Bellingham has many blessings that are worth counting this holiday season. This month’s Civic Agenda is dedicated to highlighting many of the people who make our city great. The City’s mission is to support safe, satisfying and prosperous community life, which requires strong partnerships between residents, community leaders and organizations.
So in the spirit of the holidays, here are a few of my favorite things:
I would like to thank all the volunteer community members who make Bellingham such a great place. We have amazing boards and commissions that do incredible work, and without these groups of involved citizens, our community would not be as vibrant a place. The City has more than 20 boards and commissions with more than 250 volunteers who spend countless hours reviewing proposals, organizing events, and providing guidance for the City Council and myself. Here’s a sampling of some of their great work:
Bellingham Sister Cities board joined with the Bellingham Yacht Club to host the PacRim Regatta in Bellingham this September, bringing in more than 100 international visitors to our city for a week of sailboat racing. This international event comes to Bellingham once every 12 years, and it is only one of several events the City’s Sister Cities board organizes.
Tourism Commission came together quickly in the past month to help in an effort to bring the Revitalize Washington annual conference here to Bellingham. I’m excited about bringing 200 professionals to our community for three days, and we feel we have a strong application to bring this annual conference here in 2015. Our Tourism Commission board members offered donations , reduced hotel rates, tours and expertise required to host the conference.
Community Development Advisory Board took on additional work several years ago when they began advising the Mayor on funding programs for the Bellingham Housing Levy, and that added to their workload countless hours of additional reading of applications for human services and housing funding.
Parks and Recreation Advisory Board worked for several months this year to advise staff on the Cornwall Beach Park master plan. This beautiful plan fulfills the community’s stated goals and optimizes the natural resources of this waterfront site that will be enjoyed for generations to come.
Community Solutions Workgroups recommended City funding priorities on affordable housing, health and safety, and economic development needs. The work of the community members and organizations who participated in those workgroups provided guidance to focus City spending to meet community priorities.
The City could not do all the work it does without the dedication of our talented and hard-working employees. We have 850 people working for the city — cleaning our water, keeping our streets safe, caring for our parks, and planning for our future — and without their dedication to the City’s mission, we would not have the services we have today.
Each quarter I give out a Leadership Award to employees who do great work for our community. In the past year, I have given the award to a public works employee who agreed to work nights for an entire summer to ensure that a major traffic project was finished on time. Another award went to two employees in the City’s finance department who worked in cooperation with the State for more than a year to secure a sizeable tax refund for the City. I also recognized a staff member who worked cross-departmentally to implement a complicated new software system that streamlined our Council Agenda Bill process and made information more easily accessible to the public. These are just a few examples of the leadership our City employees take on in their daily work, and I am grateful for these, and all, City employees and glad that I have the opportunity to recognize them.
Partnerships with elected officials
Over the past three years I have developed great partnerships with local elected officials and leaders in organizations throughout the region. Whatcom County Executive Jack Louws and I were presented in November with the Public Service Award at the Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center’s Peace Builder Awards for our “willingness and commitment to model collaborative leadership and proactively work together for the betterment of Bellingham and Whatcom County.” I’m so honored by this award. Jack and I have worked hard to get things done for the residents of Bellingham and Whatcom County.
It took similar partnership with the Port of Bellingham to create our waterfront plan, and I look forward to continuing our efforts on clean-ups and development of the property. It took great courage and commitment from the Bellingham City Council to move these and other initiatives forward, as well, and I have enjoyed the dedication and seriousness with which the councilmembers take their duties to guide the City’s policy decisions.
These are just a few things that I am grateful for this holiday season, and I hope you will join me in thanking our City’s great community partners for helping to make Bellingham such a great place to live, work and play.