Posted by: sweeneyblog | December 8, 2014

Interviewing Andrew Reding for City Council

The first thing Andrew Reding clarified when I sat down with the applicant for the city council was that this was an appointment, not an election. “I wouldn’t say I’m running for office, that is something you do when you go to the electorate. We are not doing that. We are going in front of six people and they are going to choose someone. It is more of a selection than an election.”

Andrew Reding

Andrew Reding

The difference is not lost on Reding, he is an unrepentant wonk – deeply interested in the precise workings of governing. His biography backs it up, from his masters in public policy from Princeton to his twenty years service for the federal government working on civil rights issues. During that time, he served as a city councilmember in southwest Florida and a planning commissioner in Jefferson County.

“I’m very evidence driven. I want to make sure that whatever we do in the way of public policy, that it passes the test of results.” He believes in a technical approach to municipal government. “We take the best practices from elsewhere, we respond to what is needed in our community and then after some time, use statistics to reexamine the effectiveness.”

Why is Reding applying for City Council? “Part of it is the qualifications that I bring to the table. I’m not demographically prime material, I’m not the best looking candidate, I’m not the youngest, I’m not a woman. But I do have all this experience serving on a council, serving on a planning commission.” However, experience alone is not reason enough. “I bring a set of values and commitments that mesh really well with what the overwhelming majority in this city are wanting and not necessarily getting from their council.”

What is missing from the current city council? “I wouldn’t put it that way, since we have some very talented, smart and capable people. I wouldn’t want to be on the council if it weren’t that way.” That does not mean that Reding believes everything is rosy. “It is the city council’s job to set the broad direction and make sure we are headed in that direction. I look at certain areas and ask myself why we are not making more progress.”

Where does the city need to focus? Without a pause, Reding jumps right in. “Meeting the challenge of ever-growing income inequality – in particular, helping those who are the least well off through minimum wage legislation.” He notes that Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles have already passed significant minimum wage increases. “This has been part of the discussion all along the west coast and we’ve already committed ourselves to living wage legislation. It is incumbent upon us to act on that. We need to open up a discussion on how we can raise the minimum wage.”

Reding points out that the minimum wage was higher in 1968 in terms of real wage and buying power than it is today. “I would like to see us bring all the stakeholders together, that includes the business community who pays the wages, the labor community, bring them all together and have a discussion on how we can do this. The council has a commitment to living wages but has not really engaged with doing that.”

Reding sees his appointment as an opportunity to push this issue over the tipping point. I asked if an initiative would be a better way to accomplish this goal but Reding sticks to his legislative guns. “I prefer that it happen through a community discussion rather than an initiative, with wider consensus and buy-in, and less likelihood of unintended consequences.”

Andrew Reding and Mt. Shuksan

Andrew Reding and Mt. Shuksan

Turning the discussion to environmental issues, I ask his take on Lake Whatcom. “We all talk about it and say that we love the Lake and it should be cleaner. Well, the City’s plan is for a fifty year clean up and to be frank, a good portion of the people currently here will be dead before that happens. We are cleaning at such a slow pace now, growth may overcome it. I think there is a strong majority in this city willing to accelerate the pace.”

Reding acknowledges that there will be an increased cost but he says the damage will be even more costly. “Deal with it at its source, then you avoid problems down stream at the creek and into the bay. I would like to see us reframe that fifty year plan into something like a twenty year plan.”

Reding is also a passionate biking enthusiast and sees fault in the city’s transportation plans. “We’re a very green city but we are not always matching that with our plans. We just had city staff prepare a bicycle plan.” He smiles and takes a dramatic pause. “We take great pride in our city with Whatcom Smart Trips and thinking about how we can promote non-motorized transportation, we are very concerned about global warming, we are easily one of the most pro-environmental cities anywhere. So what is was in our plan?”

“The plan says we will call a bunch of streets ‘bike boulevards’. This is not a bad idea, and putting some paint on the road is cheap, whether to add a bike lane or mark a bike boulevard. But it does not solve a bigger problem: How to get beyond the dedicated core of bikers who are willing to brave auto traffic and reach out to the much larger number of residents who tell us in surveys that they would need physically separate areas for bicycles to give them a sense of security. That is the key to greatly expanding the modal share of bicycling trips. Keep in mind that there are often federal and state matching funds available for such initiatives, which helps us retrieve some of our state and federal tax contributions.”

“Granted, the city’s general fund is stretched as it is, and we must keep it balanced. But on matters as critical to our community as Lake Whatcom, if we need more funds it seems to me we could submit the question to the public in a referendum proposing a dedicated tax surcharge for a fixed number of years.”

What about the issue of landlord licensing? Reding is skeptical if the current proposal is tailored enough to the needs of the community. “Most of the problems have been with management companies where there is a bureaucratic and impersonal process where the whole emphasis is on profit.” He believes there is a need for regulation but he is, “not convinced it is an across the board need. As in many things, one size does not fit all. But I honestly have not researched this issue in detail, and could easily be persuaded otherwise if my impressions are incorrect.”

