The measures are Community First Whatcom’s follow-up to four initiatives put before voters in 2021
Photo: Italic serif font in gold reads, “Whatcom County” with words in all caps in white underneath that say, “Vote yes on initiatives 1 and 2” on a black background and a gold silhouette of Whatcom County on a map of Washington with surrounding counties in gray.
Along with No Mega Jail in Ferndale, Inatai Foundation is proud to support Community First Whatcom with $25,000 for City of Bellingham Initiatives 1 and 2. Together, they offer voters the chance to make progress toward affordable housing and livable wages.
As the people of Whatcom County understand too well, wage stagnation and housing instability are inextricably linked. If approved, Initiative 1 would increase the minimum wage by $2 over two years and provide important worker protections. Initiative 2 would protect renters from sudden rent hikes of more than 8 percent by requiring 120 days of advance notice from landlords, as well as relocation assistance for displaced residents. Together, these two initiatives would be an important step toward a Bellingham where everyone can enjoy security, dignity, and safety at home and in the workplace.
The situation in Bellingham mirrors a common reality across our state: rents are too high and wages are too low. And who typically bears the brunt of this imbalanced equation? Our neighbors who are already burdened by inequity and injustice. As Community First Whatcom shared with us, while the median family income in Bellingham increased by just 20 percent from 2000 to 2020, the median home value increased by nearly 80 percent. Because Washington state’s minimum wage is about $2.00 less than what is considered a livable wage in Whatcom County, the majority of renters in Bellingham spend an unsustainable 30 percent or more of their income on housing. It’s time to balance this equation.
Community First Whatcom shows that transformative change can take time. More than anything, this campaign is about building community power. Initiatives 1 and 2 may sound familiar to some. They are Community First Whatcom’s follow-up to four initiatives put before voters in 2021, which Inatai also supported. Although two were not successful at the ballot, these community leaders persevered because they know meaningful, material change takes time. Still, the campaign was successful in 2021 with two measures: a ban on advanced policing technology and a prohibition of the use of city funds to discourage unionization efforts. Those victories demonstrated the power of what people can achieve when joined together in action. This year’s campaign is built on that momentum and the lessons that came out of 2021—a journey that Inatai both supports and has learned from.
We stand with the people of Bellingham to vote yes on Initiative 1 and Initiative 2 this November.