Here are some questions that have been asked of me by citizens and my brief answers. If you need more info or wish to offer a comment, just drop me an email, [email protected]. Or don’t hesitate to call my cell: (360) 927-1881
Please check back regularly as more Q and A’s will be added! Scroll down for answers.
Jon, what about the new county jail, locating in Ferndale?
Yes, Whatcom County plans to locate a new jail at a 40-acre site in south Ferndale near Slater. The voters of the whole county are scheduled to vote on a sales tax increase (0.2 cents/dollar) this November to fund the new jail and sheriff’s department.
This is a complicated and challenging issue for the county and our cities, and the news about it changes almost daily as the county (the council, executive, and sheriff’s department) along with the seven Whatcom cities (including Ferndale) try to come to a funding/tax-sharing agreement. NO ONE questions the need to replace the current jail which is a disaster ready to happen.
I know that citizens of Ferndale who live near that site are concerned about the implications and impacts of a jail. I would feel the same way if I owned a home there. It won’t alleviate all your concerns, but there are many industrial/manufacturing uses that would be permitted to be built on that 40-acre site as it is currently zoned (“M” for “manufacturing”). A county jail might be one of the better possibilities. I know that when we think of jails we think of scenes from Cool Hand Luke and The Shawshank Redemption movies. But modern jails look much more like a professional building or community college. For example, see the image here of the new SCORE correctional facility in Des Moines (near Kent).
Ferndale cannot stop the jail from locating here. It is an “essential public facility” and cities cannot forbid such needed buildings (like schools, hospitals, police stations, etc) from locating in their jurisdictions. However, we can and have dictated the zoning (where in the city it can go) and much of the design (look). You can read about these requirements in our code, here.
The property selected by the county for the jail site is at the corner of Labounty and Sunset Ave, not far from Slater Road (kitty-corner from the Yellow Cab site). This parcel of land is zoned “manufacturing” and could be developed for any number of heavy manufacturing uses. Some of us think that using this site for a jail (which will look a lot like a small community college, and not the like the jails [with barb wire and guard towers, etc. ] you see in old movies) is one of the better uses of this land. Click here for a list of “permitted uses” in this “M” zone.
Your city staff and council have been vigilant and relentless (through a re-working of our “M” zoning as it relates to “essential public facilities”) in ensuring that the construction and operation of the jail will result in the best possible impact on our city, and perhaps even bring some benefits to our community (sales tax revenues, higher paid jobs, economic activity in south Ferndale). One result of the jail being built in Ferndale is that there will be a one-time bump in sales/TBD (Transportation Benefit District) taxes of about $800,000 to the city from the construction materials of this $100,000,000 project.
Said another way: assuming that the jail comes to Ferndale, we have done our best to bring about the best outcome for all of Ferndale.
Jon, can you share some personal “defining moments” that you bring to this job or to your life today?
Sure. I guess my mind often wonders to a number of impactful events in my life that stay with me, sometimes daily influencing my choices.
(1) The birth and growth of our seven children. Diane had two of our children (Jack, Analise) in our home (with midwife). These two can grow up and say something rather special, and perhaps rare: “We were born in the house our dad built.” Anyway, four were regular hospital births (with wonderful doctors, “Dick” and “Meg”) and little Nicholas (“Minion Nick”) was born at St. Joes as well, via C-section. Those experiences impacted our whole family. I don’t think Diane or I would say that raising a large family was all that hard. They all pitch in and help (even today) and things work really well for us. We are very proud of our seven children. They are smart, healthy, good and productive members of this community.
(2) The loss of my father is something I will likely never get over. Although very smart and disciplined, he battled alcoholism and found his remedy when he took his own life in his home in 1989. I miss him every single day. He didn’t get to see any of our children, nor the life that Diane and I have carved out here in this corner of Washington. He was a good, decent, educated man. I have written a bit about him here. He left us when I was about 30. I miss our adult conversations.
(3) At about age 5 my parents divorced. I think they were just two very different people, different temperaments, and just couldn’t figure out how to get along. I remember sobbing when Dad moved out, leaving Mom with their three sons (I’m the oldest) and a step-daughter, Lyndee (Mom was married and widowed previously–see below, on “Ray”). I wonder, in many ways, how life might have been different had they resolved things. But I don’t judge them for not staying together. I always felt loved.
Neither remarried. Dad always lived within 10-20 minutes from us, and I’ve had a rich relationship with both. Mom still lives in Bremerton, in the same home we grew up in on Kitsap Lake. Both were highly educated, smart, and loving people. They each earned their Masters in Education from Northwestern University near Chicago (where I was born), and Dad completed his Doctorate in Education in Colorado. I inherited their DNA, but also their life-long desire to learn, think, create, and live. Dad passed music along to me and his amazing leadership skills. [They were both born in North Dakota, but we moved to Bremerton, WA around 1960 when dad took a job at Olympic College.]
(4) I never felt we lacked or “wanted.” Although, growing up in a family of five, with a single mom (an underpaid school teacher) we didn’t do the extra stuff. I can’t recall any kind of major trip (although, I think we checked into a nearby hotel that had a pool once), and restaurants (other than the local “Pancake House”) were rare. I think often of the day I came home from school and mom was weeping in the driveway. The power had been shut off. She couldn’t pay the bill that month. A proud person, I know it had to have been painful to ask for help. Maybe I was about 8 or 10. Not sure. [Maybe this is why I push back, on city council, against rising utility rates and utility taxes.]
