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Whatcom County Democrats 2024-2025 Platform

Preamble 

 

The Whatcom Democrats defend and promote the rights, opportunities, health, and safety of all Whatcom County residents. We support a strong democracy from the workplace to the federal government, and a secure and peaceful world. We envision a county with economic prosperity for all, in both our rural and urban communities, with good union jobs.

Education, healthcare, housing, and food security are basic human rights. We support quality tuition-free public education, from pre-K through four-year college; expansion of permanently affordable housing; and a universal, single-payer healthcare system.

Because climate change presents an existential threat to the future of humanity, we must protect our air, water, and natural resources through renewable energy; locate affordable housing near public transportation and essential services; develop a sustainable local food system; promote walking, rolling, and cycling; and develop innovative technology to reduce our carbon footprint.

We honor, celebrate, and support a diverse Whatcom County, including the original inhabitants of this land, the Coast Salish peoples, immigrant communities, people of all abilities, people of color, veterans, women, children, seniors, and LGBTQI persons. We are committed to dismantling systems, practices, and policies that perpetuate all forms of discrimination, including systemic racism.

We believe in equality, liberty, and justice for all – including the right of a woman to choose her own future; the right to fair treatment in the criminal justice system; the right to death with dignity; the right to equal access for those with disabilities; the right to free speech; and the right to live without fear of hate crimes or gun violence.

 

Safeguarding Democracy

 

We value:
  • Free expression: First Amendment rights of peaceful assembly and the right of the media to report on such assembly without interference are at the heart of our democracy.

  • Full voting rights: Voter suppression, intimidation, misinformation, disinformation, and efforts to invalidate legitimately cast votes threaten and degrade our democracy.

  • Placing people first: The rights of human beings take precedence over those of corporations. The rights set forth in the Bill of Rights, Fourteenth Amendment, and Universal Declaration of Human Rights were intended for human beings, not corporations. Corporate money and influence corrupt our democracy.

  • Informed public: Our democracy depends on an informed public with access to accurate, verifiable information, including broadband internet and adequately funded public libraries.

  • Checks and balances: We need to ensure respect for the rule of law and equal justice, to require full observance of constitutional checks and balances on executive power, and to reform a Supreme Court that has become tainted by partisanship.

  • Majority rule: Gerrymandering, the Electoral College, voting rights restrictions, and the U.S. Senate minority veto (“filibuster”) rule undermine this key principle of democracy.

  • Transparency, accountability, and ethics:

    • All campaign contributions must be fully disclosed.

    • Unnecessary classification of government information denies the public its right to know.

    • Whistleblowers provide a public service and must be protected.

  • Public trust in government: We must ensure that the actions of state employees and officers are free from improper influence.

 

2024-25 Policy Priorities
 
Elections
  • State Legislature, Counties, Cities: Adopt Ranked Choice Voting for all elections. Charter counties and charter cities can switch to the voting method anytime they like,

  • Federal Government: Enact campaign finance reform and advance a comprehensive and meaningful system of public financing that would create a level playing field for every qualified candidate, not just those backed by corporate donors and wealthy individuals.

  • State Legislature, Whatcom County and Cities: Adopt public election funding, including “clean elections” funding or democracy vouchers, to increase accessibility for both candidates and voters.

  • Congress: Pass the For the People Act and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

  • Democratic National Committee: Repeal “superdelegate” system.

  • Congress, State Legislatures: Pass and ratify a constitutional amendment to eliminate the Electoral College in favor of presidential election by direct popular vote. In the meantime, join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, as Washington State has done.

  • Congress: Replace the Federal Election Commission with an independent, non-partisan agency (similar to Elections Canada) empowered to:

    • Enable all U.S. citizens to vote in federal elections, with automatic registration at age 18.

    • Map federal electoral districts free of gerrymandering.

    • Enforce electoral legislation.

  • State Legislature: Hold Conservation District elections during general elections, administered by county auditors’ offices.

  • State Legislature: Restore the full voting rights of imprisoned citizens under the Fifteenth Amendment, the denial of which originated as a means of disenfranchising freed slaves, and ensure that all imprisoned citizens are able to vote, as in Maine and Vermont. No other democracy routinely suppresses the voting rights of prisoners, except those convicted of electoral crimes.

  • State Legislature, Cities: Expand voting access by mandating that landlords with multiple units publicly post voter registration information on their properties and by including voter registration information in lease packets and employment form packets upon hire for private and public employers.

  • Local Educational Institutions: Expand nonpartisan student Get Out the Vote campaigns for high school, community and technical colleges, and universities.

  • Congress, State Legislature: Adopt legislation implementing universal civic duty voting, with an opt-out requiring submission of an application for a waiver from voter registration requirements.

Representation
  • State Legislature: Amend the Constitution to make the Redistricting Commission nonpartisan.

  • Congress: Grant statehood to Washington DC and Puerto Rico.

  • Congress: Adopt the Fair Representation Act to establish the use of ranked choice voting in elections for U.S. Senators and Representatives, to require each State with more than one Representative to establish multi-member congressional districts, and to require States to conduct congressional redistricting through independent commissions.

Governance
  • Congress, Executive Branch: Strengthen and enforce whistleblower laws, providing protection and restitution for any whistleblowers who lose their livelihoods.

  • U.S. Senate: Abolish the filibuster and the legislative hold. Use simple majority, as in the House of Representatives, state legislatures, and virtually every other parliamentary body in the world.

  • Congress: Enact Supreme Court reforms including:

    • Depoliticizing the Supreme Court by creating term limits for Justices.

    • Creating a binding code of ethics for Supreme Court Justices, or adopting the Code of Conduct used for all other federal judges.

    • Requiring financial disclosure statements.

    • Improving access to justice by adding judges to lower courts to account for population growth, reflect demographic changes, and reduce the backlog of cases.

 

Media and Public Information

Congress: Regulate social media platforms:

  • Prohibit the monetization and spread of verifiably false allegations, inflammation of hatred and conflict, and fostering of discrimination.

  • Protect whistleblowers who expose unethical and discriminatory behaviors, algorithms, and practices from retaliation.

  • Guarantee access to platform data (including algorithms) by external researchers.

  • Enable the Federal Trade Commission to oversee and respond to future violations.

  • Set a floor, not a ceiling: refrain from preempting state efforts to strengthen consumer-protection and privacy.

  • Require cryptographic verification of images and audio to distinguish them from fakes.

  • Require that paid or “sponsored” content be clearly distinguished from other content.

  • Extend the rules for political advertising to online and social media platforms.

Congress and State Legislature: Regulate artificial intelligence (AI):

  • Ban systems that do predictive policing, social scoring of individuals, or real-time facial recognition in public places.

  • Software that generates manipulated videos and “deepfake” images must prominently disclose that people are seeing fake AI-generated content, with violation subject to fines representing a sufficient percentage of global sales to act as a deterrent.

Internet Access
  • Congress, State Legislature: Guarantee internet neutrality.

  • State Legislature, Whatcom County PUD, Port of Bellingham, Whatcom Cities: Provide high-speed, affordable, public fiber optic internet, as in Anacortes and Jefferson County.

  • Whatcom County and Cities: Institute Dig Once policies. Whenever construction is underway in the public right-of-way, fiber optic cables.

  • Whatcom County and Cities: Adopt an open access policy to ensure broadband Internet access to all.

Postal Service

Congress: Pass the Postal Banking Act to enable the Postal Service to provide basic banking services like low-cost checking and savings accounts, access to ATMs, mobile banking, and low-interest loans for families, providing an alternative to predatory payday lenders while increasing postal revenue.

 

Corporate Influence
  • Federal Government: Enforce antitrust laws, including Big Tech and Big Media.

  • Federal Government: Prohibit the revolving door whereby industry executives are chosen to run agencies that regulate their industry, and then return to that industry for lucrative positions afterwards.

  • State Legislature: Prohibit state officers and high-level employees from receiving compensation for lobbying activities for two years after leaving state service. Require disclosure statements. Authorize the Ethics Board to ensure compliance.

  • President, U.S. Senate: Appoint and confirm Supreme Court Justices who do not believe money is speech, or corporations are persons in the meaning of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Climate, Energy, Environment
We value:
  • Climate action:

    • Climate change presents an existential threat to the future of humanity. Prompt international action is required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and shift to renewable energy sources. Prompt local action is needed to decrease the carbon footprint of our built environment, industries, transportation infrastructure, and food system.

    • We dedicate ourselves to protecting our planet, our people, and creating good-paying jobs through investment in clean energy, freight rail transport, public transportation (rail and transit), active transportation (walking, rolling, biking) infrastructure, and energy efficient buildings.

