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Letter to the Editor: Running for Mayor to bring City Council back into the process

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I am running for Mayor of Ferndale because I believe there is a silent majority of Ferndale residents who are not happy with how our city is being run. They’re not happy their roads and sidewalks aren’t being cared for or that their water bills continue to rise. This silent majority might want a nice downtown, but they don’t want the city to give away millions of dollars in property taxes and water and sewer connection fees to make that happen. They want to be heard, not patted on the head and told to take their medicine like good children.

Like this silent majority, I have grown increasingly frustrated with the direction our city is going. Every land decision the Mayor and Staff promised us would lead to more affordable housing has only resulted in rising home costs and a growing population that needs more services. I have been on Council for 12 years and growth has never paid for growth, but the current Mayor keeps pretending it will!

Every new home or apartment complex means more people who need water and sewer services, as well as police protection. We are reaching the limit on what we can provide. How many people can we really serve with our shallow well, which we share with hundreds of other users, and one potential deeper well, which will cost millions of dollars to bring online? We don’t take care of what we have now, but we keep building new neighborhoods with more streets and sidewalks and water pipes and sewer pipes. And we can’t keep reaching into our residents’ pockets whenever we need more money to pay for all this growth.

As a Councilmember, I am unable to direct City Staff to do anything. In the last three years, Council has been shut out of the budget process and much of the decision-making process. Council is often presented only one option once the Mayor and Staff decide what they want us to do, vote yes or vote no. I often vote no but two no’s don’t win. It’s time to step up and change the direction of Ferndale and I can’t do that as a Councilmember.

I am running for Mayor because I want to bring Council back into the process so the residents of Ferndale can have seven people fighting for them. I will also bring Staff and Council together to solve our problems, working as a team rather than rivals. I know I can do this because I’ve done it before. In more than 30 years in law enforcement, I managed and led 89 federal agents as a supervisor. I oversaw multimillion dollar budgets. Prior to being promoted to second in command I fought for all our agents for 5 years as their union president.

If you want the City to just keep doing what it has been, vote for someone else. But if you’re ready to hear the hard truth and do the hard things we need to do to fix what’s wrong, I’m your candidate. I am not anti-business or against business development. We are at a crossroads with this election, multifamily pro-development candidates are lining up for open council positions behind the multifamily pro-development mayoral candidates. If they win, you lose.

If you want to talk about anything, send me an email at

Keith Olson
City Councilmember and candidate for Mayor

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  1. Aron Thompson May 27, 2019

    I believe that a whole bunch of us reading this like what you write, and like it a lot. Thank you…

  2. dave doran May 27, 2019

    What’s the hard truth
    and what are the hard things needed to ‘fix what’s wrong’?

  3. Mike Cox May 27, 2019

    You hit the nail on the head sir, well done!

  4. Ryan Walter May 27, 2019

    “The most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'”
    Ronald Reagan

    BAD: Big government, big taxes
    GOOD: Small government, small taxes

  5. Yvonne Goldsmith May 27, 2019

    Great letter Keith. Keep telling the truth.

  6. R. Perry Eskridge May 28, 2019

    This is a great letter! It should be required reading for all Ferndaliens.

    As Keith knows, and as many residents know, I am a proponent of the multi-family tax exemption and the downtown catalyst projects. My reasons are based on my extensive work with affordable housing issues and the fact, as demonstrated in the recent report by the Washington Department of Commerce, that Ferndale is the “relief valve” for Bellingham not planning appropriately for population growth. This is a fact that cannot be ignored if we want to change our little town’s destiny. And that is where Keith differs from the current occupant of this office – he is approachable, seeks to understand all sides of an issue, and then pursues a course of action that is best for Ferndale regardless of personal ambitions or interests. Keith may not agree with me, but I know that we are united in our vision for Ferndale’s future.

    Keith understands that we are at a crossroads – will we succumb to being a bedroom community for Bellingham or will we fight to create a viable small city with an identity, economy, and citizenry that is separate and distinct from Bellingham? Personally, I choose the latter. But there is much work to be done and many debates to be had, and no one group, particularly the City Council, should be excluded from participation! More importantly, we need a Mayor who will make the tough decisions and fight for a better Ferndale without regard for personal advancement.

