Welcome and good evening.
00:08 [Ekinder Chief Dylan]
Hi this is Ekinder Chief Dylan the Punjabi interpreter.
Thank you. If everyone at this moment could mute themselves. I will invite everyone to join us at the start of the first in a series of listening sessions focused on race and justice in Whatcom County. My name is Moonwater and I serve as Executive Director of the Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center. We are an independent nonprofit organization and my role here tonight is as an impartial moderator for the meeting this evening.
This is a public meeting sponsored by the City of Bellingham, Whatcom County, the Lummi Nation, Western Washington University. Representatives of those entities along with city and county council members are here with us tonight and participating as listeners. While the Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office and the Bellingham Police Department were listed as event sponsors, they are not participating formally in the virtual meeting space by request from and out of respect for community members
and partners. Shortly many of the people you see nowwill shift into the attendee listening role to make space for community members to speak and be seen tonight.
This Zoom meeting is being recorded and is also being live streamed on YouTube and BTV channel 10. Technical support is being provided by the City of Bellingham and I will be working with them to support as smooth of an experience tonight as possible for everyone. I thank you in advance for your grace and patience with any technical glitches if they arise.
If you are just joining us now and would like to speak tonight you can sign up to speak by visiting http://www.cob.org/listeningseries.
If our Spanish interpreter at this moment could share that same direction for our Spanish-speaking audience to join us I would appreciate it.
02:38 [Spanish Translator]
[Spanish translation of: “If you are just joining us now and would like to speak tonight you can sign up to speak by visiting http://www.cob.org/listeningseries.”%5D
And I’d like to invite our Punjabi interpreter to do the same. Thank you. If you can un-mute yourself and translate
that as well I would appreciate it. See Piku are you able to un-mute yourself and translate for our Punjab listenersto go to http://www.cob.org/listeningseries if they would like to speak tonight.
04:31 [Punjabi Translator]
[Punjabi translation of: “If you are just joining us now and would like to speak tonight you can sign up to speak by visiting http://www.cob.org/listeningseries.”%5D
Thank you so much.
Before we get much further I’d like to offer you all the opportunity to reflect on the important truth that here in Whatcom County we are occupying the ancestral homelands of the Coast Salish Peoples who have lived in the Salish Sea basin throughout the San Juan islands and the North Cascades watershed from time immemorial. I want to express the deepest respect and gratitude for our indigenous neighbors, the Lummi Nation and the Nooksack Tribe for their enduring care and protection of this land. I offer this acknowledgment as a means
to honor their relationship with the land we all share and a call on the community at large towards further recognition, reflection, learning and action. Thank you.
And I thank our city and county council members and I would ask you all to step into listening mode and kindly turn off your videos at this point and we will move you to attendee status. We now have the opportunity to hear briefly from Mayor Fleet wood. Mayor Fleetwood?
05:56 [Mayor Fleetwood]
Yeah hi thank you so much thank you so much Moonwater for your opening and your help in this. I’d like to thank the government sponsors, the community partners, the elected officials that are participating tonight. Special call out to Ellie, Matt, Marty and Ben in IT. who are helping us with tech support. Of course in the old days we’d all
identify some public place and people would show up in person and so this is this is a new world we’re in. So I hope everybody can recognize that we’re we’re doing our best with Zoom technology and all allow ourselves some latitude.
This was born out of of course this this context. A national pandemic first that no one anticipated or saw coming, at least most of us didn’t. A recession and then of course on May 25th just a couple of months ago, just over a couple months ago the tragic killing of George Floyd which ignited a national movement to address issues of racial equity.
Here in Bellingham this listening series came about at least as it relates to my role from a march that happened on June 15th. A couple of hundred people who were marching to bring attention to important issues came to City Hall, knocked on the mayor’s office door and I went out and I spoke to them and there were many calls from them what do you intend to do? And I said well we’ve we’ve heard from many many people to listen so I said I’d like to help create a listening opportunity. So that’s where this came from as far as my involvement. There are other community members who had expressed the same interest in doing that, so we’ve we’ve put this together. It hasn’t come together perfectly. This is uncharted territory for many of us and we’re well intentioned and doing our best but we’re certainly going to learn from tonight and do better and try and be as inclusive as we can in the organization going going forward. So the purpose tonight is to provide the public with with opportunities to share their experiences to inform commitments to effective change to create a public record of people’s ideas and experiences and and to elevate the importance of these issues and ensure accountability for addressing them.
We’ve heard from many people who as I say are wanting us at this initial stage to listen. This is not one and done. Lots of folks had expressed understandable skepticism or cynicism. They’ve heard these sorts of commitments before and we just want to say that we’re very serious about our commitments to addressing the the really difficult work of learning about these issues and then dismantling structural and systemic racism. It’s a national movement that’s happening, we’re a part of it, it’s happening in communities nationwide. Public private nonprofit all of the above are working on these issues at the same time and we’re committed to making progress. So I just want to thank everybody for participating tonight and we’ll have more of these. This is the beginning of an effort that’s going to take a long time and involve task force work and really diving into to these issues. So thank you all so much.
Thank you mayor. Executive Sidhu?
10:18 [County Executive Sidhu]
Hi good evening everybody my name is Satpal Sidhu, Whatcom County Executive and I welcome you all who are actually investing their very valuable time this evening to participate in these listening series. I firmly believe that we can collectively make our community better and a welcoming place and a respectable place for everybody. And today is a small step in that direction and I look forward to listening to your ideas your suggestions and your stories. Thank you very much.
Thank you. And Western Washington University President Randhawa?
11:14 [President Randhawa]
Thank you Moonwater. Mayor Fleetwood thank you for taking the lead in organizing this listening series. These listening series could not have come at a more opportune time. As mayor Fleetwood said there are two powerful historic events: the Covid-19 pandemic and the social justice movement in the wake of George Floyd’s tragic death that really are forcing us to question our structure policies and practices.
Western Washington University exists in the context of our broader community. Our students faculty and staff live in the Bellingham community the work that we do is through our interactions and in the context of Bellingham and Whatcom County. Our real asset is our people. So when we work on attracting on retaining a highly qualified and diverse student body in a workforce here at Western we can only do so if collectively us, the city the county can really create a living environment that is inviting safe and inclusive for everyone. These listening sessions are not just important to me, they are important to my wife Uzma, who is joining me today. They are important to members of our Board of Trustees in our executive and academic leadership and several members of whom are also signed up to listen to our community. I share share our joint commitment with the Mayor and County Exec and I really look forward to the conversation and listening to our community. Thank you.
Thank you. And Lummi Indian Business Council Vice Chairman, Travis Brockie
13:04 [Lummi Vice Chairman Travis Brockie]
Good evening everybody my name is Travis Brockie. I’m the Vice Chairman for the Lummi Nation and it’s an honor to to be on this listening session and hear the stories and the voices and of the inequalities that we’ve seen not only across the nation but in our own backyard. And I’d like to welcome everybody to our ancestral homeland here in Whatcom County and throughout the San Juan islands. And thank you Mayor Fleetwood and County Executive Sidhu for taking the time to be with and listen to the people in our community.
Here at Lummi Nation we are far too familiar with racial inequality and systemic racism. We have a sacred and inherent responsibility to protect our home and our people from these types of threats. By sheer will unconditional love and perseverance by our our ancestors we are still here today. We come from survivors and our story will live on forever because of them. Throughout history we can’t forget the history with what happened to our people and regards to the historical trauma that has been passed on from generation to generation. Since pre-contact and post-contact with the Europeans we’ve been fighting assimilation, termination on a daily and threats to our treaty rights that we’ve engaged with the government and signed a treaty in exchange for our treaty rights. Our people have survived failed federal Indian policies such as theboarding schools,failed Indian policies such as the Dawes Act which was basically taking our land away from us the Howard Wheeler Act also known as the Indian Reorganization Act which forced upon a Western form of political structure systems across Indian Country. And also we didn’t become citizens until 1924. And our our people are our survivors but we still face the inequalities as just any other race and by far more with our missing and murdered indigenous women and also our men across Indian country so I’m here to listen to the stories and thank you.
Thank you all. So bear with me for just a few minutes and then we will get started with our speakers.
I’d like to thank you all for joining us again this evening I will transparently share that while I have fairly recently joined in the planning for this evening I have been able to spend many hours over the last few days in conversation with those involved to both understand the intent of the sessions and the impact of the planning process. It feels important to name at the outset thus far that this has been an imperfect process and the meeting tonight will be imperfect there are members of the community who are unable and unwilling to participate because of the structure tonight. And while efforts have been made to address some of those barriers much work still needs to be done. There are many improvements to be made in order to build trust, strengthen relationships and improve the processes and opportunities that we have before us. What I do know is that tonight’s listening session is rooted firmly in a desire to move forward in a good way. And in order to do that together to move forward in a good way as a community the flaws and imperfections need to be named and addressed and each future iteration of listening and learning together can then be strengthened and improved. So here we are in the middle of a pandemic perfectly imperfect.
I will admit that coming together in this form and format over Zoom for such an important meeting feels uncomfortable to me and maybe to many of you and yet here we are with an opportunity before us this evening. So in the spirit of shared understanding for tonight we’d like to share a slide with agreements for our session. I’d like to review a few agreements before we move forward. Whether you are on the zoom call or listening in another way I invite you tonight to: listen deeply; to bring with you humility; to reflect thoughtfully; to expect non-closure this evening.