    • Workers displaced by the transition from fossil fuels deserve retraining, healthcare continuity, and transitioning income.

  • Environmental justice: 

    • Clean air and clean water are basic rights.

    • Toleration of environmental pollution as a by-product of industry must end, and the cost of environmental clean-up must be paid by polluters.

    • Already overburdened and vulnerable communities, as defined in the HEAL Act, must not bear the burden of environmental pollution or addressing climate change and must be included in developing solutions.

    • We need a just transition as we shift from fossil fuels to 100% electricity and clean energy, with no workers left behind. We support education and apprenticeship opportunities to prepare today’s workers for tomorrow’s green jobs.

  • A healthy environment: Our children and future generations deserve a healthy environment. Critical environmental areas, including wilderness areas, old growth forests, wildlife habitat areas and corridors, wetlands, streams, coastlines, Lake Whatcom, the Nooksack watershed, and the Salish Sea define our region, enhance our lives, and demand our protection. The health of salmon is an indicator of the health of the Salish Sea and surrounding environment.

  • Biological diversity: Endangered and threatened species must be protected. Species removed from their natural habitat must be restored.

 

2024-25 Policy Priorities

 

Carbon and Climate
  • Federal Government, State Legislature, Whatcom County and Cities: Every climate action legislation should include these key components:

    • Decarbonizing the US economy, including the electricity sector, transportation, agriculture, and the built environment.

    • A just transition incorporating workforce training, strong labor, environmental, and nondiscrimination standards, well-paying union jobs, and protections for the front-line and low-income communities most affected by climate change, pollution, and joblessness.

    • Restoring damaged ecosystems, including West Coast temperate rainforests, kelp and eelgrass, wetlands, and all the other systems that sequester carbon and support biodiversity.

  • Federal Government, State Legislature: Tax carbon, methane, and other industrial greenhouse gasses at full social and environmental cost, and rebate a sufficient share of the proceeds to cover the costs of decarbonization for lower-income households.

  • Federal Government, State Legislature, Whatcom County, City of Bellingham: Prohibit the expansion of fossil fuel production and distribution infrastructure.

  • Federal Government: Prohibit oil drilling off the Washington State coastline. Ban all oil drilling and exploration in national parks, monuments, and wildlife refuges.

  • Congress: Eliminate fossil fuel subsidies.

  • Whatcom County: Refine existing oil supplies locally in order to reduce emissions and protect Cherry Point jobs.

  • State Legislature: Improve safeguards for oil spill prevention and response, including mandated tug escort requirements for oil tankers and emergency response requirements for oil transport by rail and pipeline.

  • State Legislature: Reduce household energy burdens and emissions by requiring electric utilities to offer on-bill financing for weatherization and installation of solar panels and heat pumps.

  • Whatcom County and Cities:

    • Explore geothermal energy for base load electricity.

    • Reduce or eliminate emissions from large industrial consumers of natural gas.

    • Investigate alternative renewable energy approaches to heating and cooling, including ground, air, and water-source heat pumps.

  • Whatcom Public Utility District (PUD), City of Bellingham: Convert to public power, as Jefferson County did a decade ago. Public power:

    • Keeps ratepayer funds in the community instead of enriching foreign shareholders (Puget Sound Energy is foreign owned).

    • Creates high-wage local jobs and grows the local economy.

    • Facilitates moving to 100% local renewable energy.

  • WTA and school districts: Increase transition to zero-emissions fleet with faster implementation. Aggressively pursue capital funding for improved technology. No more purchases of fossil fuel powered buses.

 

Environmental Health
  • State Legislature, British Columbia: Clean up the Salish Sea and international waters emptying into it, and enact new laws or regulations as needed to eliminate pollution at the source.

  • State Legislature: Reduce pollution, to minimize public health risks

  • State Legislature, Federal Government: Protect keystone and other species – such as orca, salmon, wolf, beaver, puma, and grizzly bear – and restore them to suitable parts of their former ranges to maintain a healthy ecosystem.

  • State Legislature, Federal Government: Fulfill commitments to salmon restoration, including removal of the Snake River dams, to protect the environment and the Southern Resident orca population and to fulfill treaty obligations outlined in the 1974 Boldt Decision.

  • State Legislature, Congress: Prohibit privatization of and speculation in fresh water sources.

  • City of Bellingham, Whatcom County: Protect and restore Lake Whatcom, source of drinking water to over 100,000 people, by building stormwater infrastructure and purchasing undeveloped lakefront properties, funded by a watershed stormwater utility.

 

Transportation, Food, and the Built Environment
  • State Legislature: Develop and implement a statewide rail plan that:

    • Improves Amtrak Cascades passenger rail service between Whatcom County and points north and south.

    • Promotes rail electrification.

    • Promotes parallel tracking for freight and passenger rail.

    • Substitutes grade separation for existing at-grade crossings.

    • Requires safety improvements, including for hazardous cargo such as crude oil and petroleum, increased staffing levels, overly long trains, and landslide prevention.

    • Mandates replacement or retrofitting of existing tank cars to meet new safety standards.

    • Funds high-speed rail planning and construction, including a stop in Whatcom County, in cooperation with Oregon and British Columbia.

  • Whatcom Cities:

    • Align land use policies that emphasize proximity for housing, jobs, and services, along with transportation policies that reduce reliance on fossil fuels and other pollutants.

    • Implement “quick build” programs to rapidly expand the network of protected bike routes.

    • Prioritize safe pedestrian infrastructure, ensuring access for individuals with disabilities, including to transit.

    • Eliminate minimum parking requirements and implement parking maximums.

    • Increase minimum bike parking requirements and standards in city code for all new commercial, multifamily, and mixed-use developments.

  • Congress: Examine special federal rights held by railroad corporations and empower states and municipalities to obtain a more even playing field in dealing with railroad right-of-way.

  • City of Bellingham, Whatcom County, Federal Government, State Legislature: Ban all single-use plastics. Plastic “convenience” comes at a high price to health and climate. As plastics degrade, they boost atmospheric carbon levels. A typical liter of bottled water has a quarter million plastic fragments.

  • Whatcom County and Cities: End “recycling” plastics programs. The only plastics that are actually recycled are #1 and #2, and even those achieve at best 30% recycling into uses that cannot be recycled further. Fake recycling paid by end users is sponsored by industry to avoid packaging reform.

  • State Legislature: Require packaging producers to use only genuinely recyclable or reusable packaging and pay the cost of recycling or disposing of their packaging.

  • Port of Bellingham: Offer seasonal foot and bike ferry service to San Juan Islands from Bellingham Cruise Terminal.

Environmental Justice
  • Federal Government:Remediate environmental hotspots that disproportionately degrade the air, water, and environment of low-income and other overburdened and vulnerable communities.

  • Federal Government, State Legislature: Eradicate lead in our water supply. Lead poisoning disproportionately impacts low-income children and children of color and can lead to lifelong health and educational challenges.

  • State Legislature: Repeal day-use admission fees at state parks, replacing them with a funding source that does not impose a disproportionate burden on those with lower incomes.

  • Whatcom County and Cities, PUD, Port: Use traditional and non-traditional information channels when introducing climate actions and resolutions to counter climate misinformation, highlight benefits of action for people and the environment, and identify existing environmental harm.

  • Whatcom County and Cities: Fund measures to reduce the effects of extreme heat, prioritizing vulnerable and low-income communities, including providing adequate tree canopy and mitigating the effects of impervious surfaces.

Criminal Legal System and Public Safety
We value:

Laws that criminalize minor offenses that pose little risk to public safety should be repealed.

    • Equal treatment under the Law:

      • Everyone must have equal access to criminal legal resources and be treated equally under the law.

      • Law enforcement must be free of bias, harassment, and discrimination based on race, ethnicity, nationality, sexuality, gender identity, disability, or religion.

    • Humane and responsible policing:

      • Policing practices grounded in equity and social justice, with clear policies regarding police conduct, that elevate officer performance, enhance public safety, improve transparency and accountability, and strengthen public confidence in law enforcement.

      • Use of excessive force is incompatible with democracy, human rights, and morality. Police shootings of unarmed persons must end.

      • Racial profiling is unjustifiable and unacceptable.

      • Include civilian input on police hiring policies.

      • There should always be a distinction between police and military functions, as reflected in uniforms, mission, and conduct.

    • Gun safety: Responsible gun use includes background checks at time of purchase and required safety measures. Military-style weapons have no place in our community.

    • Incarceration reduction:

      • The United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, and incarceration disproportionately impacts impoverished people and communities of color. Incarceration should be reduced through restorative justice for non-violent crimes, bail reform, drug and mental health treatment programs, and other means.

