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VOTE411 Voter Guide

Whatcom City Of Bellingham Council Ward 4

The City Council is the legislative body for the City. The Council adopts local laws (ordinances) to secure the safety and assist the well-being of the city residents, the city's physical environment and amenities, and the city economy. The Council is responsible for approving financial expenditures and adopting the city budget as well as establishing policies and regulations in order to guide the city's future. The elected mayor serves as chief administrative officer for the city.
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    Pinky Vargas (NP) Bellingham City Council Ward Four

Change Candidates

Biographical Information

What are the issues surrounding your city/town's infrastucture?

How do you think your city/town could best respond to homelessness?

What is your commitment to senior citizens?

How do you think your city/town should approach legal and illegal immigration issues?

What are other major issues facing your city or town?

Of those listed above, which one is the most urgent?

What methods will you use to work with the mayor (if you have an elected mayor) or the city manager or administrator(if you have an chief administrator hired by the council)?

Phone (360) 510-1388
Email pinky@votepinkyvargas.com
YouTube Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qi9ZcTfY64
Town where you live Bellingham
Experience (300 characters max) It’s been a privilege to serve the last four years on Council. I’ve served as President of Council and was able to author a resolution of support for PP, lead the Bellingham Energy Prize, approved funding for tourism and outdoor recreation, supported EMS and officially adopt the Bellingham Flag.
Our biggest Challenge is lack of housing; we have a housing crisis. Housing is scarce and unaffordable. We don’t have enough housing for people now, nevermind how we will meet the increase of an additional 36,000 people projected in our 20 year comprehensive plan. It’s a multifaceted puzzle and we are exploring all kinds of solutions. We are reviewing all our zoning and housing regulations to create more opportunity for infill where appropriate and creating more affordable housing. We need to create a variety of housing by looking at all kind of housing types: ADU’s/DADU’s, cottage houses, tiny houses, duplexes, etc. We are also in the process of reviewing our UGA’s and seeing what is appropriate for annexations. We have some areas that have been in the UGA for many years but never became part of the city. It’s time to move forward to figure out what our land access really is to meet our requirement by the GMA in increasing our population by a third.
We are responding on so many levels but it feels like the tip of the iceberg. We have a Homeless Outreach Team, multiple programs: medical, financial, housing, occupational, and a 24 hours drop in center. Adding to the challenge, we have a big shortage of affordable housing to place people. Bellingham has spent the last 20 months trying to acquire land to purchase or lease land to build a 200 bed low barrier shelter. It’s been very challenging and frustrating as we know how urgent the situation is.
At the city level I’m a big supporter of Meals on Wheels, supporting more affordable housing for seniors, ensuring our parks have activities for seniors, and adequate access to public transportation.
Our City Council and Mayor feel Immigrants deserve dignity and opportunity. We support all the guidelines of a Sanctuary City as outlined in our Ordinance.
Housing, Homeless, and Economic Development are our three biggest challenges and they are intricately interwoven. We need to help support our existing business for growth and create opportunities for new industry and tourism. Our salaries are way below what they should be for a city this size and there are very little opportunities. We are a college town, we have great young minds who graduate and have to leave to find work. It can take a really long time to find a good paying job in Bellingham. We have a beautiful city and we should be thriving. I’m working together with the Port, County, and Tribes on a Regional Economic Strategy. Personally this has been a big focus for me in 2017. I’m serving as Chair of the Community and Economic Development committee, on the board for the Bellingham Chamber and Downtown Bellingham Partnership for the sole purpose of working across channels. I think if we compile our resources and collaborate on solutions we can create jobs and opportunities.
Housing availability and affordability. Everyone deserves a home and everyone here is affected. We don’t have ways to house people at nearly any income level right now. For those on a limited income it has led to a large population of homelessness in our downtown, parks, and on our waterways. We hear many people expressing safety concerns in our downtown but we cannot move encampments because they have nowhere to go. For those starting a family they cannot afford a home in the city; they are being priced out due to availability. And on the other side of the coin is how the lack of availability also affects our economic development because a new business won’t move here if there is nowhere to house people. We have a housing crisis to solve, and my thoughts on the housing fix is expressed above.
I believe in civil discourse and feel communication, respect, and collaboration are the best way to move things forward to improve people’s lives. In my last four years on council I have collaborated with our Mayor on many initiatives like: Emergency Medical Services, MTCA, and seeking solutions to Homelessness. While President of City Council, I worked with the Mayor weekly on issues like planning for smart growth, equitability, and options for housing and affordability. Our co-leadership on the Jail Task Force Committee ensured a focus on reducing incarceration, a right-size jail, equitable conditions, funding for mental health, alternatives and diversion programs. We don’t always agree but we respectfully hear each other out and work together on many great initiatives that will help our residents.

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