Conversations and changes will be ongoing. I also invite you to share the space so for those of you that have signed up to speak I invite you to share the space with one another and to try to limit your initial comments to three to five minutes in order to allow as many voices to be heard tonight before the meeting closes at 9 pm. This time limitation likely feels wholly insufficient and is one of the many pieces that can be adjusted in future sessions. I also this evening invite you to help center the voices of people of color. Given tonight’s intent and the limited time we have, the hope of this session is to hear first and foremost from people of color. So if you have signed up to speak and you identify as white or otherwise privileged I respectfully invite you to consider yielding initially to make space for your fellow community members who do identify as people of color to be heard this evening. If you plan to yield your time and you are signed in as an attendee you may now use the raise hand function, which is private, for our tech team to see at the bottom of the screen in Zoom and we will shift the order of speakers accordingly. I understand that many of you have joined us tonight and have prepared some statements to make so this is simply a request for your consideration. Time permitting if you’d like us to come back to you please stay in the meeting and we’ll do our best to return to you. Thank you.
As you can see we also have an ASL translator present and they will be with us swapping out for the duration of the meeting. And as you’ve heard Spanish and Punjabi interpreters are standing by if needed by any of our speakers. I will hold up this card to visually cue you to bring your time speaking to a close. So you may see me making that motion as a gentle way to remind you to help share the space. Thank you in advance for your assistance in this regard. Further, just to acknowledge it is our intent for those who want to speak tonight to have a chanceto share their perspective before anyone has the opportunity to speak twice. So thank you again for your help in advance with time management this evening.
I also ask for your grace and patience with me as the moderator, with one another and with technology we may experience glitches silence or other moments of discomfort as we navigate trying to hold this important space in an admittedly awkward and very challenging way. And lastly I’d like to acknowledge in advance the significant energy it takes to show up and speak, especially to share tonight’s messages beliefs and experiences that may have been shared for years and have not been heard or acted on in a way that was needed. So tonight thank you in advance to everyone who is willing and able to contribute their voices to this listening session.
I’d like to invite our tech team to show the slide with the process for this evening. And to begin city staff we’ll be assisting behind the scenes to coordinate the order of speakers as you now are all meeting attendees in groups of three you will hear your name be called and you will then be invited to become a panelist. Once you are a panelist I will cue you when it is your turn to speak. I will ask you to un-mute yourself and if you feel comfortable or able to start your video. Please indicate if Spanish or Punjabi translation would be helpful to you at that time. Once you are done speaking I ask that you mute yourself once the group of three has spoken they will return to being attendees and the next group of three will bebrought into the room. We will continue this process until just before 9 pm, at which point will we will close the evening session. So thank you for your patience at this point as we work to cue our first three speakers and hear these same directions from our Spanish and Punjabi interpreters. If our Spanish interpreter could explain the process to our Spanish-speaking audience now and if our Punjabi interpreter could follow and share that same process and we will cue our speakers.
22:38 [Spanish Interpreter]
Can can the slide be put up in the screen again the one where you just explained because it’d be easier that way. Thank you.
Thank you. And Piku are you able to share the same in Punjabi please.
23:29 [Punjabi Interpreter]
So that will be for the speakers?
24:24 [Punjabi Interpreter]
Thank you. Janice, do we have the first three speakers’ names?
Yes. We have Kai and Caroline and Keith.
Thank you. And we are going to shift them to become panelists. And do we have Kai ready to share your audio and your video if you’re willing and able. Welcome Kai. Thank you.
25:05 [Kai Rappaport]
All right. Hi, my name is Kai and I speak as a community member in the Roosevelt neighborhood in Bellingham. And I want to say that given Bellingham’s Covid shortfalls of about 10 and a half million as pointed out by the Western Front. And given that in August we see unemployment benefits from Covid-19 expiring that 36% of renters in this nation missed their housing bills this July. And we’re just barely saved by Governor Inslee’s eviction moratorium. Given that people of color are disproportionately affected by police including African-American, Native-American, farm worker, the homeless, deaf communities. The Bellingham police uses force in 9% of their their interactions as of April 2020 despite African-Americans being 1.56% of our population in Bellingham. And a vascular neck constraint is a use of force. The Bellingham police budget is nearly a third of our city’s budget. Our police spends a large amount of money as we know moving homeless camps rather than actually addressing the problem as the tiny home advocacy organization HomesNow! have mentioned. The solution is clear that despite these community organizations that are helpful, to de-fund the police. There’s been petitions of thousands of people that have de-funded the police to separate school police officers in elementary schools and in Western. To implement solutions like codes and many others. The answer is not just if we de-fund the police. The answer is not cutting training. We cannot continue business as usual. At our August budget to the council members the mayor I would like a response about these personally. I’ve sent you all messages. Doyou support from the community leaders? Do you support real justice efforts? Do you support Michael Brown? What will you commit to this budget session to cutting the police budget by 50%? Do you support domestic violenceservices? Cultural spaces for BIPOC people? Harm reduction services like clean needle exchange programs? Mental health mobile response services? Secure safe affordable housing and more? Thank you for your time and I appreciate all of your presence to the organizations who are helping sponsor this and to all the community members that are part of this.
Thank you Kai. Caroline can you un-mute yourself and share your video if you are willing and able. Okay so I think what we will do at this moment if Caroline is working on her video as we’ll put your space on hold and Keith could you please un-mute yourself and share your video if you are able and I will try to come back to Caroline.
28:42 [Keith Raymond]
Hello. Welcome. Thank you Keith.
28:51 [Keith Raymond]
So first off I want to say thank you. I’m kind of new to all of this and the whole the system and the politics and and everything that goes on that kind of controls day-to-day life, you know, for a guy like me and my family. And so to start off I’ve been living in Bellingham about 12 years and as a Black man living in Bellingham it has not been been easy. It hasn’t been an easy road but there’s a lot of things that I see in Bellingham that I feel like that needs to be addressed especially in the poor communities.
And so a lot of things that I heard a lot of people saying and they want to change things but nobody talked about our kids. And that’s really disheartening to me that all these grown folks speaking about different things but nobody’s talking about how to invest money and time into our kids. Especially the lower income family kids or the kids they have two parents working who don’t get a chance to spend a lot of time with them that may need opportunities, need guidance and things like that. And they may not can’t afford to be able to get some of these programs because they don’t have the money and the funds and so we just leave them out. And so I think there’s a big discourse here I think that in Bellingham it’s more about money than growth of community. I’m from St. Louis Missouri and there’s community centers there. There’s not one community center here in Bellingham. There’s not one community center in Whatcom County. And so that tells me a lot about you know how y’all treat y’all you what y’all think about y’all youth the time y’all put into y’all youth. These kids ain’t got nothing to do around here. Y’all you know everybody want to de-fund the police and I’m with, you know, police treating people better. I mean I’ve talked to Seth and the police chief about those things, but I think the real haps is the youth and nobody’s talking about that. Nobody’s giving time to these kids to help create better human beings so that we don’t have problems like systemic racism and police brutality because we’ve you know they’ve grown up in a system where you know they’ve seen different things and been around different people and been able to been able been offered opportunities that they may not have had. And so there’s a big there’s a big problem I see in Bellingham and I think it really starts with what we do with these kids. There’s nothing in Bellingham really to do for these kids except go out and drink and smoke and party and get in trouble and get into drugs. And this stuff is starting at middle school like this not even starting at high school. Like this stuff is starting at middle school with our 12 and 13 and 14 year old kids like and I don’t see and and I’ve been up for 12 years and I haven’t seen any change i haven’t seen any push towards anything collectively to help the youth in the community to grow.
And so now I want to speak on racism and I’ll yield but I took my kids out of Bellingham public schools because of racism my kids haven’t been to Bellingham public schools going on four years now because of the racism in the public schools because the way my kids were treated. Because when they did suddenly they were instantly treated as a villain and instead of giving opportunity and having a side. And so there’s a big problem with racism and it’s not just with police. It’s inherently in these communities with what the parents are teaching these kids.
And so I think there needs to be some type of way to start to I guess create some type of understanding because listening is good but action is better and words are just words. I can say anything I want to. I can put my mouth to say anything I want to make my mouth say. But what I do shows what I’m about, simple as that it doesn’t get any simpler than that. So I’m about action. If you guys are going to do something city council mayor then get it done. I don’t know all the hoops and loops y’all gotta jump through to get something done but for me it seems like a bunch of BS. I think there’s things that need to be changed right now than changing what you waiting for. I’m pretty sure Black people have been dealing with racism for hundreds of years and so why wait to continue to change. Like the way we possess our communities why wait to change those things and so what I would say is that we need to stop talking and start doing. And I and I’m and I yield back
Thank you Keith.
Do we have Caroline are you present with us and are you able to un-mute yourself and share your video if you would like.
Moonwater we don’t see her signed on so we’re bringing in the next three.
And we’d like to invite Carrie Blackwood, Karen Klumpner and Julian Swanson.
And was that Carrie, Karen and Julie?
