Two years in Bellingham – community policing, Bay to Baker Trail, rental inspections

This time of year, I often think of all the things we have to be grateful for in Bellingham – and the list is long. As the mayor, I have the privilege of working with a wonderful group of people on a wide range of projects that help make our community better, from environmental protections to new parks and trails, to investments in social services and economic development.

I want to highlight a few things that the city of Bellingham has been working on in the past two years.

Community policing: We have a lot to be proud of with our police department. Our uniformed employees continue to show professionalism in their commitment to our community. Throughout 2016, the Bellingham Police Department has conducted a series of trainings on fair and impartial policing, and I had the honor of participating in one of those trainings. The goal was to help understand and identify “implicit bias” and discuss ways to override such bias in an effort to promote police legitimacy and provide procedural justice. With these efforts, along with crisis intervention and our neighborhood police officer program, the police department continues to enhance the organization’s overall mission of “committed to community.”

Protecting Lake Whatcom: Our work on Lake Whatcom is a testament to how we can work together as a community to support our shared values. In 2015, the city of Bellingham, Whatcom County and the Lake Whatcom Water and Sewer District approved the Lake Whatcom Management Program 2015-2019 Work Plan, and we continue to jointly implement programs and activities with the goal of improving Lake Whatcom water quality and protecting the Lake Whatcom ecosystem. The city’s drinking water isn’t just clean and safe, it tastes great too. We won the American Water Works Association “best taste” contest in February.

Squalicum Creek Reroute and Bay to Baker Trail: Rerouting Squalicum Creek and developing the Bay to Baker Trail is a good example of how multiple departments work together to bring great services to our community. The reroute of Squalicum Creek away from Sunset Pond is improving water quality and habitat and has earned the city of Bellingham the American Public Works Association’s Public Works Project of the Year Award. The 1.5-mile-long Squalicum Creek segment of the Bay to Baker Trail, which connects Cornwall Park with Irongate Road and follows along the creek under I-5, opened in October as well. With the passage of Greenways IV in November, we will continue to expand our trail system and make investments like these in our great parks and trail connections for years to come.

Coordinated fire services: This summer, Bellingham Fire Department welcomed District 8 as we began providing fire protection services and emergency medical services to Marietta and Gooseberry Point. This agreement allows for the sharing of resources and administrative personnel and provides a greater depth of resources to both the city and District 8 during emergencies. Now, with the passage of the EMS Levy in November, I look forward to an even more robust unified EMS system throughout Whatcom County.

Rental registration: The city’s Rental Registration and Inspection Program, which was enacted by City Council in 2015, was up and running this summer, helping to ensure fire and life safety standards in apartments, duplexes and rental homes throughout the city. We have registered more than 18,800 units on almost 6,000 different rental properties, and our Planning and Community Development Department has done a great job in developing and implementing this program.

City facilities: One of my priorities has been to make the best use of our city facilities, for now and into the future. In the past year, we have made some great strides. Public Works engineering and administrative divisions moved to the Federal Building downtown, activating a beautiful historic building that has been largely vacant for many years. The next step is to have our human resources department move to the Federal Building in the next several months. Our Parks and Recreation Department has now successfully relocated to City Hall on Lottie Street, allowing the previous facility to be demolished to make way for a connection for the Bay to Baker Trail.

Alabama Street project: The Alabama Street multimodal safety improvements project was completed in 2015 after a three-year transportation planning process and won several awards in the past year. It earned the 2016 Best Complete Streets Project Award from the Institute of Transportation Engineers and the Governor’s “Smart” Award as being an innovative project that can be a model for other communities.

Comprehensive plan: Every eight years, the city is required to update our 20-year vision and roadmap for Bellingham’s future. This guide for Bellingham’s growth and development, the city’s Comprehensive Plan, is a broad statement that includes goals and policies that help to guide decision making and direct implementation actions that support the vision. This effort has involved a huge effort from individuals, neighborhoods, civic groups and local government, and after a robust public process, City Council adopted the plan in November.

These are just a few examples of all of the work that the city of Bellingham has done in the 2015-2016 biennium, and many of these projects and workplans continue into the next two year work plan. I am so appreciative of all the effort our community and staff has put into all of these projects, and I look forward to continuing this work in the years to come.

This is one of a series of monthly Civic Agenda reports The Bellingham Herald invited Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville to provide to share updates about City of Bellingham issues and projects. She invites citizens to contact her at 360-778-8100 or mayorsoffice@cob.org.