Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Needs of the homeless - Questions asked in Endorsements


7. What specific actions should the city take to respond to the needs of the homeless?

House the homeless- using tiny homes or Single room occupancy facilities as quickly as possible.
This will free up the current dollars being used to clean up camps and getting the homeless seen at the ER.
We need inpatient beds for mental health treatment and detox. Each time our police officers bring a person in crisis to our ER, that officer is off of patrol for hours while the person is treated.  An inpatient situation would get our police back to the patrol more quickly.
Since a police presence on the streets is the most effective way to deter crime, increasing their ability to do so without having to hire more is essential.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Wells?

Part of my Ask Me Anything series, a series of questions from Bellingham community members and my answers. 

Well


 Question:

How do you feel about the moratorium on wells?

Answer:

Thanks for asking. The well issue is a county concern not city, so Bellingham City Council will have almost  no impact on this situation.

My personal opinion is that we need to measure the amount of water withdrawn from all existing current wells, including agriculture uses, establishing the current amount withdrawn, then make the calculations to determine how much water is left to allow more draws.
This is a long term problem with complex demands and deserves to be a well thought out solution.


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Affordable Housing?

Part of my Ask Me Anything series, a series of questions from Bellingham community members and my answers.

Question:

Curious about the lack of affordable family housing and what is your proposal?

Answer:

This is a complex problem that has developed in many cities.
In part, because of the large number of students, we have a situation where housing has become a commodity rather than a necessity.
Our single family housing stock has been scooped up by landlords and turned into illegal boarding houses.
Our community needs to request enforcement of our laws to bring these illegal rentals into compliance. As a councilperson, I could bring a resolution to the entire council.

Once enforcement occurs, housing values will gradually return to more realistic values rather than commodity speculation, allowing a single family to once again purchase a single family home.
We, as a community, shouldn't be complicit in speculation.
But we will need to provide more housing to make up for the loss of rooms as well.

Western needs to build more housing for their students, enough to house at least one entire freshman class at a minimum.

Attracting other companies to build more dense housing units like NXNW (near Fred Meyers) and Gather (on Garden by campus) would be a priority.

There are almost 3000 housing units under construction that are in the pipeline which will help with the current housing pressure.

We also need to look at just who is needing housing in Bellingham, and build to meet the current needs.
Bellingham will always be an attractive location for people desiring an active lifestyle, but continually building solely market rate leaves many unhoused.

Follow up Q:
Specifically, working families that just want an affordable, safe family home with money from work, not investments or retirement

Follow up A:
It all comes down to salaries and choice of location.
If two people are working full time at the minimum wage, the reality is that they will not be able to own a home within Bellingham city limits. 
Our housing is more expensive relative to income than much of the state. 

Our minimum wage must increase to at least $15 per hour. 

Our cost of living is higher than in many parts of the USA and the continued strain on our housing market creates a situation where single families are stuck bidding for homes opposite businesses looking to expand their portfolio of properties. 
http://cost-of-living.careertrends.com/l/567/Bellingham-WA

Even renting becomes difficult and our current subsidies do not match the demand
https://www.cob.org/.../planning/housing/hud-income-rent.pdf


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Solutions for permanent housing?

Part of my Ask Me Anything series, a series of questions from Bellingham community members and my answers.

Question:

what would you encourage as action toward the homelessness issue? How do you feel about the port's recent decision to nix the shelter on the waterfront?

Answer:

We need to get treatment beds in place for alcohol, drug and mental health care. These units need to be no more than 16 beds to retain the funding from Medicaid and Medicare.

We need to build more permanent homes for those unsheltered that don't have substance abuse problems. 

We need to create a family shelter so intact families with both parents and children can remain together rather than be split up.

I'd like to see a program where unsheltered people build their own tiny homes (with guidance) and then have them sited in neighborhoods similar to this program from Portland. http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2017/03/multnomah_county_wants_to_ince.html

The port's decision was a difficult one to protect jobs and further development.

Currently we have almost 800 people living unsheltered.