Yes Julian, I’m sorry Julian.
Thank you. So Carrie if you are able to un-mute yourself and share your video if you are willing and able we would like to hear from you. Okay so Carrie is is yielding her time. Karen are you able to join us and un-mute and share your video?
35:xx [Karen Klumpner]
I think I am.
I hear you I don’t see you so if you would like to… Okay there you are all right.
I did not expect to be speaking. I just came to listen as well but since you’ve asked I just want to thank you all for doing this listening session. I am a first generation American but from Germany so we don’t need interpreters mostly but I am very interested in the issues and thank you very much for addressing these kinds of listening situations. Thank you Moonwater.
Thank you and I will clarify for everyone who is listening in right now you are also able to watch on BTV and on YouTube. And so we are making our way through the list of everyone who is signed on to the Zoom meeting to give people an opportunity to speak so you can simply let us know if you would like to yield or you can log off the Zoom meeting if you’re not interested in speaking and watch in another format. Julian you are next on the list. Are you able to un-mute yourself and join us? Welcome and you’re still muted. There we go.
37:xx [Julian Swanson]
Hello my name is Julian Swanson. I’m a Bellingham resident as well as an active member of many organizations supporting the community of Bellingham. I’m here primarily to talk to Mayor Seth because I, well, I’m not expecting there to be a whole lot of the the general public able to really hear this. I see that there’s about 73 people here now. So I’m here to talk about the actions and responsibilities the Mayor has up to Bellingham particularly concerning Bellingham police actions. I have many growing concerns ranging a wide variety of topics so three to five minute discussion period is not very conducive to being able to address my concerns. Many of other the other people around me and our community are so have similar problems and a lot of the people that I know have far worse problems than my own. I recognize that many of our most vulnerable voices are not able to participate creating a situation where they are not able to participate in these conversations to determine policies. I also recognize that there is an immediate danger to all Washington residents that will begin to take effect August 1st. The deadline I and many of my peers face is that of homelessness during a pandemic when the chief health advice is stay at home. Due to the state of a statewide eviction moratorium ending in August with no rental aid over 30% of Bellingham is likely looking at August like a barrel of a gun. I would like to make a brief statement here is that I am made aware that the governor has extended the moratorium in some ways but it is still a growing concern that this ends way before the entirety of the economy opens. The deadline I and many of my peers face is that of homelessness during a pandemic. I understand that most people in America will move out voluntarily in order to avoid the punishing process that is a modern day eviction, which includes but is not limited to having your name taken into a rental blacklist just for showing up to court in protest of being evicted. I recognize these as real and legitimate fears among the wider public as well as an issue I am facing. The debt is racking up to pay our bills. This now unemployed I have largely run out of money to pay ourbills. This is a common occurrence even outside of the greater disaster of Covid-19 compounding with the forced shutdown of our economy and jobs. As this is a government mandated shutdown the people cannot be shouldered with the burden under the same tired victim blaming under the auspices of personal responsibility. I recognize that our government is responsible for preventing this looming catastrophe and as all our larger legislative bodies are unwilling to prevent the hollowing out of our town, this responsibility falls to you. I am here representing only myself even though I am part of many community outreach and aid in Bellingham because all of these organizations and citizen groups are unwilling to validate this Zoom call due to a severe lack of ability or willingness to involve our Bellingham community outside of the local bureaucrats. I am participating in this for a lack of a better word, farce, to bring to your attention Bellingham residents require you, Seth, to act in the capacity we have elected you and paid you to do. We need a directive from the Bellingham Chief of Police to have no police response to calls for eviction. This alone will stay any forced removal of people from their homes. Seth we we require that you replace the current police chief with a non-police citizen with a cleardirective to halt evictions. This will not be enough but it will give us the best start to ease the plight of our city’s residents. Additionally we will require you to personally put an extension on the current moratorium preventing evictions until at least three months after the end of all the shutdown restrictions and zero covid19 cases in our area of Whatcom County. These two things will grant us the safety we need as a city to overcome the immediate crisis of mass eviction sagas. This will not be the end of what needs to be done to protect the economic security of Bellingham and our residents. This space you hold as Mayor of Bellingham is one of the power of life and death over our entire society and I and hopefully the rest of Bellingham will hold you personally responsible for any choice of inaction hand-wringing or delays in your response to prevent evictions from being a death sentence. Thank you for your time. My name is Julian Swanson again. Thank you.
Thank you so much, Julian. And I see Audrey you have joined us. I’m going to check in with Janice about the order of the next three speakers so thank you. After people’s names…
We have Ken Gass, Markis Dee and Audrey.
Okay so I’m going to follow that I’m just checking with our tech team if I should follow that order or Audrey can I invite you to hide your camera we’re trying to follow the order in which people registered. So I’ll have you hide your camera for a moment and Ken if you could un-mute yourself and if you are willing to share your video we will hear from you first.
43:58 [Ken Gass]
I am not speaking. Sorry, I am listening.
That’s okay. Thank you Ken. So Markis Dee if you could un-mute yourself and share your video if you would like to we’ll hear from you next.
44:14 [Markis Dee]
I’m glad to. Can you hear me now. Yes. Hi. I’m Markis Dee and I am the County appointed homeless advocate on the Homeless Strategies Work Group for Whatcom County. I do want to be brief. I do want to yield to our people of color who definitely need to be spotlighted here. And I being homeless advocate I also want to speak to the fact that we have an inordinate amount of people of color who are homeless and who are facing homelessness. Listening to the comments tonight I want you all to know I’m listening. I’m hearing numbers that are scaring me and I know it’s time for us all to take action. And I’m not only the homeless advocate for Whatcom County, I’m also the vice chair at HomesNow!, the tiny home community. Unity village down in Fairhaven is by us. We’ve also done a couple tent encampments in Bellingham. One right behind city hall that was called Winterhaven. Safehaven was over at the the 911 center off of Alabama and Texas.
I just want to say that we need to catch up with a lot of other municipalities at this point to even get tent encampments going. And it’s vitally important. Now tent encampments cannot be the end-all okay, because we need to move on toward other housing. Tiny home villages do work, but if we can come up with something else apartment living whatever that is… We have a housing problem and it is about to get really bad. We need to get ahead of the curve. We need to we need to lead. We all need to lead and we can even lead the state from here because we have the people we have volunteers we… So I just want to energize everybody. I have good news in that the camp cleanups that were not being performed up to policy are being shaped up. That’s largely due to a lot of the work that I’ve been doing in the last two months. And I’m very proud of that and burdened with that and I do that for all of us in the community and I urge you to pay attention to that. In the last year or so during county councils and on the homeless strategies where I mean city councils excuse me and on the homeless strategies work group where I sit I’ve been asking for reallocation of funds from the camp cleanups to go to funding people to get the temporary shelter and transitioning into better sheltering. Those very same people that we’re cleaning up. We don’t like to use the term sweeps. A lot of us are familiar with the term sweep and it seems to have a much worse connotation than a camp cleanup. Anyway the camp cleanups when we clean them up it’s very expensive and then we’ll see you again next week. And we are in an emergency we need to not be doing that the health department is recommended against it the CDC has recommended against it and we can do so much more anyway we need to get we need to take a massive amount of that funding let’s start with 50% and take it away from that program and put that toward emergency sheltering immediately with the promise of a more a stronger shelter than just tent encampments by this winter. Because we do know that tents don’t work in the winter. I mean let’s all face it we don’t want to do that. S I do want to yield the rest of my time I want to say that I’m going to try and stay with all of these listening. I’ll be listening and anybody who’s got a message to get to me you can get to me I’m at homesnow.org you can hit me and and we’ll just… I definitely want to make myself available here too and I’m listening and I do yield the rest of my time and I hope I hope to hear more from all of you. Thank you.
Thank you so much Markis. We do have Audrey who was next in the queue and we seem to have lost the video feed for Executive Sidhu so we’ll work on that and Janice will also work to cue the next three people. So Audrey we can see and hear you now I believe. Welcome.
47:12 [Audrey D]
Hi I apologize first of all I hardly know how to use Zoom, so probably appeared out of nowhere there.
I, like Keith I’m really concerned about there being no after-school programs especially for children with families of little means. I grew up in a pretty affluent community. There were a lot of school programs that children were literally buzzed from the school directly to the boys and girls club. It was the land of Bill and Melinda Gates so they gave a lot of money, a lot of support. I’m not sure why we’re not getting that in Bellingham but Keith is absolutely correct. Kids have nothing to do here that’s safe. My daughter’s now 24 but she grew up here in schools you know starting the middle first year of high school but I could not believe the lack of activities structured activities kids in this town. And I think for kids to also mix inter-racially, inter-culturally, that’s a very important aspect of it. People are able to go outside of their you know their typical circles hen they’re involved in those kind of activities.
My other concern, a big one, is how is community action, the Opportunity Council going to step up and distribute millions of rental assistance dollars that is going to them? Historically it has been almost impossible for people to get rental assistance in a timely manner efficiently even on the verge of eviction. And I know reading recently with the Care Act a lot of the money that’s going away from unemployment is going to rental assistance. And my fear is that they’re understaffed and not equipped to be able to distribute those funds to the people the working poor the people that have worked that are two paychecks away from the street. A lot of them, just like the last gentleman said are close to being on the street and we need to know that the people that we’re entrusting our tax funds with actually can deliver the goods. And that’s a big concern of mine.
