Bellingham Third Ward Candidate: Ashanti Monts-Treviska

1. Background: For almost a half a century (1972 to present), Western Washington University (WWU) has not built a dormitory on campus, while increasing enrollment by 50 percent (5,000+ students) over the same period. WWU continues to house only about 4,000 students on campus leaving 10,000+ to compete for rental lodging with local residents, including workers and families. Bellingham is now experiencing a severe rental housing shortage. The university plans to add another 2,000 students in the next 5-10 years while adding a marginal 260 dormitory beds on campus by 2021.

Should the university be brought to the table as a major cause of the shortage of rentals in the city? What demands are you willing to make of the university to assist in mitigating Bellingham’s severe rental shortage?

Ashanti Monts-Treviska

Yes, shelter as one of the critical human needs is a human right, not a commodity. I would suggest that WWU to limit its student enrollment until they are able to provide critical resources or housing solutions to the student needs, to offer fixed spaces to allow students to bring their own tiny houses to reside in, and to partner with various institutions  to offer more long distance courses to allow the students study from with some residential intensive opportunities to meet students’ wellbeing needs holistically. 

2. Background: For businesses to be effective in our information-intensive economy, they need bandwidth delivered on a fiber-optic infrastructure, which provides speed and reliability. Bellingham city government has not yet made the commitment to pursue an effective fiber-optic infrastructure that is offered as an open-access network, giving co-ops, as well as telecoms, access. Doing so would attract new businesses and would provide a wider variety of internet options for existing businesses and residents. We have our neighbor, Mt. Vernon, as a model for success in doing this. 

Do you feel that identifying the city’s current network, and adding to it as necessary to create a reliable fiber infrastructure is a priority? 

Yes, it needs to be a critical priority to co-creating thriving communities. It will be beneficial for the city to have sustainable infrastructure to guide the communities to be interdependent with each other to support economic and social needs equitably and inclusively. To understand this better, imagine how it can benefit deaf community to have access to video remote American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters in any events or gatherings that does not require large audience when on site interpreters are not available as an example.

3. Background: The current Bellingham Comprehensive Plan envisions that future population growth will find housing in high-density urban villages. How best to provide additional housing in the city is an ongoing discussion. For example, new city code now permits backyard dwelling units.

Do you favor permitting multifamily housing, like triplexes, in areas of the city now zoned exclusively for single-family, detached homes?

Yes, I am in full support for inclusionary zoning or inclusionary housing or mixed income housing to allow small businesses to employ people to work and live in the same space, to allow the community members to creatively design spaces for homes that require 900 square feet or less of space usage, to build cooperative housing or social housing and to guide Bellingham to be more community driven or people driven to support affordable housing as a housing justice. We need to remember that lack of affordable, sustainable housing is a housing injustice.

4. Background: Nearly a half mile of Whatcom Creek and its estuary are about to have large-scale development projects started, none of which appear to put any emphasis on habitat, climate adaptation (sea level rise), or stormwater runoff. Each of these projects is completely under control of, or the property is owned by, the port, city, or school district. The permits for the State and Ellis bridges were rushed specifically to avoid impending state updates to shoreline and riparian rules. 

What tactics and plans do you have to aggressively restore habitat and enforce the buffers and best management practices suggested by science, new state legislation, and by the city’s own Critical Areas Ordinance?

This is a tricky question to answer because this might be coming from a biased perspective. Collective stewardship was the first thing that came to mind. Coming from a transformative justice approach, I would invite Indigenous/Tribal nations to be the co-stewards in guiding Bellingham to restore the habitats or critical areas through truth and reconciliation processes to bring in more transparency in Bellingham’s Critical Areas Ordinance to meet the necessary climate action needs.

5. Background: “Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Bellingham, making up 32 percent of all community emissions.” (From the Bellingham Climate Action Plan.)

In recent years, Bellingham has made progress towards an active transportation network that helps reduce our carbon footprint as well as families’ transportation costs. More people are able to get where they need to go by walking, pedaling, and rolling (such as wheelchairs).

However, the connections for safe and active transportation are a long way from being complete, due to U.S. transportation planning that has for decades prioritized the movement of motor vehicles.

What transportation planning and funding solutions will you champion to accelerate both Bellingham’s reduction of carbon emissions and progress toward a safe and connected active transportation system for all ages and abilities?

I would to make the transportation planning to be more ADA accessible inclusively. I would encourage Bellingham to adopt the concept of no cars to be driven in areas that are 5-10 miles from the city center except for public buses to allow people to walk, bicycle or rolling through multi-modality methods. I would guide Bellingham to fund solutions for increase visual aids and sensory aids for deaf community members and disabled community members to participate in reducing carbon emissions while enjoying safe and connected active transportation system for all communities, including communities of color.

6. Background: The Bellingham Municipal Code 13.16 outlines city regulations for 5G small cell installations. These were drafted in response to a 2018 City Council vote to support 5G installs. On January 14, 2019, new FCC regulations went into effect denying local municipalities the right to refuse 5G installations. So, Bellingham is set to proceed, yet there is an increasing outcry nationally and globally about the lack of scientific testing for safety, environmental effects, security and privacy issues. There is strong scientific basis for all these concerns. Some cities and states are suing against the FCC overreach. The Portland mayor refuses to proceed on the basis of health safety concerns, as well as FCC overreach. 

What is your stance on supporting 5G installation in Bellingham?

I do not support 5G installation in Bellingham because it is a public health concern. I would guide Bellingham to file an appeal against FCC overreach to deny any 5G installation to protect and value public health or community wellbeing.

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