      • Harm reduction and treatment, rather than criminalization, must define our response to substance use and mental health challenges.

 

2024-25 Policy Priorities
 
Criminal Defense and Sentencing
  • Congress: Abolish the federal death penalty.

  • State Legislature: Repeal the three strikes law (RCW 9.94A.570).

  • State Legislature: Replace flat fines with day fines – multiplying the number of days of punishment (proportional to the infraction) by the individual’s average daily income – as in the Netherlands, Germany, and the Nordic countries.

  • State Legislature: Adequately fund public defenders’ offices.

  • Congress, State Legislature: Explore feasibility of single-payer universal legal insurance.

  • State Legislature: End discrimination against women in indecent exposure law, as in New York and Canada.

  • Whatcom County and Cities:

    • Designate a clothing-optional public beach.

    • Allow non-lewd nudity at permitted events with prearranged times and routes, and instruct police not to interfere on the basis of individual complaints unrelated to lewdness (defined as “crude and offensive in a sexual way”).

  • State Legislature: Repeal all laws requiring incarcerated or diverted people to pay for the cost of their incarceration or diversion through fines and fees.

  • State Legislature: Invalidate evidence obtained by law enforcement lying in interrogations.

  • State Legislature: Mandate reductions in Legal Financial Obligation (fines and fees) by local courts in all cases that result in class-, race-, and disability-based inequities that undermine public safety and equal treatment under the law, including but not limited to:

    • Banning the use of private collection agencies to collect these obligations.

    • Funding local courts through state budget appropriations in order to end the reliance on local court service fees and fines.

    • Redirecting deterrence-based fines to preventive programs.

    • Debt amnesties.

  • State Legislature: Bring mandatory minimums for drive-by shootings into alignment with penalties for other homicides.

  • Congress: Pass the federal EQUAL act, which ends the disparity of crack versus powder cocaine sentencing.

 

Drug Policy
  • State Legislature: Decriminalize possession and use of personal quantities of controlled drugs, as Oregon has approved by initiative.

  • State Legislature: Allow growing up to four cannabis plants per residence for private consumption, kept out of public view, as in Oregon.

 

Incarceration
  • Congress: Ban privately-owned prisons.

  • Whatcom County Executive, County Council, and Sheriff: Commission a study exploring siting options and costs for a new jail, including adjacent to the Courthouse, and in the meantime make needed repairs to address inhumane conditions in the existing jail.

  • Whatcom County and Cities: Divert those who cannot afford to pay fines for low-level County and City civil offenses from jail.

  • Whatcom County Courts, Prosecutor: Develop mechanisms to prevent jail admissions for technical violations of probation or parole.

  • Whatcom County Courts, Prosecutor, Sheriff, Police Chiefs: Use restorative justice in lieu of incarceration whenever appropriate.

  • Whatcom County and Bellingham Municipal Courts: Adhere to state and national model time standards for case processing by developing a case flow management plan to reduce time to disposition and shorten defendants’ length of stay.

  • Congress, State Legislature: Abolish money bail, as in Illinois.

  • Whatcom County Council, Courts: Using a fully transparent risk assessment, set the least restrictive terms of release from jail, including the use of unsecured bonds rather than money bail.

  • Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Task Force: Create oversight and accountability mechanisms to ensure successful and sustained jail population reduction.

  • Federal and state: Extend the minimum wage to prisoner labor and to jurors.

  • Whatcom County, City of Bellingham: Ensure adequate staffing and funding to maximize the effectiveness of the GRACE (Ground-Level Response and Coordinated Engagement), LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion), and ART (Alternative Response Team) programs, the Mobile Crisis Outreach Team, and other similar programs.

 

Policing Reform
  • Congress, State Legislature: Demilitarize police departments.

  • Federal Government, State Legislature, Whatcom County Sheriff, and Cities: Restrict use of SWAT to its original purposes – active shooters, hostage taking, barricading, terrorism.

  • Federal Government, State Legislature, Whatcom County Sheriff, and City police forces: Base asset seizures on court conviction rather than mere arrest or presumption of guilt.

  • Congress: Reform federal funding programs for police departments that incentivize racial profiling, asset seizures, and inappropriate arrests.

  • FBI, State Patrol, Whatcom County Sheriff, City police forces: Ensure accountability in law enforcement through independent review, including meaningful citizen participation and involvement in the hiring of city police chiefs.

  • State Legislature: Restrict low-level traffic stops that too often escalate into violence, especially against marginalized populations. Prohibit officers from stopping drivers solely for minor equipment malfunctions, as well as for most misdemeanor warrants, while allowing them to pull over drivers who have warrants for driving under the influence or for domestic violence, as well as for car-related issues that affect safety. Require written consent to search a vehicle or passengers, in keeping with the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

  • State Legislature: Repeal “jaywalking” laws designed to prioritize automobiles. These laws are disproportionately enforced against persons of color. They subtly reinforce the false narrative that walkers themselves, rather than lethal street and vehicle designs, are to blame for pedestrian deaths.

 

Gun Safety
  • State Legislature: Fully repeal open carry and citizen’s arrest. Intimidation and vigilantism have no place in civil society.

  • Congress: Make interstate gun trafficking a federal crime.

  • Congress: Increase penalties for “straw-man” sales in which someone buys a gun to deliver to a third party.

  • Congress and State Legislature: Require background checks for all firearm purchases, without exception, thus closing the gun show loophole and the private sale loophole.

Economy
We value:
  • Economic justice:

    • Our economy needs to work for everyone, not just the wealthy and well-connected.

    • No household should spend more than half its income on housing, transportation, and energy.

    • Public assistance programs bridge the gap between the market and overall social welfare. Secure funding and reasonable eligibility for such programs must be maintained.

    • Extreme income inequality destabilizes our democracy, jeopardizes our communities, threatens public health, and limits our future. No one who works full time should live in poverty or be homeless.

    • All working people must have paid sick leave.

    • Social Security is essential to keeping the elderly and disabled out of poverty.

  • Tax fairness:

    • Progressive taxation ensures that everyone pays their fair share. Washington’s tax structure, the second most regressive in the US, makes the rich richer and the poor poorer.

    • Tax loopholes and shelters unfairly shift the tax burden to ordinary Americans and unjustly limit the tax responsibility of corporations and the wealthy.

  • Corporate regulation:

    • Antitrust laws prevent mergers and takeovers that limit market competition, concentrate power, and reduce the independent voices and diversity essential to democracy.

  • Local economic vitality and resiliency:                      

    • Local businesses create most new jobs, provide a stronger tax base, support community nonprofits, and reduce environmental impacts through local purchases and neighborhood proximity.

    • Labor unions, worker cooperatives, and the workers who do the work – such as construction workers, industrial workers, farmworkers, teachers, nurses, caregivers, and service/retail workers – are the backbone of our economy.

    • Planning for climate change and other disasters and creating clean energy and technology jobs fosters business and agricultural resiliency.

    • Local labor policies can expand labor market participation for historically- and geographically excluded groups and businesses in Whatcom County.

    • Innovative programs, such as the cybersecurity program at Whatcom Community College, and the skills and talents of students at our local trade schools, colleges, and universities can fuel job creation opportunities.

    • High-speed internet access is essential to local business operations countywide.

 

2024-25 Policy Priorities

 

Taxation
  • Congress: Pass a permanent child tax credit at a level that significantly cuts child poverty rates.

  • Congress, State Legislature: Tax corporations the social cost for using the public resources that belong to all of us, including clean water, clean air, and the electromagnetic spectrum (radio, television, and cell phone use of frequencies).

  • Congress: Create an annual graduated tax on wealth over $10 million.

  • Congress: Repeal the carried interest tax exemption which allows private equity firms, hedge funds, and other investors to pay lower capital gains rate on income – around 15% to 20% – rather than paying the 37% income tax rate.

  • State Legislature: Reform the state tax system to make it progressive, including reducing the state sales and use tax.

  • Congress: Lower the exemption on inheritance/estate taxes to $2 million dollars.

  • Congress: Prohibit offshore and onshore arrangements designed to evade taxes, avoid disclosure obligations, and limit exposure to regulatory oversight, with both criminal penalties and minimum fines set to a high enough percentage of income to be a true deterrent.

  • Federal Government: Provide tax incentives for companies to keep jobs in the US or return them here. Create tax disincentives for exporting jobs, including recovery of tax breaks claimed over the previous decade and recapture of depreciation benefits.

  • State Legislature: Introduce a voter-approved amendment to Article VII, Section 1 of the State Constitution to clearly define “property” as limited to assessed property, thereby authorizing a graduated income tax.