Definitely the de-funding of the police reallocation. I’m definitely against the homeless camp sweeps because I know again the Opportunity Council welcome homeless service center has the funds has the people to be able to offer resources and not have to sweep those camps. Reallocation of money that’s you know given to the police can be used to create other agencies to do all the work that they’re doing very badly. Very badly. Community action can’t do everything for everyone. A lot of people think it’s a catch-all and that they do everything but they don’t have medical people they don’t have any psychological help. They don’t have any drug treatment. It’s not a catch-all. The opportunity council is a community action agency. They get most of the dollars to help people in these kind of situations. But their services are very limited, and should they be? I don’t believe so.
Anyway that’s my biggie but I want to thank Keith for bringing up the after school issue because that is a really big one. Especially about you know children of color people trying to get out of their you know the situation that they live in to see a different type of person different type of life different culture different languages. And it’s important. So I’m here to listen and hear what everybody has to say. Thank you.
Thank you so much Audrey. And Janice do we have…
Yes. The next three are Kristina Martens, Theo Weyland and Representative Deborah Leckenhoff.
Thank you. So Kristina are you able to un-mute yourself and if you would like to join us with your video to start your video.
52:46 [Kristina Martens]
I think I’ve got that all.
You do. Welcome.
52:49 [Kristina Martens]
Yay. Thank you for having us everyone all of the people. And hosting these yes since no one no elected official is speaking I do have some questions.
The first is does Seth our mayor even think that there is a problem? Because we’ve been in many meetings across the board with lots of different people and what we get from the top is that the system’s working fine, is working as it’s intended or we can’t do anything because the policy is written that way. So I would like to hear from our mayorwhen he’s available and ready is there does he even think that there is a problem that we need to beaddressing. And then now if there is one or 10 or 35 what is the best way that he thinks we should go about fixing them?
We are people. I am a real estate agent. I was thrown into activism about eight weeks ago when there was just a lot of clamoring on the streets with the people that I know and love and work with on a daily basis. We all, especially myself as a Black womanin America, I see problems every day. I’m not paid to solve these though and all of our elected officials in theory are. If I’m wrong about that if that’s not what elected officials are supposed to be doing I would love to know who it is that we’re supposed to be looking at to solve these problems. So I’d like to hear what the mayor, city council, Satpal has to say about what they think fixing any of the problems that they think they’re dealing with are.
The third one being since Seth was endorsed by the Bellingham police department in his last run, is there a conflict of interest if he does decide to proceed down the de-fund avenue that a lot of the community is calling for if he still wants their endorsement for the next election cyclewhich was a big deal. It’s a lot of people that actually vote so I’m just wondering if there’s any conflict of interest there.
And then to go step further does anyone in city council and in positions of power think that the Birchwood food desert is a problem? And if so what can we be doing about that? In general again you’re our elected officials and you’re paid by our tax dollars so we see that there’s a problem could you please help us try to solve this? And I know that there’s issues with leases and Haggen, Kroger, however it may be Albertson’s whatever happened over there but it seems like something that we should be actively working to fix.
Another question: I have had meetings with a lot of people in city council and whatnot and I keep hearing them refer to other people of color in the community as yeah they met with so-and-so, yeah they met with this person, yes they heard what these what our fears are our worries are… And if they’re gonna keep coming to this set maybe five names that I keep hearing thrown about as you all are being paid as part of your job would it be a good thing to have a task force of what seems to be obviously people of color, but then maybe a younger demographic to help bridge the gap? In what we seem to be shouting on the streets and it seems to be the younger generation that’s really carrying this mantle, would it be useful for the city of Bellingham to employ people of color that are of the younger generation to help deal with these issues as they seem to be the ones bringing them to the table? This is a lot of work as our elected officials know going through all this paperwork seeing who’s responsible for what and how the budget is spent. So if you in this listening session just like right now are asking the the community to do the research to bring to your attention what is incorrect in what’s happening it seems like a failed double redundancy. When we elected you because everyone in power said “I can make a difference. I will help make that change.” We are sitting here they’re asking you to make a change and that you are that you want to listen to us and you’re letting us be heard. But these are not new problems we’ve been fighting this as a black person since the 1600s when they brought my ancestors over. Wo here we are in this new cycle of it. I talked to friends moms that remember marching in the 1960s over the exact same things. It wasn’t as well publicized or social media shared but it’s it’s not a new fight and these are not new problems to anyone. Again no answers today but if we’ve been facing down the barrel of this cannon for so long and everyone in power has been promising that they can help bring about change, in what aspect can you bring about change and maybe even bring it to us? As we have to go about our day jobs if anyone has them left, and we have to worry about a roof over our head and food in our refrigerators, this is kind of what we pay you for, to help see what the problems are and just kind of get it done. You’re in the rooms with the lawyers you speak the jargon you’re literally paid to be researching in our best interests. Again I moved well I moved from Southern California to this tiny amazing gem of a city but this is something that’s been happening around forever even outs in and outside of this bubble that is the beautiful Bellingham. It doesn’t seem like this should have taken anyone by surprise.
And the last point that I’ve just been mulling over as we go through all this to everyone who’s listening is that it doesn’t seem to be a problem when anyone needs our votes they have an open line of communication they’re ready to talk to us they want to hear what we want to say. It seems that we’ve really had to corral everyone to get any headway here so everyone who’s listening just remember when they asked for your votes again how inclined they were to listen to you the first time around. I know that was a lot. Thank you very much. I’m sure I’ll see many of you in the fight ahead.
Thank you Kristina. Up next we have Theo. If you would like to speak you can un-mute yourself and share your video if you’d like…
Hello. Why were police created. Profit is unpaid excuse me. Labor creates all wealth. Profit is unpaid wages profit is theft. Capitalists created police to break labor strikes and protect their factories and machinery of exploitation. Equally important in the history of police is the role of Indian killers and slave catchers. Today police are murderers, wife beaters, abusers, eviction muscle for landlords and still break strikes. Do police keep us safe?Well let me ask you when has a cop ever caught or punished your boss for wage theft, the most common and costly form of theft?
I’d like to also recommend these two books: “The End of Policing” by Alex Vitale and “Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Davis.
Every worker every person is entitled to safety and sanctuary from tyranny. We know that the Bellingham police has been uncooperative in the sanctuary movement. They’ve been complicit with the Trump administration as have some who supposedly represent us here today in this farce of a listening session. So think for yourself. Learn workers history. Learn our history. De-fund the police. Disarm the police. Disband the police towards our collective liberation.
Thank you for your words Theo. And up next we have Representative Lekanoff, but I’m not sure if she is still on the call so I’ll give her a moment if she is present to be able to un-mute herself and join us and if not I will ask Janice to share with me the next three names. There you are. Hello.
61:35 [Debra Lekanoff]
Hi. Hi good evening. Good evening it’s it’s wonderful to see you all. My heart is with Bellingham tonight. Thank you for being so courageous thank you for being so understanding. But most of all thank you for being respectful of one another. The city council and mayor Seth Fleetwood you’ve taken the time and you’ve taken the courage to hear from your community members and your constituents. The many asks you hear tonight are going to take all of us working together and taking one step forward together. It’s going to take our community it’s going to take our elected local officials. It’s going to take our state officials, our congressional officials and it’s going to take us stepping forward and saying if we’re going to make a change how are we going to change together? How are we going to change together? How are we going to build the policies that are going to exist not for a moment but for long term? I hear the sorrow and the hurt coming from many of our people who all have a little bit of brown in each one of them. My goodness you all can probably tell I am 110% Native American there’s no getting away and hiding that. But for generations and generations my people have suffered the incredible hardship of what it is to be treated as if we don’t matter. But I’ve taken the courage to say you know what in Indian Country in the place where I come from I’m joining the state legislature to make a difference. Because I’m a survivor. My people are a survivors. All of us as people of color are survivors. Every one of us have a little bit of brown in us and it’s going to take us linking arms and saying we can do things better. Those hard policies are going to come in a big wingspan and they’re going to be intertwined from one issue to one policy to one budget to another. So I say to you my wonderful colleagues at the City of Bellingham: link arms with your representatives, link arms with your congressional members link arms with community like you are here to like you are doing here tonight. And I’m really honored to be able to be here and and support the work that’s being shared. But to everyone in Bellingham my prayers are with you but I give you most of all all the hope that was given to me from my ancestors to all of you. So thank you for giving me just a little bit of time.
Thank you so much. Janice I’ve seen a few, hello Rosalinda and I saw Damani a moment ago. Can you share with me Janice the order of the next three speakers?
Yes we have Aidan Hersh, Rosalinda and Vernon Damani Johnson
Okay so Rosalinda if you’d like you can hide your video for a moment and we’ll hear from Aidan first and then we’ll come back to you. Aiden I believe we’re ready to hear from you. Thank you.