(5) I also remember when we turned in the baby blue Plymouth and mom bought a Ford Fairlane Station Wagon. New. Then, sometime after we bought it, it was nearly totaled during the winter when a reckless driver smashed into it late night when it was parked on the street shoulder (because of snow in our steep driver). I was so sad with and for her. They never found the driver [“But YOU know who you are!!”]
(6) Another mom story, and something I am still mildly ashamed of today. My senior year in high school. I did well at West High and graduated third in my senior class of 312. It was the night of the National Honor Society banquet. I wasn’t planning to go. I just didn’t care for stuff like that. Plus, I think I found school a bit boring. Anyway, the day of the banquet Mom found out about it. Parents, of course, were invited too.
“We’re going, Jon. Right??”
We’re going to the honors’ banquet, tonight, right?”
“Ahh, sure Mom….if you say so.”
So, reluctantly, we went to the Kitsap County Club for this event where, after a forgettable meal, they called off the names of each honored graduating senior. But more than that, they listed off their accomplishments, scholarships, clubs, sports, activities, etc (it was a lonnnnnng night).
But when they came to “Jon Mutchler,” there was nothing. They just moved on to the next name, “Sue Nelson: chess club, Spanish Club, Drill Team, class officer….” I had not filled out the paper work. Didn’t bother to.
But that neglect crushed my dear mom, who had provided the incentives and motivation and resources and transportation to do all the stuff I did at WHS. A bad night. [So kids, when Mom and Dad want to boast, and be proud of what you do, and participate in graduations and special events where you are recognized, please let us! We love you too much to not care.]
Anyway, I’m sorry, Mom. And thanks for the countless things you did.
(7) Okay, one more recent “defining moment.” I mentioned earlier that Mom was previously married. Lt. Raymond Palon was an Air Force pilot and after they were married, they had my sister, Lyndee. In 1953, February, during a F-51 Mustang training exercise, Ray crashed into a field near Lutsen, Minnesota, just off Lake Superior. He perished instantly. It took months to recover his remains and wreckage in the middle of a snowy winter. Suddenly, Mom was a widow with a little girl, until she met my Dad.
Anyway, in 2013, I took my daughter Maddie on a midwest trip to see relatives and visit places related to our parents. I invited sister Lyndee along with us. It had been 60 years since the crash, she had never visited the site, and she asked if we could take a day trip up north to see the place where her father perished.
“Heck yeh! Let’s go!”
We made all the arrangements, contacting the new owners of the farm. “Sure, we know the crash site. In fact, there is still some wreckage there.” Wow!
As I’m writing this now, there is a small piece of painted aluminum cowling from Ray’s plane in my desk drawer. Lyndee boxed up about 50 pounds of airplane pieces and treasures them today as her last “connection” with her dad. Yeh, heavy stuff.
Anyway, we spent several hours at the site, and at one point Lyndee sat on a rock as Maddie and I continued to hunt for Ray’s wedding ring (never found, btw — but maybe we’ll go back with a metal detector some day). Lyndee started to weep as she embraced all that had happened there, and how her life was changed forever. One mistake. One tragedy. And the trajectory and geography and life of a little girl forever altered. That’s what she was thinking. I know.
As I watched Lyndee, I had a different reflection, which I still have today. If there had not been that training accident, Mom would not have met and married Ralph, and you wouldn’t be reading these words today.
(8) Politicians are an angry bunch. That’s a dirty little secret about politicians. Talk to enough of them and you’ll find a theme for many: they were upset, angry, or at least discontent about a city (or county, or state) decision (or non-decision) that impacted their lives, and so they ran for office, sometimes winning. (Sadly, many of those angry candidates remain angry public servants; but I digress.)
“What about you, Jon”? Well, I did have my, “You’ve got to be kidding?!? They want to do what to me?” moment with our local government.
It was 2008 and I was putting on a concert at home to promote my latest CD of piano music. The local papers did a nice article on it.
About 5 days before the concert I got a phone call from Ferndale City Hall (previously, I thought if I left City Hall alone, they’d leave me alone. Nope!). “Mr. Mutchler, a council member told us about your concert, and we are concerned you may be breaking city zoning ordinances by putting on a performance in your home! You may not realize it, but we can issue you a ‘cease and desist’ order and shut you down.”
Suddenly, City Hall was on MY RADAR, and perhaps Ferndale hasn’t been quite the same since. I don’t know.
So, I spent half a day going through something mysterious, other-worldy, almost a foreign language — something as lofty and complicated as Mt. Sinai, and the Leviticus Code:
And I looked high and low, and could find NOTHING (zip, zero, nada) that would suggest a violation of any code.
With that in mind I met our newly elected mayor, Gary Jensen, and we straightened things out (Gary, did I ever thank you for that? Do you even remember!? It was my first time in the “big room” with you, and most of your senior staff. Fun!).
But in a fit of bitter revenge I renamed that concert, with sign on my front door: “Welcome to the Jon Mutchler, Cease and Desist Concert. Take your shoes off, please.”
Yep, and now I’m running for mayor. I hope I got rid of the anger. And I still put on concerts in my home.
Jon, one candidate seems to take a lot of credit for our beautiful new library. What’s your take?
There is an old saying that politics is the art of taking credit for the inevitable. Sort of like a rooster boasting about the sunrise.
Truth be told, a number of parties should receive credit for the success of the library. I noted this an in oped I wrote for the Herald and Ferndale Record in November of 2014 right before the library opened.
Until now, I haven’t taken any credit for the library. However, comments by one of the candidates give the impression at times that she was the only person working on behalf of the library, fighting great resistance [she says, “pushback] from others on council.