Rotating through the laundry list of city council issues, I ask about the waterfront redevelopment. Reding points out that the council does not have full jurisdiction, it has to share that with the port.

Reframing the question, I ask what our position as a city should be. “We should put more emphasis on working trades, fishing boats and boat repair. I do think we should insist upon a living wage for anyone involved in the construction there.”

Reding also sees a class undertone to this. “I’m not a big fan of catering to the needs of the upper one percent with fancy beach front condominimums and yacht basins for very fancy yachts.” In contrast, Reding favors community boating. “I favor giving public access to the water rather than restricting it to a privileged few.”

More broadly, he says that politics is, “the art of the possible.” He believes in compromise that does not leave things unrecognizable in the process. If he is appointed, Reding is planning on running for reelection. “If the current council members appoint me to the open seat, I see this as an invitation to join an unusually talented and diverse group committed to the city’s welfare. This is not a short-term commitment. It’s a commitment to become part of a team to achieve common goals, and that means being willing to go the full distance.”

For interviews with other applicants, click here for Dan Hammill and here for Iris Maute-Gibson or stay tuned tomorrow for Michele Magee. If you are Scott Barg or JR Johnson and you are reading this, please click here to send me an email and set up our interview (I’m having trouble finding you).



  1. I still support Magee, but Andrew Reding seems to be qualified, like all the other interviewed applicants. On the issues facing Lake Whatcom, he said merely the exact same thing I would of if I was an applicant for the Bellingham City Council.
    Thanks for the interview.

  2. The problem with the Lake Whatcom clean-up issue is that no one is willing to admit the truth: because of all the development we have allowed in the past, the lake is ultimately doomed as a decent potable water source. We should be planning now how to get another water source, and protect that new source as necessary from the beginning. I can’t imagine that would be any more expensive or upsetting to residents (especially lake-side) than the remedial work needed to get and keep Lake Whatcom healthy. The other advantage to a new water source would be that folks could continue to use the lake for recreation as they have historically, although I think ultimately we will want to outlaw all motorized watercraft except rescue boats.
    Disclaimer: I do not live on the lake.

    • “I do not live on the lake”-THAT SAYS IT ALL!

    • Quite right. It is insane to drink from a lake on which we allow motor boats, and the city doesn’t even test our drinking water for benzene! BTW, that testing was something Cathy Lehman said she would look into, but… well, maybe her heir will. Bottom line, take the 78 million dollrs the city council and mayor are giving away to the master developer of the waterfront and redirect towards building a Reservoir. Like a real city.

      • Jeepers, I was going to stay quiet, since I was accused of being nasty.
        But this recurring idea to “build a Reservoir” cannot be left as an implied approval.

        First – where would the clean water come from, to put into that empty container? Washington State requires that any taking of water must obtain a permit – a “water right”.
        Just consider the review of such a request, since the City would have to say that they desire to leave the existing Reservoir polluted.

        And a real problem would be — where to even try to find such new, clean, close-by water? Not the Nooksack River, it probably is also polluted (though I have not seen reports of adequate testing.)
        Not the Skagit River. Imagine the folks in that other County, giving us their water just because we have trashed our own!
        Canada? Anybody who suggests that has gotta be kidding.

        Second, where would we build the new lake to serve as a reservoir? I and others have tried to work through that possibility for all the 20+ years that I have been working on the potable-water source problem.

        So, my conclusion is to clean he pollution which is grabbed by the rainwater runoff, so that only clean water flows into the lake. And I would love to stop new urbanization in the watershed.

      • Who said anything about building a new lake? And for the source, we have a glacier right up the road. And how does one glean that the Nooksack is as polluted as Lake Whatcom? Or that building a reservoir would mean leaving Lake Whatcom polluted?

        Water rights, agreed, need to be permitted. Roxanne Murphy could be invaluable in that regard. Lake Whatcom is not a sustainable source for our drinking water. We need real leadership and vision from the council and mayor to look forward and plan the alternative.

        Andrew Reding, Dan Hammil, Iris Maute-Ginson and other applicants, any thoughts here?

        “Argue for your limitations, and they are yours.” — Richard Bach

    • I don’t live on the lake, but I do know that if I did live on the lake, I would want clean water to drink (not new luxury mansions and motor boats).

  3. Kudo’s to Mr. Reding for raising the inequality issue. From what I’ve read of the interviews in this blog, all the interviewed persons are quite serious and well qualified. But Mr. Reding’s is the first acknowledgement of a deep economic-justice issue by one of the interviewed persons.
    Abe Jacobson

  4. Hire this guy….

  5. On caring for the Lake Whatcom Reservoir:

    1) Reding misses a major opportunity on the Reservoir pollution of our potable water, when he does not even mention drinking water. And he concentrates on the Whatcom Creek leaving the Reservoir and the dirty water entering the Bay. But the truth is – if the pollution never enters the Reservoir (control it at the REAL source, the lands of the lake watershed), the costs to build and maintain snazzy concrete boxes with filters, which do not remove enough P, will be avoided.