  • Whatcom County Cities: Align the Multi-Family Tax Exemption (MFTE) Program with new state law to provide 20 years’ tax exemption for permanently affordable homes.

  • State Legislature: Require County Assessors to include the true and fair market value of resale-restricted, owner-occupied housing developed or acquired through an organization, such as a Community Land Trust (CLT), when determining valuation.

 

Consumer Protection
  • Federal Government: Maintain a strong and effective Financial Consumer Protection Agency.

  • Congress: Create a secure public credit registry, in place of the current for-profit credit reporting agencies, that would use a public, transparent algorithm to eliminate racial bias in credit scores.

  • Congress: Prohibit corporate copyrights and patents. Limit copyrights to the life of the original author. Limit patents to the actual inventors for a period of 20 years, with automatic licensing to anyone (including employers), in return for 10% of gross receipts attributable to patent use.

  • Congress, State Legislature: Prohibit mandatory recourse to arbitration in consumer contracts. Declare existing “Right to Arbitrate” agreements void.

 

Financial Markets
  • Congress: Tax high-velocity security trading that destabilizes financial markets.

  • Congress: Reinstitute the Glass-Steagall Act separating investment banking from savings and loan banking.

  • State Legislature, Whatcom County and Cities: Transfer government accounts out of national banks and into local banks and credit unions.

  • State Legislature: Establish a State Bank.

 

Corporate Accountability

Congress: Pass the Incorporation Transparency and Law Enforcement Assistance Act to require all shell companies to report the identities of their owners.

 

Social Programs
  • Congress: Raise the minimum Social Security benefits for all Americans.

  • Congress: Remove the upper income limit on Social Security payroll taxes.

  • Congress, State Legislature: Expand paid sick leave to cover all workers (including all immediate family members or dependents), either through mandatory coverage by employers or a state-run program where a formal employment relationship does not exist.

  • State Legislature: Establish a basic income pilot program. Guaranteed basic income programs provide a benefit to persons meeting certain income or other eligibility requirements – for instance, help individuals get housed, exit domestic violence, transition out of foster care.

  • State Legislature: Extend eligibility for the Working Families' Tax Credit to everyone age 18 and older.

  • Congress: Develop a revised Federal Poverty Threshold to replace the outdated 1960s formula that set the poverty level at household incomes lower than three times a basic food budget. The existing threshold fails to consider 21st century housing, healthcare, transportation, and childcare costs and does not account for regional income variation. In the meantime, adjust the existing federal poverty measure to be reflective of area median income, thereby taking into account how incomes vary in different regions.

 

Local Economic Vitality & Resiliency                   
  • Port of Bellingham, Whatcom County and Cities: Following passage of Prop. 5 in 2022, increase childcare availability and wages for childcare workers to support families and help businesses retain workers.

  • Port of Bellingham, Whatcom County and Cities: Ensure barrier-free organizing for unions and worker cooperatives that support livable wage jobs, benefits, and safe working conditions.

  • Port of Bellingham: Promote employee ownership options and cooperatives, which provide better pay, benefits, and retirement savings, and provide needed technical assistance to preserve jobs, local ownership, and civic engagement.

  • Port of Bellingham: Include labor groups, worker cooperatives, and worker-owned businesses in developing regional economic analysis assessments e.g., Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS).

  • Port of Bellingham: Assess risks to local economy and residents before international commercial real estate firms are provided investment opportunities in Whatcom County.

  • Washington State, Whatcom County and Cities: Protect local businesses from rent-gouging and the effects of severe economic downturns by enacting commercial rent regulations, including, when appropriate, rent stabilization measures (e.g., rent increase limitations, vacancy taxes, late rent fee caps, increased notices for rent-increases or lease non-renewals).

Education

We value:
  • Equity:

    • Tuition-free education at four-year public colleges and universities, Indigenous colleges, community colleges, trade schools, and apprenticeship programs must be available to all.

    • Schools must be a safe and welcoming place for all students, faculty, and staff.

    • Free expression on university campuses is vital to our democracy.

  • School readiness:

    • Universal, affordable, high-quality early learning and childcare programs promote school readiness and support working families.

    • Childcare workers deserve a living wage in order to retain qualified professionals.

  • Dedicated teachers:

    • Teachers must be compensated as the valued professionals they are.

    • Teacher evaluations must not be based solely on test scores.

  • Publicly funded education:

    • High-quality public education is a cornerstone of a healthy democracy and a thriving economy.

    • The privatization and corporatization of K-12 and higher education diminishes opportunity, equity, and democracy.

    • Public funding of charter and religious schools and school vouchers diverts funding from public schools.

 

2024-25 Policy Priorities
Supporting Teachers

State Legislature, local school boards: Respect public educators, childcare workers, and early learning specialists by ensuring they have professional-level salaries with paths for advancement, regular and predictable cost of living increases, competitive benefit packages including health care and paid time-off, and continuous professional development opportunities.

 

School Environment
  • State Legislature, School Districts: Implement safety measures so students, teachers, school boards, and administrators can do their work free from harassment, intimidation, and violence.

  • State Legislature, School Districts: Ensure Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) settings to maximize ventilation. Improve central air filtration with high-quality filters in accordance with CDC guidelines.
    State Legislature: Require schools to test for and remove environmental hazards.

 

Supporting Students
  • State Legislature, local school boards: Fund and include creative and performing arts, vocational education, and physical education as vital components of a K-12 education.

  • Federal Government: Provide student loans at the same rate offered to large banks through the Federal Reserve discount window, not to exceed 2%, and make it retroactive.

  • Congress: Amend the bankruptcy laws to treat student loans like any other debt, by removing the “undue hardship” requirement.

  • Whatcom County School Districts: Fully implement Title IX protections for all students.

  • Whatcom County School Districts: Support teachers in implementing the Since Time Immemorial curriculum, required by the state and endorsed by indigenous peoples, about Washington's Indigenous history, culture, and government.

  • State Legislature: Require the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction to protect teachers’ ability to teach social studies accurately by rejecting attempts to interfere with the teaching of American history and discussion of current events.

  • School Boards: Protect students’ freedom to read by rejecting attempts to ban or otherwise censor books.

  • School Boards: Limit student expulsions and suspensions as disciplinary actions, as they disproportionately impact students of color.

  • State Legislature: Fund certified librarians, school nurses, and mental health professional positions for schools at every level from kindergarten through college.

  • State Legislature: Ensure access to high-quality, affordable childcare, preschool, early learning, afterschool, summer, and vacation programs.

 

Funding
  • State Legislature: Reform the state revenue system for K-12 education to fulfill the promise made in Article IX, Section 1 of our State Constitution that the state will “make ample provision for the education of all children residing in its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.”

  • Congress: Pass the College Affordability Act to expand eligibility for Pell Grants and to increase the maximum award offered to students.

  • Congress: Pass the College for All Act to eliminate tuition and fees at four-year public colleges and universities, Indigenous colleges, community colleges, trade schools, and apprenticeship programs.

  • State Legislature: Lower the threshold for passing school bonds from 60% to simple majority.

  • Federal Government: Implement the funding provisions allowed under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to fully fund the 40 percent of the additional increased costs for students with disabilities.

  • State Legislature: Eliminate the reduction in state basic education funding that occurs in counties with federal and state forestlands.

 

Keeping Public Education Public
  • State Legislature: Ban for-profit colleges and trade schools. End the privatization of the student testing and student loan industries.

  • Congress: Regulate the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) industry so that online educational resources supplement rather than replace classroom teaching.

  • State Legislature: Prevent the expansion of publicly funded charter schools in Washington State.

Farming, Fisheries, and Forestry
We value:
  • Stewardship of our rural heritage and the natural environment:

    • Owner/operator farmers, foresters, and fishers are primary stewards of the land and sea, and their ecosystems. We must protect and restore natural ecosystems that we depend on to sustain us.

    • Whatcom County depends on a strong rural and agricultural economy.

    • Crop diversity, conservation, clean water, and preservation of farming land are critical to agriculture and forestry.

    • Animals in food production must be treated humanely.

    • Salmon are the cultural, economic, and ecological lifeblood of our region. They must be honored, protected, and restored.

 

2024-25 Policy Priorities

 

Local Waters and Farmland
  • State Legislature: Prioritize resolution of competing water rights quickly and thoroughly to give water users certainty. Nooksack watershed rights have been in dispute for decades. Support the adjudication process to bring certainty to water users.

  • Whatcom County and Cities: Increase water conservation and seek a quick resolution to competing water rights claims, for the mutual benefit of fish, farms, residents, and the environment.

  • Whatcom County: Expand the Purchase and Transfer of Development Rights programs and other conservation initiatives to preserve farm and forest lands.