I speak only of my record, which can be verified by public documents:
Along with Councilmembers Hansen and Faria, I proposed the creation of an ad-hoc committee in 2010 to help navigate the library/police station projects forward, which had been getting bogged down in the city political process. That committee successfully nursed both projects, the police station and library, to completion. Click here.
During the entire library and police station process I wrote several op-eds, that appeared in both the Herald and Ferndale Record, thanking donors, appealing for more gifts, explaining the complicated dynamics of these two projects, and appealing the passage of the library bond.
My family and I gave several gifts toward the new library.
Our family hosted a fundraiser “meet and greet” at our home in 2010. At that event a $25,000 gift was presented to the library fund from a generous supporter.
When council finally asked the voters to decide the fate of the library (Proposition 1 in 2013), I spent personal funds to design, purchase, and place “Yes Library” signs around the city. I also put up a pro-library web site with a domain I purchased, FerndaleLibrary.com.
I was also the only public official to go on the local radio to promote the library bond a few days before the election. The bond just passed by 57 votes.
These are efforts that I consider just “part of the job” of being a council member. However, comments during this campaign have left the impression that I (and others) just sat on my hands regarding the progress of the library. The record will show otherwise.
Jon, will Thornton Road ever get connected to I-5?
Yes, someday! And your city is moving forward now with design and engineering on a preferred plan (see the pict attached here). But connecting Thornton Road to I-5 (by crossing the RR at the east end of Thornton, following I-5 south along the west side, then connecting with the roundabout at Portal Way) is going to cost north of $22,000,000. That is a large amount of money.
In my view we will need significant state and federal help on this one. The benefits are obvious: people who live in the NW part of town (most of us) will use Exit 263 (rather than 262) and alleviate some of the Main Street and Nooksack River bridge traffic. That is, the project has city-wide implications and will universally help city traffic.
The city will continue to press our state and federal representatives on this project. Through our various taxes (sales, property, income, gas) we send a lot of money to Olympia and D.C.. I would like to see some of it come back here and this would be the perfect project. But moving ahead now with planning and engineering will make this project more “shovel ready” and more apt to attract grant money.
I know citizens have been waiting a long time, but the city is closer to starting this project.
Jon, I know this is more a “county issue,” but can you weigh-in the the Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point?
Yes, this is a Whatcom County Council decision and vote. Not a city one, directly. The Cherry Point proposal puts this project west and outside of Ferndale. But it will certainly create impacts here: good and, some say, bad. But again, this is not a Ferndale city/mayor/council decision, but one for the Whatcom County Council, once all the studies are completed by the various state/federal agencies involved.
I know this is a divisive issue, with some in Ferndale for it, and others not. But you have asked my view, and I am happy to share it, though it will likely disappoint some. Bottom line: I have always provisionally stated my support. But it comes with a big, fat “IF.”
When news of the Gateway Pacific Terminal first came out our mayor, Gary Jensen and council member Brent Goodrich took the lead in having the City of Ferndale draft a provisional resolution statement of support. We recognized that the completed project would bring a large number of high-paid jobs to Whatcom County and have a beneficial impact on our tax base (especially for the County and the Blaine/Ferndale schools). Everybody admits that Whatcom County is starved for “family wage jobs,” and this project would make a big dent in this need. A big one. Pre- and post-construction, the project will create a very large number of union, high income jobs.
That 2011 resolution, which can be found at this link, received a unanimous vote of support from the council and mayor in 2011. I voted in support of the resolution.
HOWEVER, before the final draft of this resolution of support came to council, I asked staff that the following language be included (which you can find at the link provided):
“…this project will be subjected to extensive environmental review, including an Environmental Impact Statement…”
This statement brought us into agreement with what many officials have properly said. That is, if a GPT-type proposal (deep water dry goods port at Cherry Point) can demonstrate that all environmental concerns can be addressed (including those of the Lummi Nation) and mitigated for and since the Cherry Point property is already zoned for such use (bulk commodities shipment terminal), the council should follow the law and the county code, and approve this project.
Folks, there is a big “IF” in that statement. And since NO ONE has seen the final EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) no one is in a good place to make a judgment on this project today, although many people and groups have already done just that.
My message is, let’s wait and see what the final EIS report says. That is what the law requires.
In short, the process is working. The property owners should get a fair hearing on their proposal, which fits the zoning of this land. That is their right. The scope of the EIS is huge. And someday we will learn what the impacts will be and what mitigation is being prescribed. Then the County Council will make a decision.
Allow me to say it one more way: If [there’s that word again] an impact mitigation plan can be developed between SSA Marine and the lead agencies involved in this project that will protect our environment to the greatest degree, protect our quality of life here in Whatcom County, respect treaties and laws related to our neighbors, Lummi Nation, produce a number of temporary and permanent high-wage jobs, and meet the demands of the code, this project should be approved. Property owners should expect public officials to follow the law. I am pleased that most of the current county council members (left and right) have expressed the same sentiments when they ran for office. So has Congressman Rick Larson (D).
At the end of the day I don’t believe anyone wants to destroy our environment. Certainly not me. We also need a vibrant economy and we need jobs. Let’s reserve judgment and see what the final reports say. That seems fair to me.
Jon, tell us what you think of local businesses and how important they are to you?
Business owners and entrepreneurs: I promise to be your biggest cheerleader.
I want your local government to stay out of your way as much as possible.
I will treat you fairly and honestly, but I can’t and won’t play favorites. Don’t ask me to short-cut the rules for you. I won’t.
Yes, we have codes and laws, and you and I both must follow them. But if you think we have a local code on the books that doesn’t reasonably benefit either you or the city, I want to hear about it. I’m willing to talk, of course.