The low barrier shelter would have had 200 people in a single room with their pets. The possible interpersonal conflicts would be extensive.

Follow up Q:

This answer seems a little unspecific to me. Treatment is different than low barrier shelters. I don't mean to be picky, but this is a huge current issue for our town, and suggesting we do what Portland does (without going into the evidence for why or how it would work) seems a little NIMBY

Follow up A:
Did you click through to the article? The tiny homes are built with city money, placed in the yards of personal homes scattered around the city and are housing homeless for 5 years before having ownership transfer to the owner of the main house. 
How is that Not In My BackYard?

Follow Up Q:

I guess my question is, is this realistic for Bellingham based on your research, or is it a way to park the conversation about a shelter off to the side? Is there a backup? What's the plan besides more treatment beds (in a trumpcare world) for folks who would be served by low-barrier?

Follow up A:

What was planned was for 200 beds in a low barrier (no filtering of users by drug or alcohol use before entry) large room, sleep on mats on the floor shelter with pets permitted.
I don't think anyone truly believes that this shelter was a long term solution to the unsheltered in Bellingham. It only covered 1/4 of our current homeless count.

It was also almost 2 years out, the Mission had to fundraise 1.5 million for the project and this building needs extensive remodeling since it currently has toilets that freeze in the winter.

Not all who are unsheltered need mental health treatment. Many simply need a safe, lockable place to put their belongings while they work or attempt to find work.

Treatment beds are essential for those who do need assistance in getting off of drugs or alcohol.
Mental health assistance it a bit trickier, simply because the person has to agree to staying more than 72 hours. Anyone who desires treatment needs a bed for that care as well. Our community needs far outstrip the available.


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Getting Heard

Part of my Ask Me Anything series, a series of questions from Bellingham community members and my answers. 



 Question:

How to we make our voice heard regardless issues that will affect millions? Call out senators or representatives?

Answer:

Start by gathering like minded people around the cause, contacting the first level in the group that can affect the change and being aware of the what is happening.

If you feel that your representatives are not reflecting your needs and desires, I would start with phone calls to their office, or post cards.

It depends on which situation to determine the first steps. There are many groups here in Bellingham where you can learn the ins and outs of activism.
You can also follow this calendar to learn about actions Http://bit.ly/activistactions

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Affordable Housing-Ask Me Anything

Part of my Ask Me Anything series, a series of questions from Bellingham community members and my answers.

Question:

I'm concerned about affordable housing, but I'm also concerned about the general socioeconomic segregation of our neighborhoods. Would you plan to address this? If so, how? What are your thoughts on allowing multi-family housing along main arterials and transit lines? Would these types of solutions be something you would support?

Answer:

The biggest factors in the socioeconomic segregation of our community are CCRs and illegal rentals.
CCR's are legal covenants, conditions and restrictions put in place to keep a neighborhood in one particular way, preventing add-ons, sheds, decks etc.
Many of our neighborhoods have CCRs in place restricting additional buildings on the property, These neighborhoods include Samish Crest, Ridgemont, Edgemoor, Alabama Hill and many others.


Without a legal change, nothing else gets built in those communities, even if there is enough property to do so.


Which is part of why the other, generally older areas have already had many of their outbuildings, garages and such turning into illegal rentals of more than 3 unrelated people.
Financially, it makes great sense to do this.
In a 4 bedroom house, each bedroom can currently be rented for $600+, then add on the garage and you are easily pulling $3000 per month on a single family home, No single family would likely pay that rate, so you have neighborhoods mixed with owners and these boarding houses where the owners are getting stuck with higher taxes as their homes value is artificially inflated.

People can't afford the houses and renters really need the lower costs of the rent. Part of the solution is to ask WWU to build enough dorm rooms to house at least their freshman class. This is a situation where the State must agree, since WWU is a state school. Then attract another builder for another large facility like NXNW (near Fred Meyer) or Gather on State street. pulling some of the college upperclass tenants closer to campus and releasing some single family homes for the general market.

