I’m the only candidate for Mayor who considers these demographic shifts when proposing solutions. United States Census Bureau states in an article, “The 2030s are projected to be a transformative decade for the U.S. population. The population is expected to grow at a slower pace, age considerably and become more racially and ethnically diverse.” These demographic pressures can be substantially offset if we undertake profound changes in working arrangements, lifestyles, business practices, and government policies.
When the new mayor takes office, she will need to hit the ground running by starting the process of updating our City’s guiding document, the Comprehensive Plan. In the past, we have predicted the population we need to accommodate based on past data. Going forward, we must consider the effects of climate change and demographic shifts in determining how much future growth we will need to accommodate. We have to get this right!
- Housing for seniors- Housing and land use will need to encourage more senior housing options throughout our city. As our senior neighbors age, if they are unable to age in place, we need housing and care options that will allow them to stay in the community they call home.
- Housing for workers- Employees will be at an advantage in the labor market, able to demand what they need to be successful. We are already seeing this. Without affordable housing the mountains and the oceans will no longer be enough to get working folks to commit to Bellingham. We need workforce housing that is affordable, attractive and close to our city center in order to be competitive in the labor market. This will be an economic imperative.
- Care for Children and Seniors- As the population ages, our labor force will narrow. We are seeing the effects of this now as lower wage jobs become increasingly difficult to fill. We currently do not consider our child and senior caregivers as skilled workers, and we pay them very low wages. This needs to change so we can retain the caregiving workforce needed. Caregiving shortages cause immense pressures on families causing them to leave the workforce to care for their loved ones, young and old. We need all people working, which means we need to invest in the child and adult care workers to care for our youngest and oldest.
- Racial Diversity- Our community is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse; no one race will be a majority in the next generation of labor. We have structural and institutional practices and policies in place that unfairly affect communities of color. It’s an economic and justice imperative that we correct our systems and structures to eliminate racial disparities and unlock the amazing potential of our future labor force and economy.
- Gender Identity/Expression and Sexual Orientation- Many of our practices and infrastructure were not developed to consider folks who are not cisgender and/or heterosexual. Violence and discrimination continue to create barriers to equity and opportunity for our LGBTQIA+ neighbors. Queer youth are overrepresented in youth homelessness. We must commit to nondiscrimination policies that provide explicit protections for queer folks in housing, employment, and public accommodations.
Getting things done.
April has worked with stakeholders in transforming systems and structures to reflect the communities they serve.
- Whatcom and Bellingham League of Women Voters- April worked with the Women’s Economic Security Committee to explore issues of race: Recognizing that a healthy democracy requires racial equity, the committee evolved their focus and is now the Racial Equity/Healthy Democracy Committee.
- The Birchwood Elementary PTA evolution- With April’s leadership an intersectional group of family members collaborated to develop a new, responsive committee structure that better fits the schools demographics. Partnering with the Principal and Bellingham Schools Foundation they created the Friends of Birchwood/Amigos de Birchwood. The school has since developed a stronger sense of community under the leadership of this intersectional group of families.
- The Opportunity Council Board- April worked with other Board members to develop and give direction to the Executive Director that their staff should reflect those they serve. Folks who have experienced the issues and problems we are working to solve are the ones most able to develop lasting solutions.
- Whatcom Health Department- April has worked for two years with the department’s Generations Forward Initiative to improve the lives of families with young children. She has participated in multiple groups that are working to invest in early childhood development with affordable childcare and preschool access.
Sense of Belonging: When people feel that they belong and are connected to their community, we are all healthier and happier. This can only happen when underrepresented communities are part of the planning, development and implementation process.
- April has and will continue to build a pipeline of diverse talent and leadership to build cross cultural connections and create opportunities for appreciating our similarities and honoring our differences, such as the Birchwood International Market and the Birchwood and the Family Language Exchange (FLEX). April is committed to creating a sense of place and inclusion for all folks in Bellingham. She inspired the Rainbow Bridge over Squalicum Way, and she is working with queer youth and the adults who support them to prepare a resolution that will be presented to Council later this year.
- As your Mayor, April will partner with an intersectional group of community leaders, philanthropy, higher education, port, and the Small Business Center to fill the gaps in our infrastructure where underrepresented communities have identified needs.