I want your success to be rewarded, not punished. You are risking time, assets, and capital to succeed and my view is always that if business succeeds, so will our city and its citizens.
Unique among cities is that we don’t have a local B/O (business and occupation) tax. I wouldn’t change that. You have plenty of taxes to worry about.
And when you come to City Hall and need to work with the city (not something you probably want to do) I promise to make it fair, respectful, and as brief as possible. In return, I ask that you treat our staff with respect as well. They will have my charge to work their best on behalf of you, and our city.
My goal is that your experience with City Hall would be as customer-service friendly as what you receive at your favorite local coffee shop.
My friend, Ferndale is “open for business!”
Jon, I know that Ferndale is going to grow, especially at our I-5 interchanges. I’m concerned: I don’t want the traffic jams like I experience in Bellingham.
I like this question because I have thought about and worked a lot on this issue as a council member. This is also an opportunity to give credit to city staff, especially our city administrator and community development director, for helping council navigate a positive “pro-community/pro-business” path on this issue.
We know that retail growth is coming to Ferndale. Probably at Slater (Exit 260) and Main Street (Exit 262). Exactly what, I can’t say. But look what is happening with Costco at Bakerview. Folks, we’re next. We have the next two I-5 exits after Bakerview. We are close to Bellingham and Canada. And retail appears to be expanding our direction.
I personally don’t want Main Street or Slater to look like Bakerview Road or the Guide Meredian during holiday traffic time. Which is why I supported and have defended vigorously a preemptive action called the Planned Action Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) about 4 years ago for Main Street and I-5.
In short, with professional consultants and major property owners, we researched and adopted a traffic mitigation plan that will help keep our “level of service” on Main Street street close to what we have now (Level “C”). I hope to provide a link soon to show it, but it will include a number of roundabouts along Main. The first two will go in at Labounty and Main (Haggens) then likely at Walgreens. Further roundabouts will be built at I-5 and near the McDonalds/Pilot Gas area (Barrett Road).
One of the many nice things about this EIS, is that we are able to show developers now, today, what is expected of them. We save them a year’s worth of work which has already been done for them. “Developers want certainty,” we hear. We have provided it, and protected our traffic flow.
We are fortunate in that we can learn from the mistakes of others in regard to how other I-5 cities have handled growth. We should be able to do it differently. Stay tuned!
Jon, What’s up with Lummi Nation? Aren’t they going to build in or near Ferndale?
I have worked earnestly over the last few years to develop a positive relationship with members and staff of our neighbors to the south, the Lummi Nation. Like you and I, they want what’s best for their community and for their families. Their chairman, Tim Ballew, is someone I consider a friend. He’s a father, like me, and wants what’s best for his people. They experience the same economic and social challenges we face. Like us, they want a better life.
The tribe has purchased significant parcels of land around Slater Road and will likely become one of our larger developers within (and near) the city limits of Ferndale. As mayor of Ferndale I would approach the tribe as that: developers. Just like any other developer. The mayor and city staff would do all we can to make sure that this developer, like any other, works with the city to manage and mitigate impacts.
But at the same time, I respect the fact that they have a special and unique recognized legal status in our state and country as a sovereign tribe. Can I perhaps say, that they are a “Devloper-plus?”
It makes things complicated. It really does, especially as it concerns sales tax, property taxes, and more. My commitment is to always put Ferndale first in negotiations with the tribe. I’m sworn to do that. But I promise to approach the Lummi Nation with respect and a commitment to finding win/win agreements with them that serve all of us well.
Jon, we need better jobs for Ferndale citizens. Do you have a plan?
First, I don’t think we’re doing that bad in attracting businesses and employers to Ferndale. I’ve seen a number of exciting businesses move to Ferndale in the last few years. Add to that the influx of Homeland Security families that have settled here since 9/11 (employees who make higher wages). But we will continue to do what we need to do make Ferndale attractive to quality businesses.
We have no local B&O tax. That’s called a Business and Occupation tax. It is sort of like an income tax for businesses. Our city has none (unlike Bellingham), and I believe it is the reason some businesses choose to locate here.
Quality of life. Employers want to move their companies to places where their employees would want to live. That’s why “quality of life” issues are important. We need to have a clean, safe, and enjoyable city. It needs to be a place where people want to work, live, learn, and play. This attracts businesses.
We need to have a more flexible zoning map. I have attended nearly every Ferndale Planning Commission meeting since 2009. I have come to the conclusion that (1) we have too many different zoning categories (and need to simplify the menu) and (2) the permitted uses in all of those need to be expanded and (3) conditional uses reduced.
What does that mean? We need to allow property owners the right to sell or use their land. And we need to let the business world and market determine (within reasonable guidelines) what is built.
I support more of a “form-based zoning” in the future. At least in the non-retail parts of the city (I believe we need to guard our retail potential, because that protects needed sales tax revenue). What this means is that the city can and should provide guidelines (through our E.A.G.L.E. Standards, developed by our community development director) on what buildings look like and how they function, energy wise. But the city shouldn’t care as much about the business being developed inside. Again, let market dynamics and needs dictate those businesses.
I am supportive of businesses: small, medium, large. They pay a lot of our bills! I am an active member of the Chamber of Commerce. As we like to say around City Hall, “We’re open for business!”
Jon, I want my government (city hall) to be more open and transparent. What can you do to help?
