Monday, January 19, 2009

County conducting Scientific public opinion survey on long range vision

County Executive Pete Kremen and Whatcom Legacy Project co-chair Roger Van Dyken announced that a public opinion survey will be conducted this month on what Whatcom County residents want their county to look like in the distant future.

The multi-question survey will be conducted from January 20 to 23, using random digit dialing throughout Whatcom County. It will be conducted by DHM Research of Portland, OR and will have a reliability rating of +/- 4.9% at the 95% confidence level.

“I want to personally encourage the 400 people who will receive phone calls to give us the benefit of their ideas,” Kremen urged. “I know everyone is busy these days, but that 15 minutes or so can help mold the future of Whatcom County. For those who aren’t telephoned but who would like to register their opinions, we’ll have the survey posted on our Whatcom County website,, so citizens can print it, fill it out and send it in to us. Everyone’s opinion is important to us.”

Van Dyken noted that DHM Research is well-versed in this type of public opinion research.

“Local governments in the greater Portland area have used DHM repeatedly to gauge public opinion on growth issues, and we liked the objectivity and yet the difficult choices their questions present. They mirror the tradeoffs that our elected officials wrestle with in making tough land use decisions.”

“This will be an invaluable tool to see what kind of Whatcom County today’s citizens would like to leave as a legacy for tomorrow’s citizens,” Kremen said. “We know that job growth and population growth are coming to Whatcom County. It’s just such a beautiful place for people to live, work and raise families. We want to know what people value as they tell us where people and jobs should be located in our long range future.” “We enjoy a wonderful place now and we want it to be even better in the future,”

Van Dyken added. “The key is to get people’s ideas on how to improve that future. Where should people live? Should we plan another city? Should growth be along the I-5 corridor or in our farming communities? What do we protect as we grow? What value should agricultural and rural areas have in the future? What should be our transportation links and where should they be?”

The survey is a cooperative project funded by the county and by donations to the Whatcom Legacy Project, Van Dyken said. He described it as an important step to help the county, both as it plans for 2031 under the Growth Management Act, and also to help paint a picture of the Whatcom County that today’s residents would like to leave as a legacy for their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Van Dyken said that later in the Whatcom Legacy Project process, residents will be invited to get together with their neighbors in small groups to paint a more detailed picture of what they want Whatcom County to look like for future generations.

He noted that Legacy is developing a fun, hands-on process by which people can decide where they want people to live and work, where they want parks to be, what agricultural, environmental and forestlands should be protected, and how it should all be linked together with transportation.

The vision developed by the people would then become a long range “strategic plan” to guide future development through the shorter range Comprehensive Plans.“Predictability is critical for business,” Van Dyken said, “so that they get clear signals where commerce, industry, agriculture and residential areas should be located.”

“Predictability also keeps taxes down,” noted Kremen. “It allows properly sized utilities and transportation to be put in the right place the first time.”Both Kremen and Van Dyken stressed that they hoped that by “looking over the horizon” a consensus would develop among the people of Whatcom County regarding the future development of our community.“Fundamentally, we think the people of Whatcom County all want a beautiful, prosperous, community-oriented place – a home – for future generations,” they said. “The process of helping the people of Whatcom County to project the kind of future they would like for our county will, we hope, bring people together and reduce the sometimes contentious growth conflicts that arise. If people create the ‘big picture’ together, they are more likely to agree on the smaller pieces of that picture.”

Kremen and Van Dyken encouraged the community to participate in the important survey. For more information about the Whatcom Legacy Project or to make a contribution, please call (360) 738-2786.

Contact: Mauri Ingram 739-8039

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