Your second point about allowing multifamily housing along main arterials and transit lines is a bit problematic. In the ideal dense urban world, those easily accessed sites would be the best locations for retail and job creators, leaving the interior blocks for housing and parks. Most important of all, is where is there land to build the townhouses etc.? It is far easier to move a bus line than move a housing development. Since our only mass transit is buses, we can be very flexible in our development. Follow-up by another person: Thanks, Jean, I had not factored in the permanent disparity created by Community Covenants & restrictions and/or homeowner's associations in some neighborhoods, but not all. Jean M. Layton Worst of all, I've tried to see exactly which neighborhoods have what kind of CCRs and haven't found a list yet. Another inventory I would love to see the City take, along with how many illegal ADUs exist

From the second poster: CCRs are on the title at the auditors office. A frequent query when I worked for the Title Company during the last boom, most developers of spec housing put them in place before the first sale to keep the project phases from losing "curb appeal" after occupancy. I should have realized the current implications. I can call a friend in the morning.

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Sanctuary City?

Part of my Ask Me Anything series, a series of questions from Bellingham community members and my answers.

Question:

What are your thoughts on the Sanctuary City ordinance that the Bellingham City Council passed this year? If you are elected to city council, how will you address those communities who don't feel adequately protected under that ordinance? What changes do you think should be made to the ordinance?

Answer:

Since Bellingham falls within the 100 mile border area controlled by the Border Control, we, as a community, have more eyes on our every decision. The current council decision keeps us just outside the boundary of being brought to court for violating the agreements made by the county and the Feds. Personally, I would prefer that there be a citizen's oversight committee. I would bring a resolution to council stating that any person detained by the police,sheriff or ICE, could request a volunteer citizens oversight advocate. It is splitting hairs but by not setting the oversight up as solely for ICE detainees, the community will get the assurance of proper treatment in ICE or jail custody.

Follow-up Question: 
Unfortunately people detained by ICE are either deported or held at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma for processing. So at that point, it would be too late to advocate for them. Can you clarify how your resolution would help those who don't feel protected by the existing ordinance? Follow-up Answer:
The largest concern I have heard is the lack of an oversight committee. I really don't know how I could address an unstated concern. I'm happy to chat with any group about what they feel is missing in the current ordinance.



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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Shrinking Social Supports?

Part of my Ask Me Anything series, a series of questions from Bellingham community members and my answers.

Question:

Jean, as we are likely to see federal support for social support services shrink in coming years, states and municipalities could be forced to take more direct action to confront problems like homelessness, (un)affordable housing, and unemployment. What are your thoughts on this and have you given any thought to creative solutions?

Answer:

The first thing I would do is find community partners and a grant writer.  If the City gave assistance for a not for profit to step up to work on homelessness in the form of a grant writer, it would save money long term.
We are already spending 30,000 each time we clean up a homeless camp.

I’d love to see a school to build tiny homes that would work into a system like Portland’s, placing tiny homes in the back yard of host homes to be filled with people for a specified time, then revert back to the homeowners possession. This is one innovative way to create a win, win, win scenario. We could start a small home construction company, getting jobs for some of the homeless, and have our amazing community come together to solve this problem. http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2017/03/multnomah_county_wants_to_ince.html

I’d love to see a Civilian Conservation Corp type organization providing cleanup help and gardening help for food.  
Imagine if everyone had a garden bed in their yard for food or donation to the food bank and Maple Alley Inn.

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Homeless and jobs?

Part of my Ask Me Anything series, a series of questions from Bellingham community members and my answers. 



Question:

I am hoping the city can come up with real solutions for the drug problem and for the issue of homeless/drug abuse downtown. We have had numerous scary/interesting encounters downtown. We frequent that area bc my daughter attends a dance school downtown. I have had a man try to get into my car while I was in it and waiting for my dancer. I had a man trap us between a wall and himself, threatening us for no reason. We had a man follow us and bang on the glass doors of the school. There is constant leering and often lots of urine at the schools front door. And there was the time a man was peeking though the windows at the dancers while "humping" the wall. (They have since covered the windows). I witness regular drug deals in the alley.

