ELECTION 2013: Doug Dahl wants Blaine City Council to capitalize on inevitable growth

COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJuly 6, 2013 

Doug Dahl withdrew from the election July 11, 2013.

Until now, my political experience included a role as a campaign manager for a fictional presidential candidate and a failed run for a position with Blaine High School's Associated Student Body. But you don't need a career in politics to recognize that when candidates talk about change they are talking about the inevitable. I am running for Blaine City Council, Ward 2 against three worthy candidates. Regardless of which of us receives the honor of representing the community, the one thing we all know is that things change. We can be proactive and work to make the best of our constantly changing environment, or we can be passive and wait for change to happen and hope we like the outcome. I believe we need to be proactive.

Some of Blaine's changes have been intentional. Salishan neighborhood used to be mostly gravel roads. Now it has paved streets and a park. Where a run-down adult bookstore stood we now have a waterfront boardwalk that has become home for many community events. We've adopted building guidelines to create a more beautiful downtown. People have invested in businesses that create jobs and stability for Blaine's residents. Our Fourth of July celebration has grown from a small parade and fireworks display to an all-day event bringing spectators from all over the county that temporarily doubles or triples our normal population.

Some of Blaine's changes have not been intentional. Who could have predicted the impact that an increasingly mobile society would have on small towns? I recall when I was a kid we went to Bellingham once a month to shop for the things we couldn't buy locally. My friends and I played on Little League teams that competed against other nearby teams. Our recreational activities usually were contained to places we could reach on our bikes; fishing off the dock, exploring Peace Arch Park, video games at the local arcade. By the time I reached high school, leaving Blaine for activities, events, shopping and other needs became more regular. Now we, as parents, might drive our kids to Bellingham or Vancouver, B.C., several times a week just for sports practice, dance lessons or drama classes. Mobility has become part of our culture. That presents a challenge for Blaine and other small cities. Do we try to grow enough to offer the same amenities that a bigger city has or do we hold on to our small town character? Can we do both?

Maybe the most promising change outside of local control has been technology-driven. With the ability to make global connections from a laptop, a start-up business owner can chose a location based on quality of life instead of needing to be in an urban center. Small towns can offer lower operating costs and a great place to live, and Blaine's proximity to Canada offers even more potential. Already Blaine has many companies doing business globally, that are tucked away in offices and warehouses.

Some things in our community need to change. I've had friends move away because the family-wage jobs they were offered were located outside of Blaine, and even Whatcom County. I know several skilled Blaine residents who are unemployed or under-employed. We can't magically make jobs for everyone, but we can create a business-friendly environment that encourages the kinds of investment that make our city better for more of the people that live here. I think we're on the verge of seeing this happen. I've met people with a lot of ideas and excitement who are exploring possibilities for new small businesses in Blaine.

I've had plenty of conversations with visitors to Blaine; all who are amazed by the beauty of the area and surprised that more people haven't discovered it. But that discovery happens, and it continues to happen. Our population has doubled since I was a kid and I expect that it will keep growing. We can't prevent change from happening, but we can capitalize on opportunities that bring the right changes to best serve our community. For years people in our town have talked about how much potential Blaine has. I believe that now is the time to live up to our potential.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Doug Dahl is one of four candidates running for the four-year term for the Blaine City Council Ward 2, Position 4 seat. The top two candidates in the Aug. 6 primary advance to the Nov. 4 general election.

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