By Ralph Schwartz
I got a call a little bit ago from Pinky Vargas, who announced yesterday she is running for Bellingham City Council’s Ward 4 seat.
She wanted me to know she always calls people back, contrary to what I reported in today’s paper.
The story was about the coinciding announcements of Stan Snapp’s retirement from the council and Vargas’ bid for his seat. I tried yesterday to reach her by phone and sent a direct message to her new Twitter account but didn’t hear back.
I don’t know what happened to my Twitter message, but Vargas told me she didn’t get my voice mail — left on her work phone — until today.
There was also a breakdown in communication over email, as we never saw the campaign announcement she says she sent us.
I’ll blame the no-callback on an unfortunate set of miscommunications. So Vargas is off the hook.
While I had her on the phone, I picked her brain about the three city issues she mentioned in her announcement: business growth, waterfront redevelopment and Lake Whatcom water quality.
Vargas is active in the Whatcom Futures Project, an effort being managed by the Northwest Economic Council.
The project’s plan will be released soon, Vargas said.
“I think there’s some really, really great stuff in here. What I like about it the most, people think that economic development and environmental protection are at two ends of the scale, and I don’t believe that. I think both can be complementary. … The Whatcom Futures report really kind of heads in that direction,” Vargas said.
I’ve been hearing a lot recently about how the biggest challenge to protecting water quality in Lake Whatcom is existing and future development in the watershed.
“We need to maybe step up some efforts in regards to education,” Vargas said. “I think things need to be put in simpler terms about how actions correlate to the effects on the water.”
Much of the discussion around the effects of phosphorus and how to keep it out of the lake tends to be too scientific to make an impact on people, she said.
“We should be giving them an example and showing them how easily it can be done,” Vargas said, rather than simply lecturing residents about what they must do on their properties.
She wants to “raise the level of education through examples and through mentorship, and make it easy for people to understand what their actions do and what they can do to make an actual difference.”
Vargas’ approach is taken from her job, providing outreach on energy efficiency strategies for Puget Sound Energy.
Expect Vargas to file for the City Council position during filing week, May 13-17. Also expect her to have several opponents. Seats not being defended by an incumbent tend to attract more than the usual number of candidates.