I really want the downtown to flourish. Businesses need it to flourish. Bellingham needs a solid plan. Thoughts?

Answer:

Scary way to have to attend dance classes.
The multiple layers of this situation need to be peeled apart.
The folks who are harassing you need a place to go that is not the street.  They need a place to live most likely.
They need to feel like they can contribute, rather than have to have services given to them.

I’d love to see the equivalent of the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) that was active after the Great Depression. 1933-44

The CCC provided participants  with shelter, clothing, and food, together with a small wage of $30 (about $547 in 2015[2]) a month ($25 of which had to be sent home to their families).[3]
CCC-built bridge across Rock Creek in Little Rock, Arkansas
The American public made the CCC the most popular of all the New Deal programs. Principal benefits of an individual's enrollment in the CCC included improved physical condition, heightened morale, and increased employability.The CCC also led to a greater public awareness and appreciation of the outdoors and the nation's natural resources, and the continued need for a carefully planned, comprehensive national program for the protection and development of natural resources.

The folks who participate in Bellingham could do street cleanup, planting of street trees, and many similar actions.  Funding would likely be be grant funded in this political climate rather than be Federally funded. The first thing I would do is find not-for-profit partners and a grant writer. So many grants exist to feed people, educate, and bring people back into the workforce but the grants are distributed by not-for profits. Even if the City gave assistance for a not for profit to step up to work on homelessness in the form of a grant writer's salary for one year, it would save money long term, and likely fund themselves after that first year. We are already spending $30,000 each time we clean up a homeless camp. I’d love to see a school to build tiny homes that would work into a system like Portland’s. http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2017/03/multnomah_county_wants_to_ince.html I’d love to see a Civilian Conservation Corp providing cleanup help and gardening help for food. Imagine if everyone had a garden bed in their yard for food or donation to the food bank and Maple alley inn! Follow-up Question:

I am in support of the teeny tiny homes. However, I would love to see the stun out on a huge piece of property where there could be many homes, services, farming, and assistance from those benefiting from the program.
Follow-up Answers: From all I've been researching the optimal number of homes in one location is about 12. More than that and it is difficult to truly build community with neighbors without conflicts and fewer are the same. 
With twelve on two building sites, construction of one facility with the "wet" works- bath, shower and kitchen becomes more economically feasible.

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Cordata Park?

Part of my Ask Me Anything series, a series of questions from Bellingham community members and my answers. 

Cordata Park

Question:

What is your opinion on the proposed park out in Cordata? Good use of space? Indulgent after thought for a fast growing neighborhood? How do you feel the process has gone so far?

Answer:

This is a truly long running project.  The first time I can find it mentioned in planning is 2008.
The master plan sounds great, with trails, playgrounds, covered picnic areas and restrooms

https://www.cob.org/documents/parks/development/projects/cordata-park-master-plan.pdf

Now, eleven years later, I’m not seeing the park as completed. I’ll need to actually get into the park but the online images show only a trail and some bridges.

https://www.cob.org/services/recreation/parks-trails/Pages/cordata-park.aspx

No playgrounds, no picnic areas, no restrooms.  
When we have such a dense area, these parks are essential important release valves.

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Friday, May 12, 2017

Recreation?


Part of my Ask Me Anything series, a series of questions from Bellingham community members and my answers.

Question:

I know that Bellingham has a lot of issues facing it, but one thing I've noticed since moving here is the lack of a good rec center. The YMCA is the worst I've seen in any city, and Arne Hanna is just a pool. If you go just up the road to Richmond or Cloverdale, and in every city in Texas, there are vibrant, active rec centers with outdoor pools, swim classes, sports activities, leisure learning classes, sports teams and more. It's a place to hold a dance, have an event, and host meetings. Is that the role of the YMCA, and should there be a push to get them to expand or find a new building, or is the something for the city to take on? Or is it so far down the list of priorities that it's not a need right now?

Answer:


The public recreation assets in Bellingham are pretty basic. Arne Hanna pool and Lake Padden golf course are the sites of some services.

