Five people are facing off in the Aug. 4 primary election to become the next mayor of Ferndale. The top two vote-getters will move on to the Nov. 3 general election.
Ferndale mayor is a nonpartisan office with four-year terms. The mayor makes 90 percent of the average salary for mayors in similarly sized Washington cities, and will earn $1,690 per month in 2016. The position is part time.
The Bellingham Herald asked the candidates a series of questions about their qualifications and key issues in the city. Responses below are verbatim as submitted. Other candidates’ responses are available at bellinghamherald.com/politics-blog.
Candidate: Carol Bersch, 61
Education: Some college
Work Experience: The University of Alabama – Accounting Assistant
Previous Public Offices Held: None
Why are you running for Ferndale mayor?
Ferndale deserves leadership that has the community’s best interests first and foremost. I am an advocate for the sustainability of small business and helping those businesses thrive as they bring revenue and jobs into the community. I believe in the power of the community to come together and have their voices heard. I believe you, your neighbor, friend, relative can make a difference and this all begins in our own neighborhood. I have a strong economic mindset for development while maintaining a gatekeeper’s attitude about taxpayers’ dollars. The issues that the Mayor must address are much larger than the promise to lower your taxes. My vision for Ferndale is broad enough to assure a future we can all depend on and afford yet specific enough to encompass the goal of ensuring that every one of our citizens has a government that is responsive to them. There must be no surprises. There must be no secrets.
Have you attended any Ferndale City Council or other official meetings in the last year? If so, which ones?
I now serve on the Ferndale City Council. I have been attending meetings since January 2014 and have not missed a single meeting so far. I also attend the Committee meetings and serve on the Finance and Administration committee. I am the city liaison for the Heritage Society and the Ferndale Public Market.
What do you think of the plan to ask voters to approve a 50 cents per $1,000 assessed value property tax for a Metropolitan Park District?
When the Metropolitan Parks District was presented to the City Council there were two plans for us to vote on: a.) the city boundary, and b.) the school boundary. I voted for the school boundary and voted ‘no’ for the city boundary. I will be voting ‘no’ in the general election and hopefully bring it back to the voters again next year. I see no reason for the residents within the City of Ferndale to carry the burden of maintaining the parks within the city limits for an additional budget increase of approximately $580,000 when it could earn approximately $4 million and elect a Parks Commission to oversee the dollars for those outside the city limits such as Hovander, Sandy Point, Lummi Nation and Island, Custer, Grandview/Portal Way areas all the way to the Blaine Border. Ferndale is a very active community and we use our parks, trails, bicycle lanes and everything in between. Statistics show that children who grow up with parks and recreation areas to play in end up staying in their hometown as adults. There is nothing in Ferndale to keep our children here after they graduate high school.
What have you accomplished in Ferndale?
I have been a business owner, Carol’s Cake Designs for 4 years. I currently serve as a board member for the Chamber of Commerce. I have been selected as Business of the Year in 2012 and 2014 by my Chamber peers. I have also been the recipient of the Thomas George Woman of the Year Award for 2014. As the city liaison for the Ferndale Public Market, I have revamped the market by changing the day of the week from Saturday’s to Sunday’s. By doing this we no longer compete with any other market in Whatcom County and are able to get vendor’s from the other markets to vend at the Ferndale market. I also moved the market from the Riverwalk to the field between the Boys and Girls Club and the Pioneer Pavilion Community Center. Recently, the Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Center moved from their location on 2nd Avenue to the Pioneer Pavilion Community Center. With the Pioneer Park and the ball fields and the parking, it makes it easy to attend the market on Sunday afternoons.
A plan to levy a penny gas tax in Ferndale to pay for roads and infrastructure failed at the polls last year. How should Ferndale pay for road improvements?
I voted against the penny gas tax last year. I felt it wasn’t fair for our local service stations to carry the burden of the gas tax increase. The City of Ferndale has a transportation plan funded by efficient use of current resources and general fund appropriations. The State of Washington is making less money on the gas tax because of newer hybrid and electric vehicles using less gas. Currently, the Washington State Transportation Commission is expected to approve a pilot project designed to charge drivers for every mile they travel on public roads. Under this proposal, drivers would be able to choose from four options: an “all you can drive” flat fee, report their odometer readings to the state, have a GPS locator installed in the car or they can download a smartphone application. If Washington drivers are charged a “road usage” fee, they would get credited for any gas taxes paid.
What does the city of Ferndale need to tackle in the next four years?
The city of Ferndale really needs to concentrate on alternative routes through Ferndale and not rely on Main Street as the main route. Hopefully in the next four years we can receive funding from the State to make the Thornton overpass become a reality. We are currently on the list from the State for improvements on the I-5 Slator corridor with the installation of five full size roundabouts. Street repairs will never go away. The City of Ferndale is the fastest growing city in Western Washington outside of King County. With this we must consider do we have enough land for housing. Where will people live and how will they live and can they afford housing. We must be sure to be able to provide city services to meet the needs of an increase in population. We need to be able to have the capacity for water, sewer and stormwater.