Ferndale candidates differ on spending, relations with Lummis

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDOctober 25, 2013 

2013 elections

MCT

FERNDALE - Robert Hakim says he would bring diversity to the City Council. He would be a departure from Jon Mutchler, the incumbent he is challenging in the Nov. 5 election.

Yet the two have some similarities. Both are in their 50s and are fathers many times over. (Mutchler has seven children; Hakim has nine.)

And Mutchler, who is seeking a second term on the council, and Hakim both don't want to raise taxes.

Residents can't afford a tax hike in this economy, Hakim said.

"That's one of my principles," he said. "We have to look into the human interest of everything we do."

Hakim opposed a one-cent gas tax the council considered last spring because he didn't want the burden passed on to city residents. Mutchler voted against the tax because he was convinced gas station owners would absorb the extra penny a gallon.

The candidates' differences emerge more on how they would spend city revenue, and how they view negotiations with Lummi Nation over future development on Slater Road.

Mutchler said he isn't inclined to spend city money on outside programs such as the food bank, saying the city has its own costs to bear.

Mutchler often reminds his council colleagues that the city must honor the full-ride medical benefits held by three police retirees. The city likely will spend $60,000 on those three in 2013, and the cost will be much greater in later years.

Hakim sees low-income residents and others who are vulnerable in Ferndale as the city's responsibility.

"I wouldn't vote to make any cuts in the social services we already have in place right now," he said. "That goes back to the human equation. I've been to the food bank myself."

Hakim is a Mexican Indian whose name comes from the Syrian father who adopted him. His mother is Italian. When Hakim refers to diversity, he isn't exactly talking about race. He said he means the knowledge that comes from experiencing many cultures.

"That's what helps me do what I want to do in my life," Hakim said. "I embrace it all."

Not that Mutchler's background is pedestrian. He has performed as a professional musician and has some 20 piano students. He founded and is still the pastor of Ferndale Alliance Church.

"I have a lot invested in this community," Mutchler said.

Mutchler has been skeptical of the city's negotiations with the Lummis over how to share tax revenue from future retail development on Lummi-owned land on Slater Road. He said he would hesitate to share city sales tax receipts, and said there's no pressing need to strike a deal with the Lummis.

"Nothing has happened at Slater yet," Mutchler said at a May council meeting. "I'm fully confident something will happen at Slater sometime."

Hakim was in favor of a Lummi revenue-sharing proposal made public in May and rejected by the council.

"They should go ahead and partner up with the Lummi people because they're neighbors with them," Hakim said.

MORE CANDIDATE INFORMATION

To see responses to various issues from these and other candidates on the Nov. 5 ballot, go to our online voter guide.

This is one in a series of articles on races in the November general election. Other articles are at BellinghamHerald.com/elections.

Reach Ralph Schwartz at 360-715-2289 or ralph.schwartz@bellinghamherald.com. Read his Politics Blog at bellinghamherald.com/politics-blog or follow him on Twitter at @bhamheraldpolitics.

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