History behind Whatcom County’s new Business and Commerce Advisory Committee / Noisy Waters Northwest

 

letter to council bcac minutes

December 7, 2018  Dena Jensen

This is for folks who have a continuing interest in the evolution of the Business and Commerce Advisory Committee that was recently formed and appointed by the Whatcom County Council:

1. I sent the letter above to all of the Whatcom County Council Members on Tuesday morning and have not received an answer back yet. It’s good for people to offer their input and express their interest also for being able to view minutes and agendas of this new committee. council@co.whatcom.wa.us

2. During the December 4, 2018 evening County Council Meeting, I believe I found an explanation as to why Council Members Browne and Sidhu were so invested in having the Port of Bellingham involved in proposing members for the committee and urging the Council to approve those members.

If you listen to the video of the December 4 meeting, at about 1:13:30 Council Member Sidhu traces the history that led to the forming and funding of the Business and Commerce Advisory Committee. If you listen till about 1:15:30 or so you will get the main gist. The conversation between Council Members regarding related issues continues for a while after that.

It turns out that the history of the Business and Commerce Advisory Committee seems to all be related to this contract amendment that was included in the Council agenda this week, which was asking for increased funding from the County Council to pay for 4 Full-Time employees who will be involved with, “special projects identified by the Port of Bellingham for Countywide infrastructure study’s [sic] that include;

o Facilitate County wide rural broadband study

o Facilitate master plan of Cherry Point District

o Facilitate master plan of residential and industrial infrastructure adjacent to the Interstate 5 corridor.”

Infrastructure sounds good and planning is good, but this committee that has been put together is made up of a lot of old-school business players some of whom have not been the most supportive of thorough environmental review and regulations and that is scary when this “master plan of Cherry Point District” comes into play.  According to Council Member Sidhu the Port seems to have taken the lead on doing this line of planning for a while.

Meanwhile, so far there have been incidents that have demonstrated that our current Port Commissioners do not sometimes look hard enough into the materials and proposals put before them by Port staff and Port Executive Director Rob Fix in order to make fully informed decisions. To be fair, the same can be said about County Council Members and the proposals and materials that are run by them too. It’s on all of us to keep paying attention, so we can help these leaders stay informed, and hold them accountable.

On November 21, 2018 Port Commissioner Michael Shepard made a Facebook post mentioning the infrastructure planning at Cherry Point, saying in part:

“We have entered into a Interlocal with the PUD for co funding infrastructure planning at Cherry Point and planning for rural broadband coverage. The planning work for Cherry Point seeks to develop significant employment opportunities in areas like manufacturing, alternative energy production and data storage.”

So, it will be good to keep an eye on all of this, and keep pushing for transparency and public engagement regarding the Business and Commerce Advisory Committee and the joint planning for economic development by Whatcom County, the Port of Bellingham and the City of Bellingham.

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