Politics Blog

Ferndale City Council Position 3 Q&A

City Council member Keith Olson will face two challengers for his position 3 seat in this August’s primary election.

The top two vote-getters in the Aug. 4 primary will move on to the Nov. 3 general election.

Olson, 59, served on city council for one term beginning in 2006, then lost re-election before taking the position 3 seat in 2012. Christopher Lee and Glenn Stewart are now vying for his seat.

Ferndale City Council is a nonpartisan office with four-year terms. 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. Stewart did not respond to the questionnaire.

Why are you running for Ferndale City Council?

Olson: I want to continue moving Ferndale forward as we have progressed to the fastest growing city in Western Washington. The policies enacted by city administration and council have been very successful in bringing new business and residents to Ferndale. This directly results in keeping taxes low and spread out among more taxpayers and brings in more sales tax revenue. Sales tax revenue is about the only way to finance city operations and needs, so it is important to be able to have a stable revenue source so homeowners are not over taxed.

Lee: We live in a growing city comprised of people from many backgrounds and age groups. The city council represents our community and should be as diverse.

What have you accomplished in Ferndale?

Olson: We will soon be announcing a major retailer moving to Ferndale which will be a huge boost to our sales tax revenue stream. I have also done my best to make sure developers pay their fair share of development costs and not take from the city coffers so developers can pocket more profit. I have also done my very best to keep taxes low so that our elderly and less fortunate are not taxed out of their homes. As a recent retiree, I can see how important this is for our elderly and working families.

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?

Olson: I have no opinion on this matter. Whenever legal, I vote to send tax increases to the citizens of Ferndale so they can decide what is important to them and not city government.

Lee: Many of the projects proposed would be great additions to our community. They would also bring in visitors from surrounding areas to increase revenue for local business.

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?

Olson: Again, the citizens decided road improvements were not a priority for them so they voted not to increase their taxes. I respect their wishes and their decision. Currently there is no funding for road improvements which could change with the opening of the large retailer I previously mentioned or if the citizens decide their priorities change.

Lee: The levy was a creative idea but submitted at a time when other projects were being highlighted.

What does the city of Ferndale need to tackle in the next four years?

Olson: Citizens want services from their government and the only way to pay for those services are mostly through sales tax revenue which the state takes most of, followed by the county and then lastly the city portion. The majority of taxes paid by citizens go to the state. The city must continue it's excellent record for bringing new business to Ferndale so we can increase of sales tax revenue stream and solve our lack of funds for services. Slowly we are getting there and we need to continue to court business to move here and prosper which in turn will make this beautiful city better!

Lee: Growth and infrastructure. Extensive planning and solutions need to be created in order for our town center to change and succeed.