April Barker’s email response addressing the Whatcom County Affordable Housing Council’s 2019 contribution to her mayoral campaign / Noisy Waters Northwest

September 24, 2019 Dena Jensen

In a September 22, 2019 blog post, I had published the text of a September 18, 2019 email that I had sent to 2019 Bellingham mayoral candidate April Barker regarding a campaign contribution that had been made to her campaign by the Whatcom County Affordable Housing Council (WCAHC). The Whatcom County Affordable Housing Council is a 2019 continuing political action committee.

Yesterday I received an email response from Ms. Barker to that September 18 email I had sent her. I will publish that email response of hers below. But first I will offer a quick summary in this post regarding the issue that the email exchange was addressing.

My email had been prompted by the fact that my partner, Sandy Robson, who is an investigative writer, had been able to uncover evidence regarding an affiliation of the WCAHC with the Building Industry Association of Whatcom County (BIAWC). She had posted on Facebook about this on September 17, 2019 and I shared her Facebook post here on my Noisy Waters Northwest blog site.

Robson had relayed her awareness of this affiliation between the BIAWC and the WCAHC to the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC). After corresponding with the PDC over the course of a number of months, the evidence with which she had provided the PDC resulted in the recording of the affiliation of the Building Industry Association of Whatcom County with the Whatcom County Affordable Housing Council on the updated C1 report for the WCAHC that is filed with the PDC. The BIAWC had originally denied to the Public Disclosure Commission that they were affiliated with the WCAHC .

Here is a link to the blog post that contains my September 18, 2019 email to April Barker: https://noisywatersnw.com/2019/09/22/email-to-bellingham-mayoral-candidate-april-barker-about-the-whatcom-county-affordable-housing-council/

Below is the text of April Barker’s September 23, 2019 email response to the September 18 email I had sent her, which is then followed by the email I wrote back to her:

From: April Barker <april@aprilbarker.com>

Sent: Monday, September 23, 2019, 7:22:51 PM PDT

Subject: Re: Regarding an expenditure to your campaign by the Whatcom County Affordable Housing Council

Hello Dena, 

Thank you for reaching out and being engaged. 

The Mayor’s position is non partisan. I have worked for the last decade in our community on issues of fairness and how that relates to community, housing, and environment. The issues that face our city are complex–we need folks across jurisdictions and across sectors to find the solutions we can agree on, and then we must work together to bring those solutions to fruition. I helped develop the Whatcom Housing Alliance with this in mind and to ensure our social service, development, government, and nonprofit communities are collaboratively developing solutions to solve our housing crisis.

I worked with the environmental community and City Council to bring forward the new ambitions and form the Climate Action Task Force (CATF) to ensure Bellingham is doing everything we can to combat climate change at the local level. To succeed in combating climate change, we will again need partnerships across jurisdictions and sectors.

I am running a professional, coordinated, organized and positive campaign. To do this, it takes employees, resources and money. I do not do transactional politics. Endorsements and contributions to our campaign are endorsements of our values and plans, not the other way around. I have lost organizational endorsements because I’m not willing to make promises I can’t keep.

My top contributors are the Lummi Indian Business Council, James Roe (a partner in the Caregiver Justice Project), and several other local champions. I’m proud to be the only candidate for Mayor endorsed by Washington Conservation Voters, NARAL, Alliance for Gun Responsibility, Riveters Collective, Washington State Progressive Caucus, and recommended by FUSE Progressive Voters Guide. The support of those organizations reflects my values.

I respectfully disagree with the authors of the Noisy Water and Northwest Citizen articles asserting that accepting $500 from the Whatcom County Affordable Housing Council in some way reflects negatively on me and my campaign. One of my goals is to provide more housing that our current residents’ wages and fixed incomes can afford. To do this, we need the development community at the table. They know my commitment to combating climate change, and this is one of the areas where we have not agreed. The BIAWC has written a letter in opposition to the CATF’s process and internal recommendations.

The fact that we can disagree without being disagreeable and that we can continue to move forward on the things we do agree on is a testimony to how I will represent the city of Bellingham as the next mayor if elected. We must stop demonizing whole groups and start working together to solve these challenging issues. I will be a Mayor who represents the entire city and works collaboratively with others to move us forward. 