64:xx [Aiden Hersh]
Thanks. Yeah I’d like to speak about the movement to de-fund the police. And well I can’t speak for all others at this meeting specifically, to eventually abolish the police as we know them. This so-called radical idea is primarily based on a long-standing and justified frustration with the police being an extension of the state that has been and continues to be used to maintain racial and class inequalities. For our local leaders and elected officials to recognize this fact would be the first step towards legitimate racial and working-class justice. And so the fact that you’re unable to recognize this means that we have a long way to go.
I also find it ironic that these so-called listening sessions are supposed to be portrayed as some kind of progressive and I quote “process of understanding our community’s experiences with racism and injustice and taking steps to effectively address these issues.” I find this ironic because it proves that you haven’t been listening. It proves that the events that are happening now from Portland to Minneapolis are what is needed for you to simply listen to your own constituents?
And what is going to what is it going to take for actual change to occur? I spent most of my life in a different state, excuse me, in total I spent about five years in Bellingham and yet in that relatively short amount of time by speaking with friends and other members of the community I’ve been able to recognize the troubled and very very racist history of Bellingham and the larger Whatcom County and I didn’t have to conduct a listening session.
Now more broadly on the issue of de-funding and abolishing the police I think that there’s a common misconception that de-funding or abolishing the police means that we’ll live in a state of lawlessness and there will be no one to call when bad things inevitably happen. And that’s a lie. Through decades of propaganda and indoctrination the idea that the police are the good guys that put the bad guys behind bars has been frankly shoved down our throats. We’ve been conditioned to call the police for nearly every possible issue and under the naive assumption that they’re going to be acting benevolently. In reality the police and the idea of policing in general has a deeply racist and elitist history of but not limited to forcing native peoples off their lands, suppressing labor movements, and perpetuating the mass incarceration of largely African-American men. And this is not to say that there aren’t good people with good intentions behind those uniforms, but rather that the system that this is the police vow to uphold is antithetical to the needs of the people. And those good cops either reluctantly continue to uphold that system or they’re forced out or they quit. And believe it or not there are alternatives to sending people with guns to solve issues that don’t require guns. Even better you can prevent such issues from arising in the first place and keep people out of the criminal legal system. But to get to that point we need a massive reallocation of funds towards programs that genuinely meet the needs of the people such as housing and other social services, restorative justice, and the reduction in eventual abolition of the police as a punitive method of controlling citizens. Millions of dollars being spent on funding the arrests of drug-related crimes in the homeless means that millions of dollars are not being spent on non-coercive non-punitive solutions to these issues. To quote Alex Vitale, author of “The End of Policing”, “Everyone wants to live in safe communities. But when individuals and communities look to their police to solve their problems they’re in essence mobilizing the machinery of their own oppression.”
And I like to finish by seriously stressing that I’m by no means the authority on this issue. I grew up privileged enough to make it to this point in my life by passing through the path of least resistance to say the least. My frustrations are of a vastly different nature than the people of color and other marginalized citizens who have been fighting this rigged system for generations. And just because I have certain privileges that have allowed me to speak at this meeting tonight doesn’t mean that I speak for those who feel firsthand the violence of our unjust system. I just simply hope that by speaking I have aided rather than co-opted their struggle. Thank you.
Thank you so much Aiden. Rosalinda can you join us now by un-muting yourself and sharing your video again. Welcome.
69:04 [Rosalinda Guillen]
Good evening everybody. I’m thankful for the opportunity to bring my voice to this space tonight. I want to say that I’m also thankful for all of this courageous folks across the country from Black Lives Matter that have actually sacrificed a lot to get us to this point. It hasn’t been for all of the people acrossthe country all the Black people that stood up for themselves and have demanded this space for themselves we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
I want to say that as a farm worker and a Mexican-American growing up in the United States it’s always been really clear to us what the system holds for us and where the place is intended where our place is intended to be kept. So I want to try to be as brief as I can there’s a lot to be said three and a half minutes of course is not enough. However we have logged in hours with the county council and the city council our community has logged in hours testifying about the problems with law enforcement and both the countySheriff the Bellingham Police Department. The other local departments across the county racial profiling and the unfair treatment and the violence against brown farm workers in Whatcom County. So let me just say that this is a militarized county. Whatcom county is a militarized county that sits on the northern border closeto Canada. So we have the County Sheriff we have police departments of all of the small towns across the county we also haveICE, we have Department of Homeland Security. I know that we have the federal government has Blackhawk helicopters here there are numerous federal agencies the task force on photos of the guns and task force and drug runners you know that they go after. So this is a very highly militarized county. And we as people of color recognize that and have to live with that.
The other thing is that as a county Whatcom County is a as an agricultural county. This county survives and counts on their economic survival from agriculture. And so farm workers are the labor forfrom this this economy. Also across the state 40% plus of the infected sick people of Covid-19 are coming from 13% of the Latino population. So you know there’s like 13% of the Washington State population is Latinx and over 40 percent of the infected numbers right now are coming from that community. My community most of it my community as a farm worker because Washington State also is an agricultural economy. We have as a result our community is suffering disproportionate impacts from Covid-19 and we are living in a very critical time. I’d like to talk to you about the crisis that needs to be dealt with right now. Again that wouldn’t be dealt with if it wasn’t for Black Lives Matter and their insistence on the demilitarization, the de-funding and the abolishment of the police departments at the police state that has specifically targeted them and then us also. So we insist that that your governance, those of you that are ingovernance take a deep fundamental look at how you interact with all of the law enforcement in Whatcom County.
Let me just say that there is the moment of crisis we have to deal with. With the pandemic. With the testing and the medical needs that my community the farmer community is going to need which is not even being addressed in a serious manner by the agricultural industry statewide nor in the Whatcom County. Rhis is a public health issue. We don’t really have a public health department right now in Whatcom County. The public health department right now is impotent to help my community in this pandemic of Covid-19. I demand and our community demands that you re-establish a public health department that really helps our community. You must stop the practice of having the county council be the county health board. We need real medical professionals dealing with public health so we don’t have to go through this again in another pandemic.
We are asking that you stop allowing law enforcement to be part of governance. Whether it that is included in the policies, in the charter or whatever governmental documents that exist for the county and the cities, you are allowing the police and the law enforcement agencies to be part of the governance process and the decision-making process that affect my people. And we have seen this very very clearly in the city council meetings and the county council meetings where we have tried to address the police, the law enforcement participation with ICE, with homeland security and others and we have heard from all of you that the Bellingham police department is the best police department in the world. So if you don’t recognize that there is a problem with the militarization of local law enforcement then we cannot fix the problem. And there are ways to fix it that will be better for the community and you havethe power to do it if you work with us to make it happen. It is possible, we know it is and we must take this moment to make it happen.
I’d also like to say that post this pandemic in this moment of making this attempt to change the governance structures that leave out the the law enforcement and creates instead the type of community policing that is at the service of the community and at the service of governance and not in as part of governance. There has to be a way to do that and I know that we can do it if we focus in on it. There will be the economic recovery that’s needed. Many have already spoken about that the fact that there’s going to be evictions. so we have to consider whatever actions we take the economic recovery of the county, the businesses, the agricultural industry but also of the workers in the community that need this support from the economic recovery. In this post-pandemic that also includes changes in our government governance structure so we don’t have to be here again. I’ve gone way over I thank you for listening to me and to the voice that I bring from farm workers and some of the Latino community in Whatcom County. Thank you.
Thank you so much Rosalinda. Damani… I think you’re muted Damani are you able to un-mute yourself?
76:40 [Vernon Johnson]
Can you hear me now there we go all right we’re all set thank you. Well that was an early demonstration of my technological weaknesses and it’s kind of funny because I wasn’t necessarily… In the format that we’re using tonight. I didn’t think there was any particular need for me to speak. But I was a little confused about how I was going to go, like in terms of whether in fact there might be some give and take going on. So I ended up putting myself in the speakers list but I’ve been more preoccupied in recent weeks with the movement on the ground and making sure that opportunities for us to come together in the way that we have tonight would actually come to fruition. And I’m happy to see that they have and I salute both county executives, Sidhu and Mayor Fleetwood for making it possible for us to begin this conversation. I think we all know that we’re the historic moment in both local and American history when we have the chance to address some of these long-standing century-long issues of systemic racism and class issues and marginalization of all kinds of populations in this country historically. But you know I also I’m a part of a kind of a you know look I’ve lived in Bellingham for 35 years I’m a full professor at Western Washington University. So I’m also a part of the elite in a certain way and so I feel no need to take up any more of the time from voices that really need to be heard more but since I managed to get into the queue I thought I would just say that. Thank you both for allowing this time and again this is just the beginning, right, of an opportunity that will be long-term and hopefully bring us to some results that we can all live with in the future going forward. But thank you so much I give up the rest of my time. Thank you.
Thank you. Janice can you share with me the next three people that we have?
Yes. Yes we have Forest, Skip Williams and Thomas Anderson.
Okay. So Forest if you would like to speak can you un-mute yourself at this point in time and share your video if you’d like. While we’re waiting I’ll just take this moment to thank our ASL interpreters for your presence and assistance this evening. So I don’t see Forest but I do see Skip. So Skip we will shift to you if you could un-mute yourself please. Welcome.