  • State Legislature: Improve protection of our waters from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO).

  • State Legislature: Phase out and ban all open-water-based fish farming operations except for conservation-based net pen operations run by the state and Indigenous governments.

  • Whatcom County: Establish a water bank, providing security to farmers and rural homesteaders, and enough water for fish to spawn.

  • State Legislature: Enact legislation regulating speculation in water rights and resources.

 

Sustainable Agriculture
  • State Legislature, Whatcom County: Encourage agricultural best management practices that conserve and regenerate soils; sequester carbon; build climate resilience; and protect water quality, fisheries, and wildlife through incentives and education.

  • State Legislature: Fund research and assistance to encourage crops and soil practices that will tolerate higher heat and less water, and promote crop diversification to ensure adaptability to new pests, diseases, and climate fluctuations.

  • Whatcom County: Set targets and develop incentives for increasing the percentage of farmland producing food for local markets using organic, sustainable, and regenerative practices. Support re-training, processing and storage infrastructure, and market-building to assist export farmers in transitioning to local and organic.

  • Whatcom County: Encourage the leasing of public lands for local sustainable agricultural use.

  • Washington State: Expand policies like the Sustainable Farms and Fields Act to incentivize the expansion of local and organic agriculture.

 

Food and Farms
  • Congress: Clearly label genetically modified food and protect organic labeling standards so consumers can make informed choices.

  • Congress: Eliminate loopholes that enable the largest and most profitable agribusiness operations to exceed the $125,000 (plus another $125,000 for spouse) cap on subsidies to those “actively engaged” in farming.

  • Congress: Expand the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to help all farmers by increasing demand from the people who need it most.

  • State Legislature, Whatcom County: Develop policies that help local farmers produce local food, including purchasing programs through government entities, incentives to support farmers who sell to regional markets, and financial support and rebates for being involved in stewardship projects.

 

Wildland Fire

State Legislature: Ensure adequate funding to enact policies that will reduce losses and costs associated with increasing wildfire risk.

Foreign Policy
We value:
  • Protecting democracy: We support democratic self-determination and close cooperation with our allies to inhibit the spread of authoritarianism.

  • International law: We support the International Criminal Court.

  • Diplomacy: Dialogue and non-violent conflict resolution must be our first resort.

  • National security grounded in respect for human rights and the sovereignty of all nations:

    • Supporting the human rights, liberties, and well-being of the peoples of all nations best advances our principles, aspirations, and interests.

    • Overt or covert efforts to destabilize other nations jeopardize our long-term national security.

  • Denuclearization: We favor nuclear nonproliferation, nuclear arms reduction, and international control of fissile material.

  • Fair trade and finance:

    • Transnational corporations and lending institutions, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank must negotiate debt arrangements in a way that avoids the subjugation of national sovereignty to the market and forgive debts when repayment is not feasible.

    • Trade policies must be transparent at all levels; protect human and worker rights, environmental justice, and consumer safety; advance equity and democracy; and strengthen our national security.

 

2024-25 Policy Priorities
  • Congress: Require that any prolonged military engagement be authorized by Congress, as required by the Constitution, and automatically sunset after two years.

  • Federal Government: Pay all back dues to the United Nations.

  • Congress: Reduce military spending.

  • Federal Government: Negotiate nuclear nonproliferation and arms treaties that secure nuclear weapons, reduce their production, stockpiling, and testing, and closely monitor and manage fissile material.

  • Federal Government: Strengthen international cooperation to improve global health security now and in the future.

  • Federal Government: In cooperation with the European Union and others, use appropriate incentives or sanctions to encourage foreign countries or territories to enact laws requiring full transparency about offshore accounts and cooperation with the tax authorities of other countries.

  • Federal Government: Prioritize a lasting peace in the Middle East. Denial of the right of self-determination, along with illegal colonization (“settlement”) of the West Bank, has hardened positions on both sides. We condemn all slaughter of innocents on both sides. U.S. military assistance to both Israel and Arab states should be conditioned on full respect for humanitarian law, and a regional peace agreement that includes full security for Israel alongside full self-determination of the Palestinian People – including statehood and return of the colonized parts of the West Bank.

  • Federal Government: Oppose provisions in trade agreements that:

    • promote corporate protectionism (e.g., patented drugs).

    • do not allow governments to protect their citizens from harm (e.g., banning cigarette advertising, enacting measures addressing climate change) without legal liability.

Health
We value:
  • Creating the conditions for healthy living:

    • Everyone must have access to the food, safe living environment, and resources needed for a healthy life.

    • Policies, programs, services, and systems must advance health equity, particularly for low-income groups, communities of color, people with disabilities, and communities with a critical access (i.e., rural) hospital.

    • Consumer products, building materials, and toys should be safe.

    • Every community must have safe walking, rolling, and bicycling routes.

    • Robust public health policies, practices, and infrastructure prevent disease, respond to outbreaks and public health emergencies, and reduce health care costs.

  • Quality, affordable, healthcare:

    • Healthcare, including mental health care, is a basic human right. Everyone should have

    • All patients served by our healthcare system deserve to be treated equitably, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, religious beliefs, age, disability, or one’s health or legal status.

    • No one should have their healthcare benefits restricted because of the religious beliefs of their employers.

    • Everyone has the right to make their own reproductive choices.

    • Long-term care and rehabilitation facilities should be safe, adequately staffed with trained professionals, regulated to protective standards of care, and accountable to the public.

  • Help, not handcuffs:

    • People living with behavioral health conditions, including mental illness and substance use disorder, deserve treatment and recovery support; they do not belong in our legal or corrections systems for mental illness and/or substance use disorder.

    • Emergency public safety calls involving behavioral health crises should prioritize a public health vs. law enforcement response.

    • Treatment of behavioral health conditions is more effective and less costly than incarceration.

    • An urgent need exists for an adequately funded, comprehensive behavioral health prevention and response system.

 

2024-25 Policy Priorities
Prevention and Environmental Health
  • State Legislature: Following California’s lead, repeal exemptions for personal and religious belief (RCW 28A.210.090) from the existing requirement for immunization of school-age children against certain vaccine-preventable diseases.

  • State Legislature: Review extended care facility practices and compliance, and where needed, add standards and penalties for failing to implement disease control standards. Require all facility inspection results be made public.

  • State Legislature: Fully fund evidence-based prenatal, perinatal, and newborn care services, such as maternal depression screening and home visiting programs, to improve maternal and child health.

  • Federal Government, State Legislature: Ensure consumer products, such as shampoos, cleaners, cosmetics, and flame retardants, do not contain hormone disruptors, lead, or known or suspected carcinogens. Prioritize removal or replacement of PFAS, flame retardants, phthalates, alkylphenol ethoxylates, bisphenols, and PCBs.

  • State Legislature: Expand rental assistance programs to alleviate the financial burden on victims fleeing domestic violence, sexual assault, unlawful harassment, or stalking.

  • State Legislature: Restore and fully fund Washington’s public health infrastructure.

  • Congress: Fully fund the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.

 

Food System
  • Congress: Increase funding and per-person allowances for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and remove onerous eligibility barriers. Offer matching funds (e.g. Fresh Bucks) to purchase fresh produce from farmer’s markets and food co-ops.

  • State Legislature, Whatcom County: Support community food and school lunch and breakfast programs with a reliance on healthy local foods.

  • State Legislature, Whatcom County and Cities: Ban restrictive covenants for grocery store chains to promote competition and prevent “food deserts.”

  • Congress: End all agricultural subsidies detrimental to public health, including tobacco, sugar, and corn (high fructose corn syrup).

  • State Legislature: Repeal the Soda Tax Ban.

  • Federal Government, State Legislature: Regulate the use of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides to ensure that farmworkers are protected from health hazards and communities are protected from downwind and downstream exposures.

  • State Legislature, Whatcom County: Eliminate the use of chemical pesticides of all types, to the greatest extent possible, in agriculture, forestry, and aquaculture.

 

Health Care Reform
  • Congress: Pass a single-payer health care system such as Medicare for All.

  • State Legislature: Pass a single-payer health care system.

  • State Legislature: Prohibit all surprise medical billing and the obligation to pay what insurance does not cover, beyond what the cost would have been to the insurance company or Medicare had the procedure been covered.

  • Federal Government, State Legislature: Prohibit advertising of prescription drugs.

  • Federal Government: Expand the ability of Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices directly with pharmaceutical companies.

  • State Legislature: Require that healthcare facilities that receive public funding provide all legally approved medical procedures, regardless of religious or other objections.

  • State Legislature: Require insurance coverage for behavioral health treatment and enforce insurance coverage parity.