    2) Tell me if this story fits here, Mike Rostron. A family has two teenaged kids – and their room is always a dirty mess. The parents finally get so tired of trying to get them to clean it, that they do something else. They hire a contractor, and build a new, clean room for the kids, and move them into it!
    So, was that a good plan? Jeepers, no. They had the costs for the new one, the old one is still dirty and now it’s starting to mould and stink.

  6. Marian: We should clean up all our lakes, oceans, and streams. I’m not saying it should not be done to Lake Whatcom as well, only that it would probably be less expensive in the long run (thinking out several generations) to find a new water source and ensure it is protected from the beginning, correctly.

    There are inevitable problems when you allow development and logging around a lake which is a both a source of potable water and a recreation area. Many cities that get their water from lakes erect tall fences with razor wire, and don’t let anyone near their critical water sources, but our city has behaved in a cavalier manner towards Lake Whatcom. It’s a big lake, but it can only tolerate so much, and that critical level of development was reached many years ago.

  7. Well, Mike, Your vague ideas and unjustified costs have not convinced me. When did you move to Bellingham, anyway?

    Can you tell me (“us all”) why the City of Bham permitted building in the LW watershed? (I also know about other cities with a fenced, gated, watershed surrounds for their Reservoir.) By the way, have you read the “21 Goals” established by the 3 jurisdictions (“CC10”)?

    Also, what is that critical level of development that was reached…?

    What are the principal pollutants, and where do they originate?

  8. Andrew is another superbly qualified candidate.

  9. I think Andrew’s emphasis on evidence-based policy, as well as his experience, make him the most qualified candidate. As he said, this is an appointment rather than an election, so it is crucial that the council selects who they think will do the best job. Andrew is their guy.

  10. Marian: It is a mystery to me why you are so combative in tone, and descending to personal attacks. I have noticed that for some reason, when anyone suggests that there may be other less expensive (in the long view) options for supplying potable water than continuing to struggle with Lake Whatcom remediation and water treatment issues, such comments often elicit anger. It is understood by all (even this writer!) that cleaning up the lake is a good thing, and should be done, whether or not it continues to be the primary water source for Whatcom county.

    Regardless, my understanding is that this is an open forum for ideas, not necessarily for personal attacks, so I will not take your bait.

    I find it remarkable that the city continues to encourage development and population growth without, apparently, having any real idea how they will provide potable water to these additional thousands in the future, though everyone running for any office is sure to come out in favor of cleaning up the lake. Of course nobody wants to do anything “radical,” which might be required. For example: look how long it took just to ban 2-cycle engines, when all power boats should have been banned years ago.

    I can only assume that it is tacitly accepted everyone will continue to use bottled or purified water. Of course that is no financial burden to the well-off, but it does impact the poor. Water, as we have seen this last summer, can meet legal requirements, but still taste pretty bad.

    Perhaps it would be more honest to just admit that at some point water treatment to drinking standards will be prohibitively expensive. We will be like many cities whose water is okay for showers, washing dishes, and flushing toilets, but otherwise pretty unpalatable. I remain unconvinced that, no matter how sincere the intent, and how much money is thrown at the problem, it will ever be “solved.” I leave the engineering of that to others more qualified.

  11. Speaking of the lake, readers may want to check out the article in NWCitizen this morning entitled “Whatcom County and the New Sharing Economy” by guest writer, Tani Sutley. The article looks at the growing problem of vacation rentals and their effect on Lake Whatcom and the neighborhoods. This is not only a county problem but one that is growing in the city of Bellingham.

  12. The lake is just one symptom of the “growth is good” mentality that pervades thinking, even among the so-called “progressives.” I don’t hear any Bellingham politicians speaking out against this assumption. There is a not-so-hidden agenda among the council and in the planning department to do away entirely with the single family zoning—or at least change the zoning tables so that it is unrecognizable. If they succeed in this we will lose a valuable part of what makes Bellingham attractive and unique, and in exchange for what—more congestion, noise, heavier traffic—more pollution from extensive paving and loss of permeable surface, more loss of wildlife corridors. More infill is a good idea downtown, but not such a great idea in single family zoned areas, unless it is strictly confined to the urban villages. As I have said before: the devil is in the details.

  13. […] Andrew Reding – Current Issues and Resolutions chair for the Whatcom Democrats, policy wonk and friend of the blog. Check out my interview with Andrew here. […]

  14. […] the meantime, read the rest of the interview with the candidates (Iris Maute-Gibson, Dan Hammill, Andrew Reding, Michele […]

  15. […] the often-neglected activist core (Michelle) or push for bolder, progressive policy changes (Andrew). Hammill is a fine choice, but a continuation of the status […]

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