79:48 [Skip Williams]
Just did. So I’m on this and I plan to be on all of the others because as I see things unfolding in here in Bellingham, I become very very frustrated that I don’t hear any specificity as to how I how things are happening here. And what I mean by that is how the media and how the the newspapers whatever are presenting this. So I’m jumping on this because I’ve lived in Bellingham since 1989 and I’m a very very dedicated citizen of this city and I want to be part of the solution to making things right here because I think the potential of doing that is very very high. Hello can you hear me? And don’t oh oh okay. So I’m mostly here to listen to various folks talk about the issues that are impacting Bellingham and Whatcom County, and to see where there’s a path to a solution. And so I really don’t have anything to add to this conversation other than that. But other than to say I plan on being on all of these listening sessions and listening to what folks have to say. And hopefully make some contribution at some point to being partof the solution to this. So that’s why I’m here, and that’s all I have to say. So.
Thank you so much Skip. Thank you. So you may hide your video and mute yourself at this moment and I saw
Tom a moment ago if he would like to speak and wants to join us he can share his video and un-mute himself. Welcome Tom. Do we have your video… your audio? Can’t hear you very well at the moment. I think your your audio is not working properly. No we’re not able to. Let’s do this Tom. Can you, let’s give you a couple minutes to try to work on that and we’ll bring it looks like we have Forest back in the room and we’ll work on bringing you back in Tom. Forest if you’d like to speak you can un-mute yourself and join us by video if you’d like and I’ll just wait a moment to see if you are going to join us Forest. Okay so let’s see if we can come back then we’ll give one more try to Tom and then we’ll look for the next three folks in the queue. So tom if you’d like to try one more time un-muting yourself and sharing your video and I’ll let you know if we can hear you properly. No I don’t think so I’m gonna ask that I hope that you’re able to join us on another evening and you also are able to submit written comments if you’d like following the session so we will provide some information about that. I’m sorry Tom. Thank you Janice can you share with me who the next three people are in the queue?
Yes. I have Julie Maurman, Madeline and Nick.
Thank you. So Julie if you would like to speak could you un-mute yourselfand share your video if you’d like.
84:26 [Julie Mauerman]
Hi this is Julie and I only need to un-mute myself to say I probably didn’t understand the directions. I signed in just to be a listener tonight so thank you all for for being here and for making this happen.
Thank you so much Julie. So next in let’s see I just see a message we have Madeline is yielding so Nick are you interested in speaking this evening and if so you can un-mute yourself and
And nick left as well so let me find the next ones. Just a moment.
And thank you all for bearing with us as we’re navigating this um new to us process of registration and identifying who’s interested in speaking. It’s it’s clunky to say the least but you’re doing a great job Janice. Thank you for your help.
Thank you. So we’re going to try Kim, Charlotte and Petra. Nope. Kim and Charlotte have left as well. Petra. Roberta. And Elizabeth.
Okay so Petra would you if you would like to speak you may un-mute yourself and join us with video. And I’ll wait a moment to see if you would like to speak. And that’s Petra. Okay so I think we will shift to Roberta if you would like to speak you may un-mute yourself.
And I think she’s left now too. We’re… people are kind of coming and going so our apologies. Okay how about Beth and Michael and Sharon?
Okay. So Beth are you interested in speaking this evening? If so you can un-mute yourself and join us. Okay and what we have right now for folks who are watching is just a combination of people who’ve joined us on Zoom who we’re simply interested in listening and some of those folks want to speak and it’s hard for us to tell the difference. So we are making our way through the list and we appreciate your patience. Michael are you interested in speaking? If so you can un-mute yourself and share your video.
And I also see Petra and Beth in the room now Moonwater.
Okay. So let’s try again with Petra. Are you interested in speaking? If so you can un-mute yourself. And if everyone remembers in the beginning of the meeting I said there might be a few awkward moments I’m going to admit this is one as your moderator as we’re just juggling through this so thank you for your patience. And Elizabeth have you rejoined us if you’d like to speak you can have the form.
And I see Tim Costello in in the in the list as well if he’s ready.
Okay. And Janice can I just come back to you after Michael you she was it Sharon did you say
that name or did I make a mistake in my…
I said that name but she has subsequently signed off
Okay so Tim are you interested in joining us and do you have something to share tonight if so you can un-mute yourself? Okay so we’re going to name a few more names and it’s perfectly fine if you just sign on to listen just bear with us we’d like to try to find the folks who want to speak I’m wondering if they are all attendees for people who still want to speakwe could try the raise hand function in Zoom now to visually cue our tech team if you would like to speak at the bottom of your screen there should be an icon that says raise hand we could try that you could press that and we will try to make our way to you. In the meantime Janice do you have additional names for me
I think I do. How about Melissa Gragg. And we’re now starting to work through some of the folks who had yielded their time so it may take them a moment to be prepared.
Okay and if there are additional folks who are watching on YouTube or BTV and you do have something to say and you’d like to join at this point it’s certainly not too late. You can go to www.cob.org/listeningseries and register and your name will show up and we still have some time to be able to hear from folks this evening and I think I just saw Melissa’s video. Melissa we are ready to listen if you would like to speak this evening.
90:10 [Melissa Gragg]
All right can everybody hear me?
90:xx [Melissa Gragg]
All right. Thank you. All right so my name is Melissa Gragg. I’m basically here on behalf of domestic violence victims of Whatcom County because we’ve been so abused mistreated and mishandled at every single step that there’s pages,pages of people coming to me for help because we’ve been abused by the police, we’ve been abused by the sheriff, we’ve been abused by the prosecuting attorney’s office. And we are being arrested at insane rates and this has been going on since 2006. You guys keep doing domestic violence commissions where you talk about it and same thing’s happening: nothing changes. In fact the DV commission when they asked me about my situation straight told me that they had no power and they were just collecting data on how our lives have been destroyed. I actually talked to officer Dahl and what he kept coming at me with was how do we do this how do we do this how do we do this? And Kristina very lovingly pointed out all the labor at which we are doing for free her at an exorbitant rate by the way um with that bloated police budgetthey’re asking her to be a liaison without payment and that’s just goes to show you how much our country can’t survive without free Black labor. It’s disgusting. So um if it wasn’t for the BLM movement you people wouldn’t even be listening to me right now I would still be living in a gutter. I can’t get any help from DVSAS the community opportunity council I’ve been to literally everyone you could ask me any one of our lovely facilities and I haven’t had help. I’ve been argued with and screamed at by just about every officer on the force except for Claudia Murphy, but what that brought up was not only when I was arrested for defending myself against my own rapist,which by the way your prosecuting attorney’s office is still going after me for, but has yet to address my rape report from nine months ago. But they’re still holding me to an assault 4 charge against my own rapist and the woman who covered for my pedophile husband. They let my pedophile husband live next door to the Bellingham high school four times within walking distance. 486 feet to the point where my daughter had to drop out before Covid in their senior year because her literal abuser was next door. Sergeant Fountain was nice enough to call up my daughter after I talked to her and sheused my own abuse against me. Called up my daughter of her own accord and screamed at her and called her a liar and told her she was making things up.
So yeah five minutes is not adequate in any in any line of of reasoning for any of this. I have pages and pages of notes. So all of this like we just need to talk it out… I’ve got notes for you guys you guys I’ve got plenty of stuff for you guys to do that doesn’t cost a dollar. I went to jail in Bellingham in Whatcom County. Spent a weekend in there. 80% of the people in there were not White, in a 90% White county. That’s an issue. The fact that there was 13 or so women in there with me and all but three of us were in there on drug charges. Not okay. The fact that we have a million different supposed places for domesticviolence victims to get help and I’m sitting here a year and a half in and nobody’s helped me and I’m still married to that man and I can’t get any services. And I’m still living with my friends in a bedroom with my teenage son… Well about to be teen-aged. Unacceptable. And this is not even remotely the first or only time that these things happen. I again have pages, I have… …violently raped and the police want herto do her own finding of all the women that he’s raped over the millions of years. He’s got a record and they want her to go and drum up all these women. I’ve got… She’s the kid with the kid in the bathroom. Kid reported the school for abuse andthey crammed him in a bathroom. And there’s a dozen or so kids on that lawsuit and that dude’s still working there. Her dad got… supposed to get 11 years for raping her. He got off six months with therapy and now he’s in our newspapers again for raping another person. Like there’s pages and pages. Like all that I can think of that you that they do when it comes to sexual abuse and sexual assault is allow the abusers to continue to abuse us and not do anything to help or protect us. And all I’ve gotten from every person I’ve talked to is the police blame the prosecutor the prosecutor blames the police or thepolice go oh that’s sheriff’s office and the sheriff’s office goes oh you got to talk to the prosecutor. Nobody will take responsibility and you’ve got a really great system of passing the buck so that while my life continues to be ruined and I can’t get any help and these people continue to attack me and harass me and not even a restraining order helps. All I get is a bunch of people who when I get upset and angry because I’m not getting any help…
Look at me I’m obviously a violent crazy woman right? It’s not the fact that my husband molested my child and is nowfree in Bellingham less than a year later and I’m still stuck in the court system. No it’s just because I have tattoos and I’m angry all of these things are so far inappropriate that I can’t even begin in three to five minutes to explain all the things. And these are not new and these are not things you need to be sitting and listening to. These are things you need to be out there helping us fix. We are dying. Dying. There are women on the streets with drug addictions that are all linked to abuse and cases in this town that we’re not handled properly this is trauma and damage that you people are inflicting repeatedly on us and we can’t take it anymore. And we are dying I am in therapy I am permanently disabledand I have severe PTSD just from the weekend I spent being abused by your police when I was having an actual mental breakdown and they should have taken me to the hospital. I found out that day that my husband was molesting my childand half the child in Bellingham and they threw me in jail while I was having a mental breakdown. And the police mocked me I cried and screamed please please please help me save me from that man. I had no idea where he was. He ran off they said my family’s not safe and you know what those cops did? They said that doesn’t concern us ma’am we just follow the law.