When I have a bit more time I wish to share some of the things I’ve moved the City to do in terms of being more transparent with you, the citizens. I believe in open and transparent government. I fully support the city having a “communications officer” to go to the extra degree to make sure we are reaching citizens via news outlets, social media, and even the old-fashioned mail system. My conviction is that government operates at a superior level when citizens know what’s going on and have the hand on the progress of their government. I promise to continue to make the city accountable to you, the taxpayers, by being frank, upfront, and honest with you at all times, and expecting the same from all my departments.
I also led the way to have our city go “above and beyond” by informing the public of significant land use actions. As a result, we go beyond the code and the law to ensure that we are doing as much as possible to inform the public when city actions impact their lives.
One of those changes that I brought to the city is the use now of large, visible 4-foot green signs that let neighborhoods know of land-use or zoning changes. Before that, the city posted notices on an 8.5 x 11 inch piece of white paper.
Jon, I want cool shops and restaurants in our downtown area on Main. How can we get those?
Yes, so do I. But there isn’t a magic bullet to get fancy shops and nice restaurants to settle downtown (although, I would suggest that we currently have some very nice ones).
This may sound counterintuitive to some, but I believe our focus should be at I-5 and Main, and to do all we can (through logical and reasonable zoning) to help development occur at our highway “gateway” areas.
This is the preferred and premium land of our city, being close to I-5 (and therefore close to Canada and Bellingham).
This area will attract the “national retail” businesses that have the financial resources to locate near the interstate. They can afford it, and demand it.
Then and after that, the smaller, more local “mom and pop” area business will start to look for locations more affordable (the price of rent, by then, going up near I-5). They will once again look toward the downtown core to do business again.
We saw this happen in Bellingham. Bellis Fair was built. As were other large retail areas (Walmart, Costco) and downtown, at first, dried up when Sears, JCPenny, and The Bon Marché/Macy’s moved to Bellis Fair. But as time went by, the local retailers and “one of a kind” restaurants and shops started investing in downtown, which is alive and vibrant now.
That will be the natural course for downtown Ferndale. We need only be patient.
I will also note that we have applied and adopted a number of financial incentives to the downtown area. It hasn’t spark growth yet, though I think we should keep these incentives. And, the city itself has initiated downtown investment with the new police station and library.
Jon, do you have a parks and trails plan?
I support current city efforts to focus on trails and sidewalks to connect us to various parks, schools, and attractions we currently have. I am uncertain we need a new park (the exception perhaps being Bender Park, see below under “other projects.”)
The city is asking the voters to approve a Metropolitan Parks District in November. If passed, this will bring additional revenues to the city, making projects like Bender Park and the proposed Star Park possible.
More to come…
Jon, are we EVER going to get a pool in Ferndale? I heard we once had one?
Yep, Ferndale once had a pool. Outdoors. It is now part of the FHS parking lot!
Sure, it seems like a city our size should have a public pool. What can be done?
It is possible that I swim more than any council member or city official or employee. Two days ago, before writing this section, I raced for the 7th time in a row in the Lake Padden Triathlon (oddly, I get slower every year!). Anyway, this great Bellingham event includes a half-mile swim leg: across Lake Padden and back.
I LOVE to swim. But I have always felt uncomfortable requiring other people to pay for my recreation.
And folks, pools are expensive. They are (1) expensive to build and (2) expensive to operate. Just ask Bellingham. However, I believe there is a pathway for Ferndale to get a modern aquatic center and not “soak” (!) the public to get it.
It needs to begin with a vision and conviction. But a practical and logical partnership needs to develop. In my view partners should include the YMCA (they know how to run aquatic centers, and not lose money!), private citizens and businesses, the interested public, and the public school. (One possible idea is to include the Blaine School District as well, and consider a shared pool between two school districts. Hey, just another idea!).
I am a big believer in private donations. It happens. There are financial resources. And there are folks with the heart and passion to give toward things that benefit their community. [Can I remind everybody that nearly 2/3s of our new library was built by private, non-governemtn funds?]
So, let’s have that conversation. One of my first goals would be to establish a passionate Ferndale Pool committee to begin vision-casting for this. It is possible to build a pool and run it with little or no public taxpayer money (a great example, worth anyone’s visit, is the Hazelwood YMCA Aquatic Center in Silverdale, built with donations and private funds).
We should also thank former Councilmember Lloyd Zimmerman (“Vote Zim so kids can swim”) for his passion and vision on this issue. His proposal didn’t garner the needed traction to move forward, but his enthusiasm was important and still needed today.
Jon, do you have any other projects you’d like to see move forward on?
There are a few things that come to mind in terms of needs/wants/dreams. (I would love to hear yours! Email me!)
I have the conviction that our government buildings and facilities should match, at least, the aesthetic values of our medium homes. Put another way: we should be proud of our government buildings as we are our homes. And when we look at our new library, police station, and community center (Pioneer Pavilion) I believe we can say we’ve obtained that.
The exception are two buildings that could become one: the old “pizza building” sitting next to City Hall and the current Council Chambers/City Annex at the corner of Vista and Second (this is also used as our court room).
My personal view is that I may like to sell the property at Vista/2nd (valuable downtown real estate) and (1) either remodel the pizza building or (2) build new, at or near that site a more modern Council Chamber/Courthouse. Thus, consolidating our government buildings in one area near City Hall and the Library, and provide facilities that reflect our city and future growth.
But Jon, what about the Ferndale Community Resource Center, which uses (free) space in the City Annex? I value the CRC, and was for a couple years the council’s liaison to this important service group. I believe we can find a location for this helpful resource to our city. An idea/suggestion I have had would be to raise volunteer funds and build a facility for the CRC — perhaps adjacent to the Food Bank off Main (which is how that facility was built: volunteer funds and labor). The location, next to the Food Bank, would put this on the bus line and would provide shared services with the Food Bank. Recall, if you will, that the CRC hosts “The Other Bank,” which provides non-food items (bath supplies, etc).
