting the funding in place for the new park in Birch Bay.

Q: Some people say that we are putting the cart before the horse by asking voters to vote on a jail tax before we know how big the jail should be and what the county’s approach to mental health and drug addiction issues should be. Do you agree or disagree? Tell us why or why not. 

A: I do believe we are in a cart before the horse situation with the new jail tax proposal. We need more time to implement and evaluate programs that will be recommended by the Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Task Force and the Vera Institute. We need to look at the cash bail system and do a better job of reducing the pre-trial inmate population through electronic home monitoring. We also need to triage mentally ill and substance abuse related arrests and provide treatment for those people.

 

Mary Kay Robinson

Q: What inspired you to run? 

A: I have been testifying in front of council for years regarding land use and affordable housing issues. I decided I could have a greater positive impact on the community by being part of the decision making. Decisions today will affect economic development and housing not just for us, but for the generations to come. I am also running as a non-partisan candidate. I believe most of us are tired of all the hyper-partisan politics and want to focus on putting community first – not a political party. That kind of common sense leadership is what I plan to bring to the council.

Q: What makes you the right person for the position? 

A: The bulk of my career I have spent in bank management and real estate. I have championed affordable housing throughout my career and support policies that will increase the supply of housing for all. We are in an affordable housing crisis and it needs to be addressed. We also are in need of family wage jobs. Increasing the housing supply will create those jobs for carpenters, plumbers, electricians etc. I believe it is possible to balance economic development with environmental stewardship. I believe in asking questions about policies and programs to determine effectiveness and measuring progress towards those goals.

Q: If elected, what are your priorities for Blaine and Birch Bay? 

A: I would like to ensure good transportation links to the area which can spur economic development. The recent passage of the Transportation Benefit District in Blaine will improve streets, sidewalls and trails which in turn will attract homebuyers and businesses. Partnering with WWU’s Small Business Development Center for economic development can also increase opportunities for businesses and revitalize the downtown area. Streamlining the county building process for new construction will spur home building; attract families who will shop in the area, support businesses and increase revenue for the municipalities.

Q:  Some people say that we are putting the cart before the horse by asking voters to vote on a jail tax before we know how big the jail should be and what the county’s approach to mental health and drug addiction issues should be. Do you agree or disagree? Tell us why or why not. 

A: The lives of the staff and inmates are at risk in the current facility. The compromise ballot agreement was approved by all seven city councils, seven mayors, and the county council. It funds millions for public safety, mental illness and substance abuse programs and a safe facility. Canadian visitors will help pay the extra sales tax. The community has to decide this issue because we have to live with the consequences. I support putting the measure on the ballot but my opponent voted against that. I strongly disagree in taking away the right to vote on this critical community issue.

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