The many parks provide places to play as well as a linkage to great trails. But when my girls were little, we went up to BC frequently for the amazing wave pool with the beach in Surrey https://www.cob.org/services/recreation/parks-trails

The YMCA and Sportsplex are private facilities.

As our community density increases, the pressure on these facilities to satisfy the exercise and play desires for the community will increase. Especially the need for adequate pools for aging bodies.


It all comes down to funding, perhaps some of the greenways funding can be slotted for this.
They have been used for other uses in the past.

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Accessory Dwelling Units

Part of my Ask Me Anything series, a series of questions from Bellingham community members and my answers.


Question:

What is your position on detached Accessory Dwelling Units in our downtown neighborhoods?

Answer:


Detached ADU’s are currently not permitted in single family neighborhoods.
There is a pilot program running in Happy Valley to build 20 units and then assess the success or problems with the ADUs

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Housing

Housing


 Part of my Ask Me Anything series, a series of questions from Bellingham community members and my answers. 

Question:

I’ve heard many times that we have an affordable housing crisis, but I’ve yet to hear anyone provide a legitimate definition of the specific problems we face in Bellingham. It has been my experience as a business executive that unless a problem is well defined, proposed solutions rarely solve the dilemma.


Common sense – and the experience of larger cities – tells us that simply building more ‘inexpensive’ homes will not ensure that the housing hardships suffered by long-time Bellingham residents will be resolved.

Is it possible to define Bellingham’s housing affordability crisis in terms of PEOPLE rather than in term of HOUSING UNITS?

Answer:

I believe we need to assess by people first.
- Who needs assistance?

According to the ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) report, about 42% of Whatcom County households are severely income stressed

- What is the reason they need assistance?

The average hourly income in Whatcom County cannot support a household.  In 2015, that salary was 22.17
The shortfall to a survival budget of $28.84 is $6.67 per hour.

- How can we help them?
Increase the supports for builders of affordable rentals.
Increase the minimum wage to $15 within two years with a ramp up to $25 over the next decade.

- Do they require a new house? Or would an existing house be a better fit?
For many of these households, an apartment is sufficient housing, or an existing home with perhaps a roommate.

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Legislation?

I'm just a bill
I'm just a bill


 Part of my Ask Me Anything series, a series of questions from Bellingham community members and my answers. 

Question:

What do you feel needs to be addressed and how you would write legislation to address it, and how you would get it passed?

Answer:


JeWe need a bill of tenants rights, I'm already working with a couple of groups for presentation to the current council but will continue if there isn't sufficient progress by the time of election.
We need creative ideas for homeless permanent housing. I'd follow the Portland model for tiny homes in the rear of yards in multi family zoning for the pilot, then consider expanding once the pilot program in Happy Valley is completed.


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Complex Decision Making?

Casserole
Part of my Ask Me Anything series, a series of questions from Bellingham community members and my answers. 

Question:


Thanks for being available for questions, Jean! I'd like to hear about a time in your life when you had to work with others to make a complex decision. How did it go? What was challenging? What went well? What happened in the end?

Answer:

So many times making complex decisions as a physician, but those I can’t talk about.  
Years ago, when I was working for God’s Love We Deliver, a service organization that fed people who were homebound in New York City with AIDS.
A bit of background, God’s Love was a volunteer not for profit labor of love begun by a wonderful woman, Ganga Stone.
She had a neighbor with AIDS and began delivering soup and meals to him as he weakened from the disease.
In time, the organization grew to the point that chefs were hired to run the volunteers who were acting as the prep staff for the 2000 meals being delivered daily, also by volunteers.

I was one of the chefs, responsible for the night crew from 4 to 10.
One night, I came in to prepare the next day’s meal of baked salmon with butter dill sauce over egg noodles and a salad of egg salad, only to discover that the head chef forgot to order the salmon.

Now, making a different meal sounds like a simple solution but it would have wide ranging problems for the next morning.  All of our meals were nutritionally balanced to provide the optimal nutrition and avoid food allergens. Anyone who couldn’t eat the main meal would get a special meal to avoid the problem.