  • Federal Government: Terminate efforts to privatize original Medicare (Medicare “Advantage” is already privatized) through Direct Contracting Entities (DCE) or anything similar, and prohibit the practice of assigning original Medicare recipients to these entities without their prior consent.

  • PeaceHealth: Cancel the Medicare DCE contract.

  • Federal Government: Phase out so-called Medicare Advantage, which, despite its misleading name, is privatized, and costs the government more per person than traditional Medicare. That difference could fund vision, dental, and hearing benefits.

  • Congress: Expand Medicare to include vision, dental, and hearing benefits.

  • Whatcom County: Support creation of a Public Hospital District to fund a public hospital and increase healthcare options in Whatcom County, which currently has only one hospital.

 

Behavioral Health

Federal Government, State Legislature: Expand the supply of primary care providers and mental health clinicians through incentives to schools and their students.

State Legislature, Whatcom County and Cities: Improve the behavioral health care system:

  • Dedicate more beds allowing for longer stays to stabilize individuals and prevent relapses.

  • Increase the number of halfway houses to transition individuals following behavioral health treatment.

  • Fund round-the-clock, fully staffed behavioral health clinics, with triage availability.

  • Fund school-based mental health treatment.

  • Expand treatment and recovery services for drug and alcohol challenges, including vaping.

  • Require that community treatment relies on evidence-based models, such as Program for Assertive Community Treatment (PACT) programs.

  • Improve the oversight of behavioral health facilities to enforce staffing ratios and coverage to ensure patient safety.

  • Increase services to prevent domestic violence and offer treatment to offenders.

  • Fully fund medically supported detox services on-demand in every county.

  • Legalize and fund safe injection sites.

  • Ensure effective behavioral health treatment availability for those in prison or jail.

  • Fund recovery-focused services that offer stable housing, employment, crisis respite, certified peer specialists, and empathetic connections to others.

  • Ensure discharge plans are in place prior to discharge for those exiting incarceration or hospitalization that include adequate housing, medical care, community-based follow-up care, and vocational services, including community college and professional education, as part of treatment and to aid re-entry.

  • Support mental health training for primary care physicians, professional educators, and pharmacists, so they will recognize early signs of behavioral health conditions and suicide ideation.

State Legislature: Legalize medical use of psilocybin and MDMA for mental health treatment.

 

Reproductive Health
  • Federal Government, State Legislature: Publicly fund reproductive health services, such as those provided by Planned Parenthood, as well as mental health and the treatment of postpartum depression.

  • Congress: Guarantee reproductive health services nationwide.

 

Consumer Protection
  • Congress: Require all drug and vaccine trial results to be made publicly available and included in Food and Drug Administration determinations of safety and efficacy.

  • Congress: Ensure that review panels (FDA, FAA, etc.) are free of conflicts of interest.

 

Emergency Preparedness

Federal Government, State Legislature, Whatcom County and Cities, Port of Bellingham: Scale up emergency planning, upgrade construction standards, and retrofit existing buildings and transportation infrastructure to prepare for natural disasters such as earthquakes, wildfires, and landslides. 

Housing and Homelessness

 

We value:
  • Housing as a basic human right: Homelessness is a humanitarian, public health, economic, and moral challenge that must never be criminalized.

  • Tenant rights: Renters deserve as much legal protection as homeowners.

  • Diversity of housing types: Diverse, affordable, safe housing in all neighborhoods that meets the needs of residents regardless of age, income, race, or ability increases the health and prosperity of our entire community.

  • Housing located near services, jobs, schools, transit hubs, and businesses that minimizes transportation costs, preserves farmland, reduces carbon emissions, and supports businesses.

 

2024-25 Policy Priorities

Housing
  • State Legislature, Port of Bellingham, Whatcom County and Cities: Increase the availability of housing for all income levels that is located near services, jobs, and schools.

  • State Legislature, Whatcom County and Cities: Enact policies, such as the following, that ensure that housing is safe, healthy, and available to the widest range of incomes, including those with extremely low incomes, by:

    • Providing publicly owned land or land purchased by public entities for the construction of public or nonprofit permanently cost-controlled housing for low-income households;

    • Supporting the creation of shared- or limited-equity homes, using cooperative ownership, community land trust, and other forms of co-ownership, to control escalating housing costs and increase housing availability for low-income households.

    • Legalizing co-living homes, a low-cost option in which each resident has a private living and sleeping room and shares common spaces, including kitchen, with other residents.

    • Increasing housing options through lot splitting.

    • Creating incentives for private home builders, limited to the construction of permanently cost-controlled housing for low-income households, that are accessible to transit, parks, grocery stores, social services, and schools.

    • Creating incentives, such as reduced permitting fees, for community land trusts and other non-profit housing developers to provide permanently affordable housing.

    • Assessing community land trust homes at their restricted resale value (the maximum price community land trust homeowners can sell their homes for); and

    • Facilitating the creation of local taxation and financing mechanisms for the purchase of housing units when they come up for sale, to be preserved as permanently cost-controlled homes.

  • State Legislature: Pass rent stabilization legislation and repeal the ban on rent regulation to protect against egregious spikes in rent. Limit rent increases to the rate of inflation plus tax increases.

  • All governments: Expand funding for “right to counsel” programs.

  • State Legislature, Whatcom County and Cities: Enact tenant right reforms to increase the housing security of those who rent their homes, including:

    • Capping move-in fees, rental application costs, and late fees.

    • Allowing move-in costs to be paid in installments with no interest.

    • Enforcing and expanding anti-discrimination laws.

    • Providing Just Cause eviction protections.

    • Further increasing the time a tenant has to pay rent before eviction proceedings commence.

    • Banning all evictions during the winter months and during the school year for households with school age children.

    • Requiring landlord distribution of government-authored tenant rights packets.

    • Banning the required use of credit checks.

    • Protecting the right to organize as a tenant.

  • State Legislature, Whatcom County and Cities: Regulate short-term rental businesses (such as Airbnb). Establish a tax on such rentals, with proceeds dedicated to a public fund for permanently cost-controlled housing, such as the Bellingham Home Fund.

  • Whatcom County: Create a Whatcom County Home Fund, similar to the Bellingham Home Fund.

  • Whatcom County and Cities: Support and subsidize the inclusion of garden space for all affordable housing units (rooftop gardens, adjacent on-site, or within easy walking distance).

  • State Legislature, Whatcom County and Cities: Repeal all minimum parking mandates (except ADA).

  • Whatcom County and Cities: Adopt form-based codes enabling mixed uses (residential, office, stores, coffee shops) and mixed housing types, replacing auto-dependent land use and single-family zoning.

  • State Legislature: Create a permanent funding source for the Housing Trust Fund by enacting a new progressive funding source – such as state level Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) and/or Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) on the sale of very high value properties (with due attention to preserving farms) and also authorize a new local REET and/or RETT option for affordable housing and operations.

Homelessness

State Legislature, Whatcom County and Cities: Expand emergency shelter and interim housing resources and options, including planning for and implementation of severe weather, smoke, pandemic, and earthquake policies and increasing availability of housing for those discharged from jail, treatment centers, and/or hospitals.

State Legislature, Whatcom County and Cities: Ensure emergency shelter options include mixed gender facilities, so that families, couples, caretakers, and other vulnerable individuals are not separated from their trusted partner.

State Legislature, Whatcom County and Cities: Enact “right to shelter” provisions.

State Legislature, Whatcom County and Cities: Rely upon a Housing First approach to reducing homelessness.

State Legislature: Expand state-funded homelessness prevention programs (e.g., rental assistance) designed to help households avoid becoming homeless.

State Legislature: Expand the quantity and quality of foster care services, including housing and health care, and assistance in transitioning to self-reliance.

Congress: Repeal federal policies that ban some individuals with criminal records from publicly funded housing.

State Legislature, Whatcom County and Cities: Establish authorized tent cities and vehicle parking sites with clean water, hygiene, sanitation, and storage capacity, and provide funding for operational support to provide safe shelter for those experiencing homelessness pending more and better temporary and permanent housing options.

State Legislature, Whatcom County and Cities: Prohibit hostile architectural design features intended to prevent use by unhoused people in public spaces.

Ensure local government accountability to prevent and address homelessness, rather than criminalize it:

  • Ensure a working group or commission tasked with guiding policy and securing funding which includes community advocates and directly impacted people.

  • Local governments and jurisdictions are responsible for providing and staffing no-barrier inclement weather sheltering in sufficient capacity to meet current need.

  • With participation of unhoused people and advocates, pass a local unhoused persons’ bill of rights and hold lawmakers accountable to adhering to that bill of rights.