Again, just an idea. This is NOT a suggestion to close the CRC (some of misrepresented my position) but to consider the best use of city properties and possibly relocate.
I have also had my eye on a piece of land the city owns called Bender Park. I knew Cecile Bender, from whom the park is named. She sold the property to the schools/city for what is now Horizon and Eagleridge Schools. Just east of those schools is a nice piece of land called Bender Park. You will see it near the large water tower on Thornton. It is undeveloped and currently “off limits.”
This is a special piece of property in that it is near the highest elevation of the city. From there you have fabulous views of the mountains (Cascade and Canadian) and the water and islands. I would love to see a park there, that would service the whole community, but especially that large segment of Ferndale that lives up on what was once called “Swede Hill.”
It perhaps needs to have some sort of platform, tower, or build-up that allows everyone in our city to embrace the most fantastic and panoramic views of our city. (For an idea, go see the tower on Sehome Hill, near WWU)
I have also adopted another vision and dream, that has been floating around for about 10 years: The building of two foot-bridges over the Nooksack River. One would connect Pioneer Park with Hovander Park. A second, would connect Vanderyacht Park (on the river, behind the car wash) with the future proposed Riverplace Park (behind Dairy Queen).
Can you imaging the walking/running/biking routes this would create? Four parks. Two river bridges.
Also, I wish to comment on our wonderful city asset, Pioneer Park, home to some 15 or more of the most historic and valuable cabins and structures of Whatcom County . One really cool place.
However, we do not have a fire suppression system for our cabins. I wish for the city to look into the cost and possibly partner with the Old Settlers Association and Heritage Society, to work toward getting a fire suppression (“sprinkler”) system for the park and cabins. One good fire and this would be an irreplaceable loss to us.
These are rather large projects. I would love to see generous and passionate Ferndale citizens consider offering the lead gifts for these projects! I dare to dream for my city!
Jon, did I hear that Ferndale BANNED fireworks?
One or two Ferndale council members attempted to ban (legal) fireworks year-round (like Bellingham). But those efforts were stopped because of strong public comment by citizens and a better proposal that the majority of council embraced. Namely, beginning in 2016, fireworks (the legal stuff) can only be set-off on July 4 and Dec 31.
I am also hoping that by focusing on July 4 (instead of the whole week before), we might recapture the original intent of this holiday, so eloquently explained by our second president, John Adams, in a note to his wife, Abigail. He said to her:
“[Independence Day]… will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.” (John Adams)
Jon, how are my kids going to possibly afford to buy a home here in Ferndale?
The city has taken some steps to help keep homes more affordable in Ferndale. Recently, in 2014, we changed a number of our zoning requirements that give developers the ability to put more homes on large tracks of land. We did this by reducing lot sizes (through “lot size averaging”) and lowering the setback requirements. Said simply, builders can save money by putting up more homes in a limited piece of geography. This likely and usually puts a downward pressure on home prices.
The city is among the fastest in “turnarou
nd time” for building permits. “Time is money” to developers and we save them building costs which they can pass along.
Ferndale is also the #1 community for the the building of so-called “self-help” homes. These are groups of ten homes built by ten families over 12-14 months at a great savings to the new home owners. I am proud that I have assisted building in four of these neighborhoods over the last 10 years, including two family members.
Citizens may be surprised to learn that the Whatcom/Skagit Housing (“self help homes”) is the busiest home builder in Ferndale, having built about 400 homes over the last 35 years. These are solid, well-built, green, and energy efficient homes that the new owners are very proud of. I support any efforts to make this type of program (“sweat equity”) more successful in our community.
Further, our city assists in affordable housing needs by attentive use of the Growth Management Act and keeping our Comprehensive Plan relevant and workable. This requires skilled and knowlegable staff in our planning department to ensure that we are planning well for our future annexation needs–so we have the land needed for future homes.
Jon, some of our roads are pretty bad; what are we going to do?
First, I am pleased to share what we are doing. And I mean, “we”– all of us. In 2012 you voted by a strong majority (63%) to pass the Transportation Benefit District (TBD) and accompanying small sales tax increase. This is now bringing in more than $385,000/year (all to Ferndale), which we have matched with other state and federal funds that then became available. The result? Most of Main Street is completed. Church Road is beautiful. And much of Thornton Road is vastly improved.
Yes, there is much, much more to do. I wish I could write a check and get it all done today. But we “got behind” during the recession, and now we are trying to catch up.
We have also adjusted our traffic impact fees (TIFs). When builders of homes and businesses come to Ferndale we can calculate the approx impacts they will have on the city roads and streets. They know this ahead of time, and pay these fees before occupancy is granted. These funds add up and help with future needed projects related to that growth.
Lately, you have seen more sidewalk restoration. We have designated funds for projects like this, and will use them as we are able.
Jon, what is your view on the new marijuana industry and I-502?
Citizens who have been attentive to the news will recall that Councilmember Olson and I wanted to slow down the adoption of our I-502 (recreational marijuana) ordinance. We supported a moratorium (temporary stop) on the licensing of marijuana businesses in Ferndale until we knew the full ramifications, restrictions, requirements, and limitations implied (or not) by the passing of I-502, which legalized recreational marijuana in Washington State. [Note: I-502 received about 49% approval in the City of Ferndale.]
