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Letters to the Editor, Week of June 29, 2022

Advocacy, residents, and data errors


Is there a behavioral health crisis in Whatcom County, or is it a data crisis?

Screaming fills my office air space almost daily, from passersby speaking loudly to no one, sometimes angrily. I don’t work in a place where you’d typically find screaming. To walk the streets of Bellingham is to see community members visibly struggling. Mental health issues? Lack of home? Our community is crying out for help, literally and figuratively. 

The City of Bellingham says 4% of 911 calls are behavioral health-related, but Whatcom County Health Department estimates 70%. This data gap is absurd. 

Our interview with the Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office found they are using a client management system from 1984. 1984!

We may, in fact, be having a behavioral health crisis in Whatcom County, but we are also having a data crisis. Or more apt: a lack-of-data crisis.

A comprehensive data system to understand trends is vital to making decisions. Data collected by agencies are individual silos, not specific nor sharable enough to provide a comprehensive picture of the needs. A new jail to replace the aged, inefficient and unsafe jail occupying downtown Bellingham is being studied. A new jail will provide better conditions for the incarcerated, but jail is not enough. We cannot perpetuate the same broken model of incarceration, where mental health disorders are treated as a criminal act. Data is needed.

Our community wants a justice system that helps rehabilitate and divert addicted or mentally ill folks to service programs, funds programs to decrease recidivism, decreases inequities and provides paths for rebuilding lives. 

Whatcom County needs to be a champion of data. We cannot make decisions on anecdotal evidence. We need to fund data systems, full-time personnel and a public-facing data dashboard. 

Good data = good decisions = informed citizens.

Kim Ninnemann, Riveters Collective Justice System Committee



With the major expansion of the Lighthouse Mission (CDN, June 1, 2022) in Old Town and increased loitering and public hard drug use that is sure to happen, will nearby property owners be compensated by the city for declining property values?

If the mayor, council and citizens want a vibrant and inviting downtown, the homeless and their services should be moved away from downtown and the Lettered Streets neighborhood, which has been having a renaissance as a safe, desirable place to live and own property. 

Put homeless housing and their services away from downtown. The mayor and council cannot have it both ways by making downtown a homeless center for housing and services and expecting downtown to prosper. Move the shelter and services to Irongate or a similar location. Such a location could also be a landing space for homeless vehicles and RVs.

R. Worley



I recently read about Rep. Sharon Shewmake telling the four Democrats (CDN, May 25, 2022) on the County Council who they should appoint to the vacant 42nd District Senate position after Sen. Doug Ericksen passed away. It was particularly interesting to see her involvement because Shewmake already had announced she would run for election to that position this year.

Republicans could nominate three people for the interim position but the County Council, with a majority of Democrats, would pick one of those three. Most people assumed the Democrats would choose the candidate least likely to defeat Shewmake in this year’s general election.

It was no surprise that Shewmake wanted to run against 22-year-old Simon Sefzik and the Democrats on the County Council appointed him. He’s an intelligent, well-spoken young man but was the least known of the three nominees and had worked for only a year after graduating from college.

I’m supporting the candidate who Shewmake doesn’t want to face — Ben Elenbaas. Elenbaas was elected to the Whatcom County Council in 2019 with 59% of the vote. He received more votes for the Charter Review Commission than any other candidate in 2015 and also has served on the county Planning Commission.

Elenbaas has worked in the Cherry Point industrial area for 20 years. He’s also been a farmer during that time, the fourth generation of his family to farm in the Nooksack River Valley. That experience drives him to seek practical solutions that preserve jobs and protect the environment.

Please join me in voting for Elenbaas for the 42nd District state Senate seat in the Aug. 2 primary election.

Dana Stuth



I’m writing to you today as a third-generation Whatcom County resident, longtime Whatcom conservative activist and knowledgeable Republican precinct officer, serving the same precinct (No. 126) that my family has lived in for more than 80 years, regarding our best-prepared candidates for the primary and November elections.

With this in mind, one in particular is the standout for filling the Senate seat left open by the passing of our dear friend Sen. Doug Ericksen. The clear candidate is Ben Elenbaas. He is our winning county councilman with many years of grassroots experience representing our interests as an elected Cattlemen president, Charter Review Commission chairman, Planning Commission member and more. His professionalism and grassroots conservative bonafides are known by all. There is no comparison.

The sometimes-ugly wrestling match known as “The Primaries” always reveals so much about people and their preparedness to represent us. The Senate seat is vital and Elenbaas is our best candidate. Bar none. Likewise, Dan Johnson and Tawsha Dykstra Thompson are the best prepared in their races to stand for us against the wiles of Olympia. We need all three! So, let’s focus our efforts and send our best! Why would we send anything less? I recommend them to you and stand ready to support my decision and answer any questions you may have. An informed electorate makes the right decisions. 

Primary ballots go out July 13. The top two go on to November. Vote early, please. Let’s get these winners across the finish line and on to Olympia! 

Jayson Reimer



Cascadia Daily News readers are in for a real treat and receive a profound service by adding Frank Catalano to your fine journalists’ team as your business reporting/analyzing contributor.

You’ll find Frank is knowledgeable in a way that helps the public at large understand — and use — what he writes. You don’t need an MA to understand what Frank writes, and his approach is to make sure you are empowered — whether you are in or own a business, or you are a consumer.

Frank’s work is a breath of fresh air for CDN business news and analysis readers. I expect him to make a significant contribution to your community’s understanding of just what the heck is going on in this volatile environment and how to address whatever problems are thrown at you. Be sure to write Frank, ask the question you need answered or about an issue for which you need clarification. He has a lifelong history of caring about the people for whom he reports and analyzes. That’s you. 

Congratulations, Frank and CDN readers!

Colleen Patrick, former Reader Advocate, Seattle Times

Federal Way



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