 

Human and Constitutional Rights

We value:
  • Dignity and respect for all people:

    • We respect the equality and dignity of all people and affirm all human rights as guaranteed by the Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    • We oppose all discrimination based on age, color, creed, disability, ethnicity, marital status, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression.

    • Protection from violence, bullying, intimidation, or abuse is a fundamental human right.

  • Religious freedom: We respect the right to observe any or no religion. We respect religious and spiritual expression that does not violate basic human rights. We support the separation of church and state to maintain the integrity of each.

  • Reproductive choice:

    • The right and access to contraception and reproductive choices of all kinds must be protected.

    • Medically accurate, comprehensive, age-appropriate sex education must be offered in all schools.

  • Equitable actions to identify and remedy systemic discrimination.

  • determination in end-of-life decision-making.              

  • Meaningful engagement with affected and diverse communities (e.g., race, gender, income, disability) to foster trust in good governance, strengthen relationships, honor community knowledge, and ensure effective and equitable solutions.

 

2024-25 Policy Priorities
  • Congress: Extend the deadline for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, which has now been ratified by the required 38 states.

  • Congress: Repeal remaining provisions of the USA Patriot/Freedom Act that provide for the unconstitutional surveillance of U.S. citizens.

  • Congress: Extend Fourth Amendment protections to include data on personal computing devices and personal cloud data and prohibit warrantless domestic surveillance by both government and private entities.

  • Congress, State Legislature: Establish that our personal data belongs not to those who collect it, but exclusively to each of us as human beings. Even when “consent” is given, the data subject has the right to revoke it at any time.

  • U.S. Senate: Ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the American Convention on Human Rights, and recognize the binding jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the International Criminal Court.

  • State Legislature: To ensure death with dignity, amend current law, with safeguards to protect the vulnerable, to allow for any competent adult suffering because of a terminal illness to obtain the assistance of a qualified medical provider in painlessly ending one’s own life with current and humane methods, without regard to any estimate of remaining life expectancy.

  • Whatcom County and Cities, Port of Bellingham: Accommodate local languages – including American Sign Language (ASL) – and disability in community announcements and emergency info (e.g., captions, alt-text and image descriptions).

  • Congress, State Legislature, Whatcom County and Cities: Establish an equity impact statement in legislative proposals.

  • Whatcom County and Cities, Port of Bellingham: Develop community engagement plans that advance equitable engagement with overburdened communities and vulnerable populations as defined in the 2021 WA Healthy Environment for All (HEAL) Act.

Immigration

 

We value:
  • Dignity and respect for all people. All people are entitled to human rights and dignity, regardless of country of origin or immigration status.

  • Family preservation and unification: Separation of families is traumatizing, inhumane, and contrary to our values. 

  • Cultural diversity: Immigrants enrich our society and their presence should not be criminalized or stigmatized.

  • Immigrant labor rights: All workers deserve protection from abuse and exploitation, regardless of country of origin or immigration status.

 

2022 Policy Priorities

 

Immigration Enforcement
  • Federal Government: Prohibit family separation, regardless of immigration status.

  • Federal and State Governments: Ban privately-run detention facilities.

  • Congress: Prohibit and prosecute vigilante border militia groups.

  • Federal, State, and Local Governments: Respect the boundaries of federalism and public safety by ensuring that state, county, and municipal public agencies and employees are not engaged in immigration enforcement or sharing sensitive information with immigration enforcement agencies and that immigration officials are banned from intervening in local court proceedings.

 

Pathway to Citizenship
  • Congress: Create additional paths to permanent residence and citizenship for persons already residing within the United States who harvest our crops, staff our warehouses, serve in the military, pay taxes, and otherwise contribute to the vitality of our country.

  • Congress: Pass the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, for undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors and enrolled in school.

  • Congress: Pass legislation to limit any president’s power to engage in ethnic and religious bias in enforcement of immigration law.

 

Immigrant Rights
  • Congress: Improve conditions for workers, including fair and predictable wages, readily understandable contracts, and the provision of safe and adequate housing, medical care, education, food, and water.

  • State Legislature: Extend unemployment benefits to undocumented immigrant workers.

  • Cities, State Legislature: Ban requesting a social security number without listing alternative accepted forms of identification in applications for rental homes, manufactured home parks, public assistance, and other benefits, programs, or services.

  • Congress, State Legislature: Remove hiring restrictions for undocumented students at public institutions of higher education.

  • City of Bellingham: establish a city and wherever possible, other government agency-funded Immigrant Resource Center with mandates determined by impacted community members of the Immigration Advisory Board, in consultation with impacted communities.

Jobs and Labor

We value:
  • Living wages: People who work full time must not live in poverty and must be able to afford basic needs, including housing and food. People who have worked must have retirement security. 

  • Workplace safety: Working people deserve as safe a working environment as possible, with protection from workplace hazards and chemical exposures.

  • Respect for working people:

    • All working people must have paid sick days to care for themselves and their families.

    • Unemployment insurance should apply to all workers.

    • Wage theft in any form is wrong.

    • Working people must have gender and racial equity.

    • Union organizing must be protected from retaliation. 

    • Guest workers (H2A and related programs) must be treated fairly and with dignity, and their health and safety must be protected through adequate inspection and enforcement by state agencies.

    • Working people have the right to organize and to bargain collectively to negotiate wages, benefits, working conditions, and retirement benefits. 

    • Those who enjoy union benefits must share in the payment of union dues.

 

2024-25 Policy Priorities

Wages
  • Congress: Pass the Paycheck Fairness Act to reduce the gender gap in wages.

  • State Legislature: Prohibit piece rate wages.

  • Congress: Raise the national minimum wage to $15 an hour (it is now $7.25/hour).

  • State Legislature: Raise the Washington State minimum wage to $20 an hour, with automatic annual cost of living adjustment.

  • State Legislature, State Attorney General: Increase civil penalties for wage theft to a high enough percentage of business income to be a true deterrent, and develop capacity for effective enforcement.

Worker Protections
  • State Legislature, Congress: Ban captive audience meetings and prohibit employers from mandating employees to attend meetings or listen to communications where the primary purpose is for management to express its views on certain religious or political matters, including supporting or joining a labor organization.

  • Congress: Pass the Employee Free Choice Act to require a union to be certified as the official union to bargain with an employer upon the collection of signatures (“card check”) from a majority of workers.

  • State Legislature: Fully protect the right to organize, bargain collectively, and maintain the privacy of union members’ identity. Oppose deliberately misnamed “right to work” legislation that enables those who by federal law enjoy union benefits (including collective bargaining and legal representation) to become “free riders” by refusing to pay union dues while still keeping the benefits. Such legislation is intended to destroy unions by making them financially unviable.

  • State Legislature: Prohibit “Right to Arbitrate” agreements which force workers into signing away their legal rights. Declare existing mandatory arbitration clauses void.

  • State Legislature, Cities: Enact secure schedule or fair work week protections, to ensure adequate notice of work shifts and reduce schedule instability.

  • State Legislature: Develop protections for gig and self-employed workers. These must include a minimum wage; the right to unionize; and access to a portable benefits fund paid for by gig companies to provide health insurance, paid time off, sick leave, retirement, and workers’ compensation insurance. Provide an option for self-employed to buy into workers’ compensation and unemployment coverage.

  • State Legislature: Pass legislation clarifying that gig workers are employees, subject to worker’s compensation and liability, employer social security contributions, and healthcare.

  • State Legislature: Create “sectoral councils” composed of representatives of labor, management, employees, and government agencies, to set wage, benefit, and safety standards in business structures that outsource operational functions through gig work and contracting.

  • State and Local Governments: Adopt industry-wide standards to govern subcontracting of certain functionally internal operations (e.g., domestic work, janitorial services).

  • Federal and State Government: Legislate collective bargaining rights between franchisor corporations and franchisees and tie this right to franchisee’s voluntary recognition of unions.

  • Federal and State Government: Penalties should be significant enough that companies cannot consider them a cost of doing business.

  • State Legislature: Further limit the use and enforcement of non-compete provisions by making them sunset one year after termination of employment.

  • State Legislature: Defend the inclusion of seasonal agricultural workers in overtime pay rules.

  • State Legislature: Set minimum standards and enforcement for adequate sanitation, food, and housing for all farm workers.

  • Congress, State Legislature: Fund meaningful OSHA enforcement and set universal standards for airborne particles and infection prevention.

  • State Legislature: End the exclusion of striking workers from unemployment insurance.

Economic Development
  • Federal Government, State Legislature: Fund training for displaced workers and economic support during their transition period.

