I am appalled by the recent actions of the Bellingham City Council and its attempt to expand the pedestrian safety area of downtown Bellingham. The draft makes a statement about wanting the downtown area “safe and accessible for people of all ages, incomes levels, disabilities and cultures.” Whoever wrote this must have forgotten that our residents who are homeless, have a mental illness, who are addicted are part of our culture. Whoever thought that by creating such an “expanded safety zone” we could protect some citizens from other citizens is not thinking for the future. I believe this ordinance will only lead to increased militarization of our police and a “pipeline to the jail” for these people. What our good elected officials might be doing instead would be to find ways to assist and help those who display behaviors that others might see as “unsafe.” Such actions would be to provide places for these folks to rest, to eat, to use a bathroom. Best of all would be to find a way to provide homes for them. Instead, I’ve been told that benches have been removed from the downtown area and places where they could recharge their cell phones have been shut off. Let’s find ways to show compassion towards our residents who may be homeless, mentally ill or addicted, not further oppress them. Let’s spend our taxpayer dollars on creating a city that works for everybody.
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