Melissa I appreciate you showing up tonight and sharing your story thank you very much for your time.
97:18 [Melissa Gragg]
Yep. So I hope that future we have a lot more action than just listening because the listening part’s way passed over at this point we’re all dying and I think we’ve made that abundantly clear tonight. So thank you to the BLM movement again none of us could do this without them and yet again more free black labor for us white privileged people. And that’s sad and disgusting but I’m glad that they’re here for it so thank you for listening and I really really hope that you guys take this stuff to heart because we’re dying out here for real. Thank you.
Thank you Melissa.
Moonwater your microphone’s off.
I knew i was going to do that at least once this evening.
So we have Dena Jensen, Terry Hall and Mary Macintosh
Okay so Dena if you can un-mute yourself if you’d like to speak
98:24 [Dena Jensen]
Hi I had raised my hand earlier to yield my time so I’ll just say thank you to everyone and it’s been a pleasure listening to everyone. Thank you.
Thank you. And I believe Terry is also yielding their time. Was it Mary next?
98:xx [Mary Macintosh]
Hi. I would just like to kind of go up on what other people are saying. There are so many ways that money could be used differently right now to help people of color. The people of color that are in the street. It’s a soup. It’s significantly disproportionate number of people of color are on the street and we’re not there is no plan to help them. When the rents come due and the moratorium on rent is over who is going to help… What is it the plan to help all the people that will be homeless? There’s no plan in place. That needs to be considered. That needs to be taken into consideration.
Also de-funding the police and reallocating that money to mental health issues would help the woman that spoke before me. Would help so many people remain out of jail, remain out of our court system and would actually provide benefit to the people of our community rather than just locking them up and then releasing them later with no benefit and only charges and expenses to follow them around. I just think that there’s so much better we can do both with our homeless people, with all people that need the services of the police.
The biggest thing that that is currently a case is right now is are the sweeps that are happening for the cleanups. Those, taking that money that would spend use it doing that right now during the pandemic when they shouldn’t be moved and reallocating that money into tiny homes. Not just tent encampments but tent encampments are turned into tiny homesfor the Winter so that they can sustain the Winter would be a permanent semi-permanent situation that would really get people off the street and save a lot of lives this Winter.
That’s it. Thank you.
Thank you Mary. We are coming close to the close of our time this evening so I think depending on the length we may have time for just a few more speakers. Janice do we have anyone else who is in the queue?
I have three. Brel, Joy and Alexander and I believe they are in the room.
Okay so Brel, if you are interested in speaking you can un-mute yourself and share your video if you’d like. Welcome.
101:29 [Brel Froebe]
Thank you. Good evening. My name is Brel Froebe. I’m a resident of the Birchwood neighborhood and a restorative justice facilitator and youth empowerment educator. I’m also a member of a coalition to de-fund the police in Whatcom County. The coalition calls for at least a 50% cut to Bellingham Police Department for funding
for the 20 21 22 budget and a reallocation of those funds towards community-led health and safety systems as well as other programs for community well-being. There seems to be a perception among some of you that the BPD is not part of the problem when it comes to racial violence in Whatcom County. Yet data tells a different story. [unintelligible] of Bellingham residents are Black while 9.43% of use of force incidents were against them. Native American people make up 1.3% of residents and 10.99% of use of force incidents. If you are for real about dismantling war you will de-fund the police and the sheriff department. BPD receives more funding in the parks and recreation emergency medical services libraries and low-income housing housing funds combined. By chief Dahl’s own admission in an online community forum last monththe police department isn’t the appropriate entity to be the first responders for many for many community crises including mental health substance abuse and domestic violence and sexual assault crises. In a time of economic scarcity it is essential that you take some of the bloated BPD budget to fund the following programs: Substance abuse evidence-based inpatient treatment services, mental health mobile response services similar to the CAHOOTS program in Eugene, stable housing for people experiencing homelessness, cultural spaces for Black and Indigenous people, and community youth centers, community-led restorative justice programs housing for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors, and workers co-ops and land trust. The expansion and creation of these programs respond to the root problems that cause community crises. The racist prison industrial complex for which the police serve as first responders is not a healthy or just way to deal with our community problems. I urge you to be on the right side of history and join the national Black Lives Matter movement in de-funding the police.
As Keith said in the beginning of the call, actions speak louder than words. Please listen to the wisdom given to you in these listening sessions. Otherwise this will have been a total waste of time. For community members who are interested in joining the campaign to de-fund the Bellingham Police Department please visit defundbpd.org for action steps and ways to get involved. I’ll see you in the streets. Thank you for listening to my words.
Thank you Brel. And let’s see Joy if you would like to speak this evening you can un-mute yourself and share your video if you’d like. Welcome Joy.
104:44 [Joy Gilfilen]
I thank you Moonwater and thank you Satpal and Seth and the others who are listening and to the ASL interpreter who I have no idea what your name is. My name is Joy Gilfilen and I am president of the Restorative Community Coalition and I’m not here tonight tospeak on behalf of the coalition although I could do it for hours. O’mm here to speak as a citizen of Whatcom County who has been studying for 10 years deeply the multi-layers of structural failure that we have in our social civic and economic and justice systems.
I started out not interested at all in the prison industrial complex and had no interest. My professional background is in career development leadership coaching free enterprise development. And the only reason I got involved in the justice system is because I ended up unexpectedly thinking I was going to pitch a leadership sales training course to a re-entry group that I thought had to do with middle-class people who were… I was invited by a head-hunter an executive headhunter to come present and talk to them about a product that I was selling. And when I got there I found out that it was a re-entry meeting on the prison industrial complex. And I was stunned to find out that Whatcom County had our entire social economic and civic systems has basically been co-opted by the mass incarceration industry movement. It’s a contrarian economic system that is actually driving most of our economy and even the people who are working inside the system don’t see it. And the reason they don’t see it is because they’re too close to it. We are siloed. We have systemic structural, and I’m not going to call it racism, I’m going to call it discrimination.
We are primarily a White community and it has taken me 10 years to go layer by layer by layer underneath the problem to find it. But what happens is I happen to be a White female. I happen to be representing a criminal justice group, the most underprivileged polarized demeaned discriminated against people there are. Every person who gets arrested you lose your economy you lose your home you lose your background you lose your network you go into poverty you end up with mental illness problems and it’s taken me years to to figure all this out. At the bottom end of the system we have as a county spent over the last 10 years three million dollars hiring jail building contractors to build a jail system. We just recently hired another jail building contractor who’s acting as if they’re going to be dealing with mental health and social justice issues. But they’re not there has been no money effectively put into solving the social justice issues that we have. The re-entry issues, the mental health issues. Instead over the last 30 to 40 years we have actually eroded the dual diagnosis. The addiction industries and things. Moonwater you’ve gotten some of you’ve gotten some work in doing some restorative justice work. But you know what every single time the restorative community coalition, and I guess I will speak to this for a minute…
We have tried to bring solutions to the county council repeatedly we delivered entire programs to the environmental impact statement process for the jail industry. Everything that we have brought forward has been dismissed and not listened to. And I at first I thought it was because I was a woman. And then I thought well it’s because we’re talking about criminals. Then I thought wow it’s because of this or that. It’s taken 10 years to dig all the way down and eventually I ran for sheriff of Whatcom County on purpose to force the conversation to the public domain.
Do you know what I ran for County Executive the city club did not host a debate on a county executive race. When the jail injustice system and the jail initiatives came forward the restorative community coalition the the organization that I represent and work with who has been pushing and fighting back the most aggressively on the jail industrial complex problem. We were not allowed to debate at the city club. We were not allowed to debate at any of the official debates having to do with this subject. We’re allowed three minutes at public meetings and that’s it. When we were not allowed to… god when I ran for sheriff I wasn’t allowed to debate. It’s fascinating, the structural racism which is not racism in Whatcom County, we’re mostly White. But the structural obstruction of listening to people who have an opinion that is different than the establishment is pandemic. I’m calling it rankism. It’s anybody who ranks higher than the other one. Because you know what I’m not seen as being prejudiced against I’m not discriminated against because I’m a White female. Well I’m sorry you know what I’m not allowed to speak at a lot of the the groups because I’m a White female. I’m supposed to just listen. And yet you know who I’m representing the very criminals the very people who are absolutely tearing our economy apart. And the reason they’re tearing our economy apart is because they end up in poverty, they end up without jobs, they end up with mental illness. When I did this I finally went and did this study 57 or 79 people I studied in Whatcom County to find out why the criminal justice system didn’t work. The Vera Institute couldn’t do it. The Whatcom County council wouldn’t study it. The incarceration prevention reduction task force would not do it. And you know what I found out from actually talking to the inmates was I found out how we create mental illness with the way we do law and justice in Whatcom County. And you know what this is? A massive economic development system that is contrarian. And you know what folks it’s not your fault. It’s not my fault. We are a generation that has inherited an ancestral behavior pattern.