So I had to create a meal for 1900 people that matched the type of ingredients in the original meals because the meal labels were all ready for the 6am morning shift.
Time to gather information.  I had the original recipes for the night but now had to find a recipe using fish, noodles, butter, dill, and not much else, all while running a group of 15 volunteers to get the entire meal done.
Got the volunteers going on egg salad, deputizing a long time volunteer to supervise this potion.

Time to inventory the pantry for possible ingredients.
Beans, tomatoes, lots of pasta, and TUNA FISH.
Ok, so I had my protein, but what to make using tuna fish, noodles, butter, herbs?  This was before Google so a quick scan of the cookbooks began.  
And while flipping through pages, I remembered my Mom’s tuna noodle casserole.

A white sauce with herbs, tossed with fully cooked noodles and tuna fish,  then browned off at the end after baking.
The next day’s meal was ready to go and it was no more work than the first meal.  
My head chef was exceedingly grateful that I both made the meal and covered his error.  
Best of all, the tuna noodle casserole was added to the general meal rotation based on client comments.

I still use the same method to gather information for all situations.
Listen, assess, research, formulate a plan, implement, reassess.


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City Council Roles?

Bellingham City Council Chambers

Part of my Ask Me Anything series, a series of questions from Bellingham community members and my answers. 

Question:

What is the role of city council, and how does that differ from the role of Mayor? Do you think the current city council is doing an excellent, fair or poor job in their collective role as a council? What would you bring to a council role where you would be one of seven?


Answer:

The principal job of a Council member is to make policy for the governance of the City and its populace. The principal forum for local government policy-making is the City Council meeting. The Council does not administer or become involved in the day-to-day administration of city affairs. A policy is a course of action for a community. Policy-making often takes the form of passing ordinances or resolution at City Council meetings.

After policy decisions are made by the legislative body, the Mayor has the administrative task of implementing the policies.

I would bring the voice of a renter to the council. Currently 54% of the City housing is rentals and yet not one of the Council is a renter.  Overall, they are doing a good job.


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Alternative transportation

Part of my Ask Me Anything series, a series of questions from Bellingham community members and my answers. 

Bicycle to work

Question:

What is the value of promoting of walking and biking infrastructure in the context of divesting from fossil fuels and building a sustainable city? Thanks

Answer:

Our ability to continue to enjoyably life in a beautiful area like Bellingham depends on difficult selections made while housing, feeding and providing jobs for all.

Ever since I had a long chat with Galen from the Bellingham Tenants Union, I’ve been researching just how best zoning choices move our community toward the sustainable city of the future.

One long article I found was this one:
http://energyinnovation.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Planning-Cities-for-People.pdf

Talking about City planning in China with larger populations than here, the article highlights eight principles that make zoning for people.

1. Develop neighborhoods with car-free streets to encourage walking

2. Prioritize bicycle networks

3. Create dense networks of streets and paths

4. Support high-quality transit

5. Zone for mixed-use neighborhoods

6. Match density to transit capacity

7. Create compact regions with short commutes

8. Increase mobility by regulating parking and road use

All of which put alternative transportation exactly where we need it to be, top of priorities in new construction, like in the areas in the north of town.

In existing areas, we have larger barriers to alternative transportation, but we need to think of these before we continue with car-centered policies.

Follow Up Question:
Thanks Jean - those of us who rely on (and thrive) using active transportation appreciate the connection you've made between land use and transportation planning. Tell me more about what you mean are the larger barriers in existing areas.


Follow Up Answer: You're welcome,
One situation is roads that are too narrow to safely add a bike lane which are already overloaded with traffic.
Lakeway for example. This road is the sole way out to Sudden Valley and Geneva, close to 12,000 housing units.
But to get on a bike, especially from Sudden Valley, is to take your life into your hands. No curbs, just ditches, super windy and narrow. Even when it gets into town, the road is so overloaded that you can't take away a lane of traffic, then you hit the bottle neck of the I-5 bridge overpass. Without a safe lane of traffic, we will never get our neighbors out of cars, because the only bus line out there travels just once an hour.


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