We were not successful and the Ferndale Council majority adopted a rather expansive and permissive approach to I-502. At least in my view. Said differently, we adopted a very I-502-friendly zoning policy for our city. And that’s fine and I understand why. It seemed, to some, the safest course following I-502.
But I wanted Ferndale to wait until other cities had worked through this and laws clarified before we jumped in. We also felt that I-502 was not clear as to what cities “must do,” as oppose to “could do” in terms of permitted zoning. Put another way, did I-502 require cities to allow marijuana businesses, or permitted cities to do so? Could cities “opt out?” Or, at least limit through zoning how I-502 was implemented? We wanted certain answers to those questions. I didn’t feel we had them. Even now, the state legislature is redefining the rules.
Olson and I felt that Ferndale could have been more selective in how we zoned for I-502 businesses. We believed that ultimately the courts, the attorney general, and the legislature would soon clarify what cities could/should/must/ or may do in regards to zoning for marijuana growers, processors, and retailers. Those clarifications have come, continue to come, but after we adopted our zoning and issued permits. We wanted to wait and draft our zoning in response to those rulings.
So, we shall see how this works for cities like Ferndale. The majority of the council adopted an ordinance (here) that satisfies the requirements of the law. I, myself, would have preferred a more restrictive zoning that would keep the industry away from what I call the more “family-centric” parts of our city. My efforts were not to overturn I-502 or restrict anybody’s rights. I wish to follow the law. My concern is driven by my wish that we don’t send the message to teens and young adults that this is an innocent and harmless activity by trying to treat this product like any other legal substance. It certainly isn’t.
Jon, I don’t feel government is very “user-friendly” or “customer first.” What do you think?
I trust and hope your experience with Ferndale is different. I, myself, have had unhappy experiences with government agencies now and again. But I pledge to do what I can to make sure that your business with City Hall surpasses your expectations.
I often reflect on the truly great service I get at local places like Haggens, Woods Coffee, Chihuahua’s Restaurant, TNT Promotional, Find Your Fashion, and many other places where I go in and leave feeling like they truly “treat the customer first.”
I want that to be your experience whenever you come to City Hall. And frankly, I believe that is the service you usually do get currently in Ferndale — the tone and ethos having been established by the current mayor who, himself, is in the “customer service” business.
But those practices and values must be continuously reinforced and expected from the staff and public officials. They need to be center and core to what City Hall is about. They will be at the TOP of my values and convictions
So whether you are coming in for a building permit to build a porch, reconcile a late water/sewer bill, or you are speaking with a Ferndale Police Officer after being pulled over, you should leave the experience with the conviction that your rights and dignity have been respected, and that your are a well cared-for customer of the city.
And, on the other side, as the steward and “boss” of City Hall, I ask that you treat your city staff (fellow citizens) with respect and fairness as well. In six years on council I’ve gotten to know well a number of the some 56 or so folks employed full-time by your city. They are smart, committed, and professional people who, frankly, often make us elected officials look good! Along with me, you can be proud of them. And you can continue that pride with a Mutchler administration.
Finally, this is your government. You should expect the best from City Hall, your council, your mayor. You deserve 100% from us. I’m going to give it to you.
Jon, people say you are a “republican” or a “conservative.” Isn’t this a “nonpartisan race?” I’m a democrat. How do I know you are going to represent me? After all, there is a “D” running. Why shouldn’t I vote for her?
Yes, I am proud to say that I am a conservative republican in most of my political viewpoints. Unlike what other candidates might do, I feel I should be upfront about my political leanings. But I think that a fiscally conservative approach to governing and budgeting serves a smaller but growing city like Ferndale well.
I am fully committed to funding and supporting the things that local government should support: safety, law enforcement, fire protection, and infrastructure (roads, water, sewer, storm, etc.). We support the “other things” when economic growth occurs and when finances improve. Raising taxes should be the last thing we do and something we do when supported by the voters (as we did with the new Library, and the TBD [Transportation Benefit District]): both measures sent to the voters and passed by them).
In past elections I have been supported and endorsed by groups left, right, and middle. During my last run for city council I received 78% of the votes. Those weren’t all people on the “right” that voted for me. I have worked hard to earn the trust of all citizens (though, not necessarily their agreement all the time).
I try to look at all issues fairly and thoughtfully. I listen and find ways to compromise to help get things accomplished.
I’ll share one story from my first election (2009, which I won by 5 votes): While door-belling I met a strong, smart, retired woman who lives in one of Ferndale’s newer neighborhoods. She made it clear to me that she was more liberal/progressive in most of her convictions, had heard about me, and was skeptical that I, as a “conservative” (her choice of word) would be good for Ferndale. She asked me a number of questions, we spoke for about 20 minutes, and at the end of it she said something like,
“Jon, I don’t think I’d want you in D.C. picking my Supreme Court nominees. But I think you’re going to make a good council member, and I’m voting for you.”
This citizen has been invaluable to me. We have a respectful friendship. We meet usually twice a year for coffee during which I simply ask her, “How are we doing? How’s council doing? How is the city doing, in your eyes?”
And she always gives me an earful. Which I want. And it isn’t always things I want to hear. But I’d never give this up. I need to–no, I MUST–listen to all sides. Or I can’t do my job and say that I’d represent all of Ferndale.
So, I’ll say it to you this way: I don’t know if you’re rooting for Hillary, Bernie, Jeb, Carly, or Marco to be your next president. But for Ferndale mayor I ask that you support me and “vote Jon.” I promise to keep political party convictions in their place and do my best to represent you and everyone in this city.
