Facebook comments about a Nov. 2 Civic Agenda column headlined Bellingham forms workgroup to address downtown challenges by Mayor Kelli Linville, which said, in part:
The purpose of the Community Solutions Workgroup is to convene selected community stakeholders and city staff to provide public health and safety solutions for various downtown challenges.
The workgroup members include community stakeholders and city staff who represent social services, the police department, the parks department, the city attorney's office, the Downtown Bellingham Partnership, health-care advocates, property owners, businesses owners, the Liquor Control Board, Western Washington University, and the mayor's office. The task of this group is to identify key issues that should be addressed, identify solutions and produce an action plan by early 2014. Our timeline for this project is swift, and we have scheduled meetings every two weeks through December to accomplish the bulk of our work before the end of the year.
Community reaction included:
"I think this is exactly the right way to begin a long-term, proactive campaign for solidarity in helping the downtown community thrive, without leaving anyone behind, or just sweeping issues under our collective rug. Not only is it a good plan for the success of businesses and the safety of our sidewalks, but maybe we can also provide the means for real change in the lives of people enmeshed in desperate situations on our streets. It is an approach that has the potential of breaking the endless, repetitive cycle that results from relying on law enforcement and our criminal justice system alone to control and fix a complex combination of social issues.
"As a small business owner with limited monetary resources to contribute, I would like to know how I can help with the workgroup's initiatives in my downtown area, as an individual and also my business as a whole. I feel like it would be great to involve all of our local merchants in specific ways, relating to their location downtown. I know I often want to help in situations that affect our neighborhood, but I'm not always sure of the best way for me to do so. I know I'm not the only one who would feel great about having a way to contribute!"
"Convert the top floor of the parkade into a park.
"We also have no Town Square together (Maritme Heritage Park is uncovered, not a wise choice for a Town Square in this climate)."
"Make it so more of us feel safe down there."
John S. Green:
"Use Heritage park for more outdoor concerts, like the Halloween variety show. That was in the dark, but there could be more done during family friendly times."
Jessica J. Jonasson:
"Boot out the homeless and the hooligans, and keep people moving. Too many just stand on Railroad and insult the passersby."
"Get rid of the drug dealers downtown, curfew for teenagers and a place for the homeless to go. And beautify the downtown area."
"Parking is always a problem there so that's why I try to do most of my business in north Bellingham. So more parking and more free parking would make it better for me. So far no one (teens or homeless) has bothered me down there."
"Enforced zero-tolerance policy for aggressive panhandling, loitering, bullying, littering. Incentives created and enacted for patrons to park and shop downtown, such as free parking one or two afternoons a month. Or perhaps The Bellingham Herald could run a spotlight article on a business/restaurant of the month and that business could offer a 'free parking special' on select days for customers with purchase? Overall, just clean up downtown and have it be a place people want to occasionally frequent for more than just shock factor."
"Parking is always an issue when I go downtown."
"I am county and not very city aware. More homeless shelters are always at the top of priority or access to restrooms. I do get it is difficult to keep them safe and clean. Maybe attendants? Anything free fruit tree (harvest) related like Seattle started?"
"Get rid of the bored teens/hooligans who hang on or near the bus terminal. Don't they have homes, or places to go? What happened to the no-loitering laws? I don't see a lot of homeless adults loitering the corners, but when I was staying at the mission, a place to go when you have to leave the mission at 6:30 a.m. every morning and there is no place to go that early, that could be addressed."