Sincerely, 

April

Thank you,
April Barker
April Barker for Bellingham Mayor
Email: april@aprilbarker.com
Website: https://www.aprilbarker.com/
Phone: (360) 739-1598
Mail: PO Box 504 Bellingham, WA 98227
Facebook: April Barker for Bellingham

Here is the text of my September 24, 2019 email response to April Barker’s September 23 email to me:

To: April Barker <april@aprilbarker.com>

Sent: Tuesday, September 24, 2019, 12:16:36 AM PDT

Subject: Re: Regarding an expenditure to your campaign by the Whatcom County Affordable Housing Council

Dear Ms. Barker:

Thank you for your response. In my response to you, I am writing only regarding my blog post on Noisy Waters Northwest, that was written by me, Dena Jensen, the major portion of which was an email I had sent to you. I have not read anything yet that is posted on Northwest Citizen about the contribution to your campaign by the Whatcom County Affordable Housing Council and, that being so, I did not rely on any information from Northwest Citizen for anything I included in my email to you or in my comment here. 

In my email to you I said, in part: “Considering the unethical actions of the WCAHC regarding their PDC filings, and their history for opposing important progressive goals in Whatcom County, I believe that should you choose to return the contribution that you received from this organization, it would be an action that shows a commitment to good ethics, honesty and transparency with your constituents, and the upholding of critical progressive goals in our community. “

In your comment here, I feel you are conflating the idea of your accepting the Whatcom County Affordable Housing Council’s contribution to your campaign this year, with the idea of your ability to interact with the members of the Building Industry Association of Whatcom County (there actually is no organization to relate to in your work as either a City Council Member, or potentially as a Mayor, by the name of the Whatcom County Affordable Housing Council, because they are a PAC who was created by the Building Industry Association of Whatcom County.) 

Returning the contribution made to your campaign by the WCAHC would not – and certainly should not – in any way impede your ability to interact with the members of the BIAWC. That contribution should not have been made to gain access to you or a seat at any table, and  I would not assume that you would allow their contribution to influence you in this way.  While the unsavory political activities the BIAWC has engaged in may serve to erode trust in their organization, I understand that members of organizations who have done unsavory things can improve their actions, and certain members can be ones that take palatable actions. Based on actions that officials see as beneficial, and in witnessing acceptable behavior, they may want to work with those particular members in attempting to reach solutions for their community.

Related to the contribution to your campaign, by far, transcending the numerous unsavory actions of the Building Industry Association of Whatcom County that have threatened to derail progressive environmental goals, is the fact that in this very election year of 2019, the Whatcom County Affordable Housing Council had misrepresented information on their Public Disclosure Commission registration, failing to record any affiliation with the Building Industry Association of Whatcom County. Without the efforts of citizens to investigate this misrepresentation on their PDC filings, people casually looking at their information presented in this year’s PDC records would not have known that the WCAHC is affiliated with the BIAWC. After four months and a good deal of research and perseverance by a community member, it is finally noted on the WCAHC registration form with the PDC that they are affiliated with the BIAWC. But, if someone had not investigated, it would be extremely hard for people to know that your campaign was actually given money by a PAC affiliated with the BIAWC.

On top of that (because people have investigated and have compared a list of BIAWC members listed on the BIAWC directory on their website) currently over 80% of the contributions to the WCAHC have been made by companies who are members of the BIAWC. This likely means that the WCAHC PAC should, by law, be displaying the name of the BIAWC in the title of their PAC on Public Disclosure Commission records. 

Even if it proves there is some technicality that allows the WCAHC to not include the BIAWC in their title, or if this is not remedied until after the election, all through this campaign, other than my and Sandy Robson’s writing about it this year or times that people have written about it in years past, people will have to look hard to discover the information that links the Whatcom County Affordable Housing Council to the Building Industry Association of Whatcom County. 

Therefore, voters contmplating [sic] supporting you are impaired in being able to make an informed decision about whether they want to vote for a candidate that is taking money from a PAC that is significantly affiliated with a particular organization.  What’s more, and most importantly, currently voters thinking of choosing you are going to be largely unaware that the Building Industry Association of Whatcom County has tried to conceal their their affiliation and financial domination of the Whatcom County Affordable Housing Council PAC.

I stand, now that I have heard your response, even stronger with my assertion that I believe that should you choose to return the contribution that you received from this organization, it would be an action that shows the upholding of critical progressive goals in our community, but most importantly, a commitment to good ethics and honesty and transparency with your constituents.

Sincerely, 

Dena Jensen

Birch Bay, WA

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