  • Whatcom County and cities: Adopt Community Workforce Agreements,(as in Seattle) that include apprenticeships, particularly for women, people of color, and others with significant employment barriers, to promote living-wage jobs.

  • Port of Bellingham, City of Bellingham: Support a public waterfront with living-wage jobs in marine-related trades.

  • State Legislature: Promote the formation of employee and consumer cooperatives, including offering loans to workers wishing to purchase businesses that are shifting production abroad.

Indigenous Peoples

 

We value:
  • Indigenous sovereignty and treaty rights: We recognize Native Americans as self-determining and self-governing within the framework of U.S. federal law and treaty obligations, with treaty obligations taking precedence. Art. VI of the U.S. Constitution specifies that “all Treaties made ... under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

  • Indigenous heritage: We respect Indigenous history, cultures, and economies and join Native Americans in celebrating their history; maintaining and protecting the marine, animal, and plant life critical to their cultures and economies; and preserving, protecting, and restoring sites and names with historical, cultural, and religious significance.

 

2024-25 Policy Priorities
  • Federal Government, State Legislature, Whatcom County: Fully respect and protect Indigenous treaty rights, including water rights, traditional fishing rights, and sacred burial grounds.

  • Federal Government, State Legislature, Whatcom County: Recognize and put into effect the principles in the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People adopted by the General Assembly by a vote of 144 to 4 in 2007 (since then, the U.S. and the three other countries voting against have reversed their position and now support the Declaration), including:

    • “Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired” (Art. 26)

    • “States shall establish and implement, in conjunction with indigenous peoples concerned, a fair, independent, impartial, open and transparent process, giving due recognition to indigenous peoples’ laws, traditions, customs and land tenure systems, to recognize and adjudicate the rights of indigenous peoples pertaining to their lands, territories and resources, including those which were traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used. Indigenous peoples shall have the right to participate in this process” (Art. 27).

    • “Indigenous peoples have the right to redress, by means that can include restitution or, when this is not possible, just, fair and equitable compensation, for the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used, and which have been confiscated, taken, occupied, used or damaged without their free, prior and informed consent “(Art. 28).

    • “Indigenous peoples have the right to the conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands or territories and resources” (Art. 29).

  • State Legislature: Continue to support and fund the statewide task force on missing and murdered Indigenous women.

  • Federal Government: Respect the Indigenous sovereignty of nations bisected by the U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada borders and ensure their geographic and cultural integrity.

  • State Legislature: Pass legislation requiring insurance companies to obtain free, prior, and informed consent from impacted Indigenous governments before underwriting large environmental projects, as recommended by the Washington State Insurance Commissioner and the National Congress of American Indians.

  • Federal and State Governments: Fund Indigenous-led land trusts to re-establish land bases for peoples across the Americas and Pacific.

  • Federal and State Governments: Increase funding for Indigenous colleges and universities.

  • Federal Government: Recognize Indigenous leadership in making environmental stewardship decisions.

Transportation

 

We value:
  • A safe transportation system that provides lots of mobility options and does not further harm the environment or people, regardless of race, age, gender, language, disability, income, sexual orientation, and where we live.

  • Safe streets for everyone. Death and serious injuries in traffic are not “accidents” but preventable crashes. No fatality on our streets and roadways is inevitable or acceptable.

  • Public transit that is frequent, reliable, and goes where we need to go – so that it can be part of the effort to reduce congestion, reduce auto pollution, and boost our local economy.

  • Reducing auto-dependence. We cannot achieve climate, housing, transit, and equity goals without eliminating parking subsidies, mandatory parking minimums, and zoning that promotes sprawl.

  • The paradigm shift from conventional transportation planning to the Safe Systems approach because it builds and reinforces multiple layers of protection to both prevent crashes and minimize the harm when crashes do occur.

 

2024-25 Policy Priorities

Disability Mobility and Access
  • Federal Government, State Legislature: Increase funding to remove the backlog of Americans with Disability Act (ADA) projects in response to the unfunded mandate to remove barriers in the pedestrian environment. Prioritize access within a half mile of transit and provide bus shelters.

  • Whatcom County and cities: Prohibit encroachment into sidewalk space by electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, delivery robots, and sandwich boards. Sidewalks are a publicly funded resource, created for pedestrians to safely use.

  • State Legislature, County Council, City Councils: Provide remote access to public meeting participation, including community engagement activities.

  • Whatcom County and Cities: Design community engagement outreach to ensure all community members have access to participate in discussions and decision-making regarding city or county transportation plans and projects.

 
Funding
  • Federal Government, State Legislature, Whatcom County and Cities: Fix it first. Prioritize maintenance, preservation, and safety over building new roads and widening streets.

  • State Legislature, Whatcom County and Cities: Develop a publicly available scorecard for evaluating and approving transportation projects based on environmental and lifetime maintenance responsibilities. Emphasize emissions reductions, safety, equity, health, and environmental justice.

  • State Legislature: Increase funding for the Safe Routes to School (SR2S) grant program.

  • State Legislature: Increase funding for the statewide Active Transportation Plan to provide safe mobility to jobs, schools, services, and bus connections for all.

  • Whatcom County and Cities: Include e-bike facilities (e.g., charging stations, secure parking, group buys) when planning for other electric vehicles.

  • State Legislature: Provide stable statewide transit funding incorporating strategies identified by the WA Legislative Joint Transportation Committee’s Needs Assessment, such as the Transportation package, a carbon fee/tax, or for-hire transportation tax.

  • State Legislature, Counties, Cities: Replace transit fares with a progressive source of income.

  • State Legislature: Use progressive, carbon-friendly revenue sources to fund transportation programs.

Safe Systems Implementation 
  • State Legislature, Whatcom County and Cities: Ensure by addressing equity gaps in safe transportation infrastructure for low-income neighborhoods and communities of color who bear a disproportionate burden of traffic-related injuries and fatalities.

  • Federal Government: Ensure by strengthening the safety ratings program as well as adult and child occupants, and safety assist technologies. Research from the European rating program shows improved vehicle design results in pedestrians being 35% more likely to survive a collision.

  • Federal government: Adopt National Transportation Safety Board recommendation to help prevent crashes by ensuring that a system to signal excessive speed is standard on new vehicles (including SUVs, light pickups).

  • Federal government, State Legislature: Require consumer disclosure regarding safety risks and environmental hazards of heavier and larger vehicles. (For example: increasing crash severity and microplastic pollution via tire breakdown.)

  • Whatcom County and Cities: To minimize harm to people, speed limit signs should be accompanied by self-guiding street design. Speed increases both the frequency and severity of crashes.

    • Current safety campaigns set a maximum to “twenty is plenty” for residential streets because the risk of severe injury increases to 50% at 30 mph.

    • On major streets (arterials), where conditions vary widely, cities should conduct a Safe Speed Study to minimize risk for people walking or rolling. In urban areas, the maximum speed limit for safety is 20 or 25 mph for major streets.

    • Consider additional speed management tools and technology as an additional layer for safety.

  • State Legislature: Reduce crash potential by lowering the blood-alcohol content (BAC) threshold for operating a motor vehicle from .08% to .05%, as in Utah where the crash rate dropped almost 20%.

  • Congress and State Legislature: Ensure safe streets and reduce collisions at intersections by banning right turns on red.

  • Whatcom County and Cities: Ensure

    • Reconfiguring streets for safe access for everyone. Walking and rolling infrastructure should be both safe and desirable to use.

    • Implementing self-enforcing design strategies (e.g., narrow lane widths and tighter corners) that subconsciously guide urban motorists to safer travel for all without the need for law enforcement presence.

    • Retrofitting urban stroads (city streets that try to accommodate both roadway through-traffic and people going to local destinations and don’t work well for either) to reduce stress, collisions, and injuries.

    • Prohibiting simultaneous vehicle turning movements into crosswalks at signalized intersections when pedestrians have a walk signal.

  • Whatcom County and Cities: Ensurethat includes using “crash,” not “accident” and removing victim blaming from reports.

  • City of Bellingham: Use and protect “unimproved” Right-of-Ways for trail and bicycle connections.

Transit
  • WTA: Ensure service equity by assessing needs and barriers (such as service hours, routes, safety, fares) faced by people with low-income, those with disabilities, communities of color, and older adults, so those who need transit the most get to the places they need to go.

  • WTA: Eliminate fares to increase convenience, reduce transit times, and hopefully boost ridership, as a third of Washington State transit agencies have done, including nearby Island Transit. WTA fares cover only 3.3% of total revenue, and are counterbalanced by the cost of fare collection equipment. Fare collection slows buses.

  • WTA: Explore additional ways of boosting ridership (e.g. more frequent service, smaller buses, extending routes, or improving route efficiency).

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