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VOTE411 Voter Guide

Whatcom County Council District 4

The County Council exercises its legislative power by adoption and enactment of ordinances and resolutions. The Council is elected to adopt plans for the present and future development of the county; conduct public hearings on matters of public concern; create county government policy; create land use rules; enact public safety laws; establish the compensation for all county officers and employees and provide for the reimbursement of expenses; establish, combine, and abolish non-elective administrative offices and executive departments and establish their powers and responsibilities, except as otherwise provided for in the Whatcom County Home Rule Charter; levy taxes, appropriate revenue, and adopt the county budget; set speed limits no-shooting zones, and animal control regulations.

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  • Candidate picture

    Brian A. Estes
    (NP)

  • Kathy Kershner
    (NP)

Biographical Information

How has your experience prepared you for this position?

What will be your top three priorities, if elected?

What measures do you favor to keep your county economically viable?

How do you view balancing development with protecting our natural resources?

What do you think are the most important environmental issues your county will face due to changing climate?

What are the issues surrounding your county's infrastructure?

How do you think your county should approach legal and illegal immigration issues?

How do you think your county could best respond to homelessness and the economically disadvantaged?

Address same
Phone (360) 526-1098
Email brian@votebrianestes.com
Town where you live Bellingham
Experience (300 characters max) see first question below
My 30+ year career as a performance auditor focused on evaluating government programs for efficiency, effectiveness, and performance. Both performance and financial accountability is important to me. My career with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) was in the Seattle Field Office. I also worked for 6 years at the King County Auditor’s Office evaluating a variety of county programs. Currently I’m a part-time Real Estate Agent, and formerly was Past President of Evergreen Chapter; American Society for Public Administration, and Chair of the Education Committee of the Association of Local Government Auditors. I have a Master’s in Public Administration from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance, University of Washington, and an undergraduate degree in Political Science from UCLA. I want to bring these career skills evaluating programs to the Whatcom County Council. I will ask the tough questions and ensure we have programs that deliver results.
1) Provide leadership to resolve our dilemma with building a new jail. The recent “framework” proposed by Councilmember Buchanan sounds promising as it links a new, smaller jail facility, to additional funding to critical jail diversion programs such as mental health and drug treatment. I am concerned that the size of both drug and mental health court has not increased significantly and too many of those incarcerated are not getting the treatment they need. 2) Work to resolve water uncertainty for the Nooksack watershed so families, farmers and fish have the water availability they need. Other watersheds in WA state have faced similar issues and have made, or are in the process of making, collaborative progress to resolve watershed issues. 3) Develop strategies to lower housing and childcare costs. Far too many individuals and families struggle financially because of the percentage of their income going to housing and childcare.
We need to bring more of the recent strong job growth across Washington State to Whatcom County. We need stronger and more strategic partnerships between the Port of Bellingham and Whatcom County’s economic development team, and other groups such as regional and local chambers of commerce, businesses from the agricultural, heavy and light industry, manufacturing, technology, and others to focus on creating high wage jobs. In addition, near term, we need significantly more funding for educational and job training programs that emphasize science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) as well as more job training for high wage jobs in fields such as robotics, artificial intelligence, computer technology and software engineering. Also, medium to long term, we must consider adjusting our workforce to adapt to a changing climate. This may mean, for example, producing different or adaptive agricultural products; more reliance on renewable fuel production and more emphasis on higher wage
While many resource protection standards are established federally, state and local government have land use and other regulatory authorities and functions impacting trade-offs between development, industrial production, public health and safety, and resource protection. This varies by industry and by the type of resource. One key issue in Whatcom County is reducing water uncertainty for fish, farming and residential and commercial development. We can find a local solution to this issue. It’s been done in other watersheds in WA State such as Walla Walla and Dungeness, and we can do the same thing for the Nooksack. We need a local collaborative solution--not one imposed by Olympia.
Damage to the climate may impact Whatcom County in several ways. Summer water levels may be lower along the Nooksack; spring or fall runoff could result in more flooding; climate refuges from other parts of the US or from abroad may come here, increasing housing demand and overall population; and native fish, orcas, and other animals and plants, including agriculture and farming, may have difficulty adjusting to a changing climate. Whatcom County can both mitigate and adapt to a changing climate by reviewing energy use in county buildings, facilities and vehicle fleets as well as working with the residential, commercial, industrial, transportation, and waste management sectors to conserve and use energy more efficiently.

Current infrastructure issues in Whatcom County include: rail and oil pipeline safety; adequate funding for road maintenance and repair; designing urban roadways that encourage mobility choice; , expanding internet and cellular service county-wide; earthquake planning and preparedness including seismic retrofit where needed; infrastructure and public/private utility protection from cyber intrusion, stronger linkages between land use and transportation planning to accommodate growth sustainably, among other issues.
Whatcom County law enforcement should not be involved with activities concerning the immigration status of residents of Whatcom County. According to Sheriff Elfo, “Sheriff’s Office policy prohibits deputies from involvement in federal enforcement activities that are based solely for the purpose of determining a person’s immigration status or assisting federal agents in operations whose sole purpose is to determine a person’s immigration status.” If county law enforcement does cooperate with federal authorities involving immigration status issues, this should only occur with a judicial warrant. Also, Whatcom County should advocate for changes to the H2A program to allow foreign workers longer stays for seasonal agriculture work which would require modifications to current federal immigration policies.
I advocate using the housing first model of addressing homelessness. Both the permanent supportive housing or rapid re-housing approaches have proven effective strategies to address short- or longer-term homelessness. Those being served by a Housing First model can access housing faster and are more likely to remain stably housed than other approaches. I support expanding programs like the Bellingham Home fund at the County level which not only provides low income housing but provides short term financial and other support for those who may become homeless due to disability, mental illness, job loss, or other factors. Almost 40% of Whatcom County families live in or near poverty. Lack of family wage jobs is a critical issue throughout the county, and we need better strategies to create higher wage jobs, so housing and childcare is more affordable. We also need to address inequities in pay and level of advancement for women and non-white community members.
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