Bravo to the Bellingham City Council for standing up to the faction of Whatcom County officials attempting to railroad this community into what I believe is a new mega-jail!
There are many reasons to look skeptically at the current proposal for a new jail. First, I believe the price tag of $135 million dollars places an unfair burden on the county’s taxpayers. Second, funding the jail through sales tax exacerbates Washington’s already regressive tax system, making the people who can afford a tax increase the least pay the most. Third, the failure to meet environmentally-friendly building standards and major increases in transportation expenses and risk through relocation to Labounty Road I believe violates county policy and local sensibilities. Finally, there is no evidence that the county will commit to vigorous diversion initiatives that, if pursued, could head off any need to expand the number of beds the county currently manages.
The faction is favor of the jail made their case clear at the County Council open session in April in which the council solicited ideas for new diversion programs. Several people spoke at length about their perceived need for a new jail instead of the diversion programs so many citizens believe we need. This faction may have the community’s best interests at heart, but their solutions are not tenable and not what Whatcom County needs for a sustainable future.