  7. dave doran May 28, 2019

    What are the tough decisions and how or who does one ‘fight for a better Ferndale’?
    Which vision is ‘united’ with the candidate’s for Ferndale’s future?
    When does ‘understanding all sides of an issue’ lead to pursuing a course of action
    instead of simply identifying choices based on consensus?
    Most voters are wary of platitudinous nonsense,
    good luck.

  8. Marv Waschke May 28, 2019

    I see Ferndale in a tough spot. We are growing fast. Growth is tough. We don’t all have the same vision of the future Ferndale. No one wants taxes to rise, but when you jam more people into the same area, government gets more expensive, but the return on the investment soars, if, and this is a big if, government is efficient and aimed at the general welfare and not some sharpie taking advantage of the public trough. I, for one, don’t buy the simple-minded “small government is good” story. Complex situations require complex solutions. Anyone who tells you different ought to get out more. But complex solutions are often opportunities for cronyism and back room deals. If we, as Ferndale citizens, up our game and put an eye on our government and keep it honest and efficient, we stand to win big. I, for one, would like to quit cringing when I look at the way the condition of the streets change from county roads to Ferndale streets. We have an excellent location, fine people, many advantages. There is no necessity for us to be second class.
    I’m not exactly endorsing Keith Olsen, but he sounds promising.

  9. Ryan Walter May 28, 2019


    What do you mean “get out more”? I go to work every day (in Bellingham, admittedly) I shop locally. I drive on Ferndale roads. I walk around my west side neighborhood a few times a week. I pay rent in Ferndale. I pay my water bill to COF.

    That’s all anyone needs to understand that bloated government with a tax-tax-tax and spend-spend-spend mentality is not in the best interest of the taxpayer and is the fast road to fiscal disaster.

    Make no mistake, small government means less waste. Big government means massive waste. Of course, you can think big, bloated, wasteful government is justified by growth and the “complex problems” that come with growth. But not me.


    • Aron Thompson May 28, 2019

      Right on Ryan.

    • Marv Waschke May 29, 2019

      “That’s all anyone needs to understand that bloated government with a tax-tax-tax and spend-spend-spend mentality is not in the best interest of the taxpayer and is the fast road to fiscal disaster.”

      We will probably never agree, but the above is not all anyone needs to understand. I happen to be a fiscal conservative– I believe in careful investment that yields dividends not losses. That is what I expect from good government. Government is not always good, but with citizen oversight and dedicated public servants, it often is. By getting out more, I mean carefully examining the successes and failures of both government and private enterprise and not only in Whatcom County. Cutting taxes without examining what is being cut is the same error as increasing taxes without examining what they pay for. In the case of Ferndale, the town can’t grow without an adequate infrastructure. I include good streets, utilities, planning, law enforcement, education, and a lot of other things for the common good. A hard problem that requires competent people. We can disagree about priorities, but I believe blindly cutting taxes is the equivalent of looting a private enterprise by taking profits and not reinvesting in future growth.

      • Aron Thompson May 29, 2019

        You’re buying into the assumption that so-called “growth” is inevitable; it’s an obsession of government as an excuse to relentlessly raise “revenues” and so it’s incentivized at our expense. Once our politicians and policy makers look at tax receipts the way a private business looks at profits, they scramble for any excuse to increase what they take. Seattle has this down to a sick science, and the approach is encroaching North step by step…unless we stop it locally. Anybody here really believe that downtown Ferndale benefits by becoming a baby Bellingham? Bellingham is now a baby Seattle…

  10. Ryan Walter May 29, 2019


    YOUR POINT: Government is efficient, but needs more money, per capita, as population increases.

    MY POINT: Government is inefficient and should get LESS funds, per capita, as population increases due to Economies of Scale.

    The solution is transparency and accountability. Where is all the taxpayer money going? A detailed account, please!


    • Marv Waschke May 29, 2019

      We agree on transparency and accountability. Absolutely. However, I reject the view that government is inherently inefficient. Often, government does important work that I feel should be funded. For example, I would much rather have a public water system answerable to me, the taxpayer, than some private enterprise answerable to a shareholder who could care less if I have diarrhea. I’ve worked with many government agencies that were much more efficient than private enterprises. I’m not against cutting taxes, but I am much more in favor of using current taxes more efficiently and increasing taxes if increased taxes are a good investment in our future.

      • Aron Thompson May 30, 2019

        The public water system is “answerable” to you? If you’re paying attention, it’s the other way around these days, unless you’re building an apartment complex.

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