Jon, I am noticing a lot of new families here who appear to be immigrants from other counties. Should I be concerned?
I love this new reality for Ferndale. A diverse bunch of people are moving here! A hundred years ago or more it was families from Sweden migrating to Ferndale (who could not speak English). Families still here with names like Erickson, Asplund, Friberg, Larson. My church (Ferndale Alliance Church) was once called the “Swede Baptist Church” in an area of Ferndale called “Swede Hill.” They sang and worshipped in their mother language, some until the 60’s. We have been a city of immigrants. And now, if you listen carefully, you know that we have large number of families from Eastern Europe. Some are piano students of mine. These students (who all speak English well) need sometimes to translate to their parents messages from me to them. They are smart, good people.
And I love these families. They work hard. They are glad to be here. And they are adding to our economy and culture.
But many are distrustful of City Hall and government. They have come from places with unjust and corrupted governments. Some fled their homeland because of discriminatory, abusive, and oppressive government practices. They have grown to distrust and fear anyone with the government because of past experiences.
It is in all of our best interests to embrace and welcome these newcomers.
When I am elected mayor I plan to reach out to these Ferndale communities. I already have a relationship with them through both my church and music work. We all benefit when we learn to trust each other and build caring neighborhoods. I pledge to be part of that. It will result in a more trusting, friendly, and safe community.
Jon, is Ferndale a “healthy city?” Is there anything the mayor can do to help combat obesity and unhealthy lifestyles?
This week the news announced that “obese” Americans now outnumber merely “overweight” citizens. That’s a big problem, but we can’t compel people be healthy. I’m not going to promote a ban on large Big Gulp soft drinks or urge people to avoid McDonald’s or Jack in the Box.
But we can model and inspire good health. For me, it is running and biking and swimming. The later, I do in Lake Padden. Hopefully, someday soon Ferndale will have it’s own aquatic center (see the question above on a pool).
This is a little thing, and I don’t know how it will work exactly, but I want to try new things: I wish to have a “Weekly Walk with City Hall” that will have a scheduled meeting time. Open to all. Interested citizens would walk (or jog) from City Hall in one direction for 20 minutes, then turn around and return. A 40 minute workout together. It will give the citizens a chance to enjoy the fresh Ferndale air and talk about our favorite city, Ferndale. Would that be of interest to you? Of course, other council members and city staff would be welcome as well. It would promote wellness and community. As well as public discourse.
We also need to promote walking in our city, which is why I am 100% behind our effort to focus more on trails, sidewalks, and connectivity to existing parks and points of interest. If we want walkers, we need to create trails and sidewalks to walk on!
Jon, should I worry about a preacher becoming the mayor??
I have been the pastor of a community church for about 28 years, Ferndale Alliance Church. It is my calling and career, and something I love to do. But I am running for city MAYOR, not city PASTOR, and I know the difference. I have served on council for six years and there has never been an accusation or suggestion from anyone watching council that I have confused the two rolls. Anyway, I wrote a piece on this subject recently, and provide the link here. It was published not long ago in both the Bellingham Herald and Ferndale Record.
Bottom line: I wish to assure the citizens that my administration, leadership, hiring/firing practices, and staff relationships will be done fully within the framework of law and proper ethics. There are, of course, employment and management practices that are appropriate within the context of my duties as a pastor that would not be appropriate to bring to City Hall. In church we hire and/or promote into mangement/leadership/service positions people who embrace the goals, values, ethics, and traditions of our religious faith. With the city, I would absolutely follow the proper non-discrimitory laws of our state and county in all aspects. Period.
Jon, what about roundabouts? They are popping up everywhere. Do we really need them?
I know roundabouts are a bit scary at first. But I hope you are like me and have gotten use to them. We shall see more of them on Main Street and Slater Roads. Folks, THEY WORK, help traffic, and they are safe. Think about it: they are safe for several reasons:
Pedestrians use them safely because when properly designed, they have “safety islands” for walkers to stand in, even if they are not completely across the street. Regular signaled intersections have longer distances to travel before the walkers have a safe island to stand on. And with traditional intersections, pedestrians have to keep track of traffic from multiple directions. Not so with roundabouts.Roundabouts go one direction: counter-clockwise. Everyone goes the same direction. Head-on collisions are nearly impossible.
Roundabouts limit speed. That is, they slow us down to about 20 MPH at the most. In roundabouts you don’t have cars T-boning each other.
Roundabouts are also more efficient. Traffic is always flowing, moving. For fun, do a thought experiment next time you navigate a roundabout or two. Try to imagine (going backward in time) what the intersection would be like with signaled lights again, instead of the roundabout.
Anyway, I know they are new and different. But they are the future of Ferndale traffic and are key and central to a traffic plan we have adopted to protect our level of service on our main roads.
I have four daughters, three are older than 18, are married or dating. The thought of anyone hurting or doing violence against any of the them, or against anyone that I know or love, shakes me to the core. Most of my “clergy visits” to the County Jail have been because of domestic violence charges. And I have visited both men and women (husbands and wives) for these charges.
I have three sons, and they hear from Dad, “You don’t ever hurt, strike, or threaten anyone — certainly not a women.”
And I know, domestic violence take place in many forms (verbal, physical, financial, emotional, sexual), and among the vast spectrum of domestic relationships that people choose.
Still, DV of any kind is unacceptable and I want Ferndale to become a DV-free zone, with a zero-tolerance policy.
I wish to make this a theme of Ferndale life: awareness, education, and prevention. And I want the message to come out: Ferndale is NOT a place for people who wish to hurt other people. Period.
I have more to share later.
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