For hundreds of years. The Lummi Nation people are afraid. It’s only been after 10 years of trying to talk to them that I finally found a woman who was willing to honestly talk to me about the racism problems that she’s faced in Whatcom County over the past 50 years.
Joy. Please forgive me for for intervening. We’re coming to the close of our broadcasting time and I believe there’s one more speaker.
111:48 [Goyy Gilfilen]
Can I finish one sentence please? The bottom line is we have a contrarian economy that is driving our entire system and you guys are not at fault but it is our legacy we are the baby boomers and 47.5% of the middle the millennial generation who are ages 18 to 34 they just did a study on them in June. 47.5% of that generation is feeling anxiety and depression right now because of all the crisis. We’ve got we got a problem we need to fix it we’re the grown-ups and I’m do anything I can to help you. Thank you.
Thank you so much Joy. We have one final speaker in the queue if they would still like to join us. I believe it’s Alexander if you can un-mute yourself I can see younow. You’ll be our final speaker for the evening and then we’ll close the session.
112:47 [Alexander Heaton]
Greetings. Thank you Moonwater. Thank you for giving me the floor. Well we’ve heard many many things tonight. It’s rather difficult to synthesize what I’d like to say being the last speaker. But I’d like to point out that what we’re dealing with here is intersectional and given what we’ve heard so far this evening it’s very apparent that the plethora of issues that we face given what we’re seeing on the ground and from the movement are very serious issues and that the demands that are being called for by the movement must be adhered to and that they are not ridiculous or radical demands. These demands are to uplift and and empower our communities. And so I’d like to begin with a couple statements directly to the Mayor of Bellingham.
Mayor Seth Fleetwood you began this meeting by stating a claim that you and the rest of the elected officials are committed to community and are committed to taking action to solve these issues and respond to what the movement is calling for. I also heard you say that that commitment looks like listening. And so I question what your commitment actually is and a couple other speakers have questioned it as well. And I’d like to point out that two ethical principles that we must adhere to as we attempt to solve these problems are truthfulness and non-violence. And part of non-violence is listening. Well the marginalized have been asking the dominant culture and the status quo to not only listen but to act for many many years. And you know I’m not just talking 10 12, I’m talking decades yeah centuries they’ve been asking you to listen. And now you’re committed to listening. So what that means to me is that you and the rest of the elected officials who are just now beginning to listen have been actively practicing violence for all those years. And that’s quite clear in what everyone else has spoken about. I’ve heard people speak about the lack of after-school programs for youth. I’ve heard people speak about domestic violence. I’ve heard people speak about so many forms of what the institution of policing in America does to our communities and how it hurts them and how it perpetuates violence against them. And yet here we are with just a passive step in solving these issues which is listening.
And I’d like to honor that while I have much to say about this we are close to close and I would like to highlight something very important that has come to my attention. One is that again Mayor Seth Fleetwood has said that he is committed to solving these issues. Well we let it be known that the De-fund Bellingham Police department committee has delivered seven demands the first being to de-fund our police department by fifty% to Mayor Seth Fleetwood and the only commitment we’re getting is to listen. So I question the integrity of the claim that we’ve heard about commitment.
The second thing I’d like to highlight is that an activist that I spoke with today who would like to remain anonymous informed me that the Bellingham Police Department has applied for assistance from the Department of Homeland Security. And Rosalinda spoke earlier highlighting and making it known that Whatcom County is an extremely militarized county. Now our liberal our liberal community and our liberal elected officials yeah will tell us time and time again that the what can that the Bellingham police department isn’t part of the problem. Yet here we’re seeing them request an increase in militarization from the Department of Homeland Security. And I find that interesting because it’s not like they’re not already militarized. Let’s not forget that in 2011 the Bellingham police department violently evicted the protesters from the occupy wall the occupy Bellingham movement. Now let’s not forget that there was nothing peaceful or non-violent about the cops showing up in riot gear to evict the peaceful protesters who were exercising their first amendment rights in downtown Bellingham. The Bellingham Police Department is indeed complicit in the problem of state-sanctioned violence.
So my question for you Mayor Seth Fleetwood is will you follow in the violent steps of Mayor Dan Pike or will you stand with democracy. Will you stand with freedom and will you stand with liberation. We’re at time so I will yield my time however i would like I don’t know how many people are on this call but I would like to make it well known to our community what the Bellingham police department has requested from the department of homeland As a constituent and as a community member in Bellingham i am outraged and appalled that that is going on and that that hasn’t been addressed and at the lack of transparency. And given what we’re seeing in larger cities in the United States each and every citizen including our elected officials should also be alarmed at what we’re seeing. Thank you.
Thank you Alexander for your time and words this evening. That does bring to a close the speaking community speaking portion of our session tonight. I would like to just as moderator just acknowledge and appreciate everyone who is listening in on YouTube and BTV and who joined us this evening to share their words and experiences and perspectives. I will just remind folks that there is another session that is currently scheduled for August 10th from 6 to 8 pm. And I will share some additional information at the very end. But I’m going to create some space now to hear from Mayor Fleetwood and Executive Sidhu and potentially the WWU President. So mayor Fleetwood may I turn it over to you to help us close the evening?
119:47 [Mayor Seth Fleetwood]
Certainly. Thank you. I would just thank all of the the participants and the people that have tuned in and listened. I took a lot of notes. There were a variety of questions that were asked throughout the course of the evening and I will respond to them. And I believe that I will give some consideration to how we respond. Certainly I will respond if we’ve got the emails to the particular individuals that asked. That we’ll put together a variety of answers. I look forward to continuing to work with stakeholders and community partners. I know that we’re going to convene a meeting before the next series and have a conversation about what we observed and how we want to proceed and whether we want to change things up. I know that we are all earnestly sincerely committed to making effective change and participating tonight.
Thank you Mayor Fleetwood. Executive Sidhu.
121:10 [County Executive Sidhu]
Hi. Good evening everybody. And I also… can you hear me? I also appreciate people coming out and having the patience to and listen to all the comments and things and I’ve been making notes as well. One of the observation I want to share is that this establishment of systemic racism sustainable systemic inequalities have taken decades to creep into our system of governance. This has not happened that just one Administration or two administrations came and and made these changes. Actually the curve has been that where we started from and where we are going is in positive direction. It is happening soon enough? No. But at the same time and I bring it up that I am a first generation immigrant, person of color, came to this community 30 years ago. And our county, whole county, not only Bellingham, gave me this opportunity as a County Executive. This is a change this is not a change for me as a person. This is a change for our community overall that this has been possible. Now I just want to assure that Mayor Seth or mayor of any city, not Bellingham, or a county executive of any county of our size, no matter how much efforts or powers we we use they are still not enough to bring the change with the quickness. I expect myself and I think my fellow residents expect themselves. I would like to bring that change much more quickly. But I think that that we… I promise that i will strive as best possible course of action we can do and take. This is not something that we can dismantle and reconstitute a governance system in one two or in one term of any executive or any sheriff or any any other police department. But it doesn’t mean that that commitment is not there. It doesn’t mean that we, that I do not want to try. Yes, we are learning. Been on the job for less than six months. Not that is an excuse but that is just learning the system itself is is the first lesson before you start saying i want to make the change. And there are councils there are unions there is a state there’s state supreme court all these things. These are not excuses these are the realities on the ground. That any one person or one organization or one group want to take up and and bring that change. But i think that the commitment I make is that we will strive to make this as a welcoming and respectable place for everybody like I said that we start. Thank you Moonwater. You’re such a calm personality I think it is very very refreshing and and a lesson to learn. I think that we appreciate everybody else who who stuck around to listen through this thing. Thank you very much.
Thank you executive Sidhu. President Randhawa did you want to share any closing remarks?
125:xx [President Randhawa]
Thank you Moonwater. First of all thanks for your for your facilitating this this conversation. You know it takes a lot of courage for people to come out and share their stories particularly in public. So I’m sincerely appreciative for for those who who took the time to to do so. You know as I reflect a little bit and certainly as as the Mayor and County Exec said we have time to do some thinking. You know there’s certainly some common themes that emerge from the two-hour conversation you know themes around homelessness youth education economic recovery public health crisis domestic violence certainly the relationship of the law enforcement with the community. So I think there are some some major opportunities for us collectively to see how we can make progress and some of these issues going forward. Thank you very much for for everyone who took the time to share their their stories and their suggestions and thank you again very much for facilitating the session.
Thank you all for your comments and in closing this evening I will just say again I appreciate people’s participation. While much was shared tonight there was much that we didn’t hear and for folks who would like to share feedback and suggestions about how future sessions can better support more engagement and participation and safety and comfort for our community members please share your feedback and suggestions to the email addresses that will be listed on the slide that we will show in closing to contact your elected and appointed officials and to continue communicating with one another and working together in this community that we have here in Whatcom County. Thank you all for joining us this evening and good night.