A lifelong resident of Bellingham, Garrett has grown with our city and understands both the history of where we come from, and where we need to go. Garrett is currently serving his eighth year on the City of Bellingham Planning Commission and has been an active volunteer and supporter of Bellingham Public Schools.
With his wife, Brittany, they are raising their three daughters with the hope that Bellingham can be a place where their children can thrive, afford to live, and be the sixth generation of their family to call Bellingham their home.
Garrett and Brittany met at Central Washington University where Garrett studied Construction Management and Brittany studied Graphic Design. After earning their degrees they decided to move to Garrett’s hometown and work on building their future together.
Their daughters are enrolled in Bellingham Public Schools and participate in local swim, dance, and music clubs. Like most people life is busy for the O’Brien’s and a day with no scheduled activities is welcomed, and usually spent with a trip to Rocket Donuts and enjoying one of Bellingham’s amazing parks or trails.
“Growing up in Bellingham I felt supported by the entire community. Bellingham is special and full of people who care. I want the spirit of community and caring for our young people to be something that grows with us.”
- Garrett O’Brien
WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO TO KEEP OUR SCHOOLS SAFE?
Right now we only have one school resource officer for our entire district and I believe this is woefully inadequate. The demands of that position can’t leave much time for proactive policing in our schools. I would like to see additional patrol officers added to our department with an emphasis school outreach. I think a half-day visit to our schools at the end of an officer’s work week would be a great way to make friends with kids and decompress before heading home.
How can we get the affordable housing we need?
I believe partnership between the public and private sectors is needed to meet our housing needs. I would like to see us take a comprehensive look at our underutilized lands and identify opportunity zones throughout the city that are appropriate for future development and provide development incentives for affordable housing. Incentives could range from density bonuses, increased floor area ratio, additional height limits and more. I want to reward people for building permanently affordable housing. I believe if it makes financial sense we will see a lot more of it.
Are you a Republican who just won’t admit it?
No, I am truly an independent voter. I have never felt that either of our parties represented enough balance for me. I feel like wedge issues divide us and get in the way of progress. I have been interviewed by both the Whatcom Democrats and the Whatcom County Republicans but will not be seeking endorsements or accepting money from either party. I want to give voters another option.
Did you vote for Trump?
No, I liked Ohio’s Governor John Kasich in the primary, but when the election came down to Hillary and Trump I voted for Hillary. To be honest, I don’t pay much attention to national politics it makes me depressed. I feel more empowered working on local issues, where we can actually make a difference.
What are you going to do about homelessness?
This is a large and complex issue. I think when we take a problem of this scale and break it into manageable parts we are more effective.
First, we are drastically short of affordable housing units in our city, and I won’t rest until we start seeing those units get built.
Second, I want to enhance the support for the organizations in our community that are already providing services.
Third, we need to really dig in and start identifying subgroups of people experiencing homelessness and focus on solutions specific to the needs of that group. For example, an alarmingly high number of foster kids become homeless within one year of aging out of foster care. Seniors and Veterans are also at risk, and those three examples all have different needs. When we focus on the individuals we can create better results.
I would also like to focus on prevention by empowering our youth and an overall goal of my campaign is to bolster community engagement in the public process and decision making, we we can achieve balanced and effective solutions.
Do you support single-family zoning?
Yes, for existing neighborhoods I do support the preservation of single-family zoning, but like all things I do think some change is necessary. I support the option to build detached accessory dwelling units in single-family neighborhoods provided one of the units is owner occupied. I think we should be looking at corner lots and exploring options for townhouses there. I also think we should work with neighborhood associations and identify opportunity zones that could be appropriate for a diversity of housing options. I believe new developments are going to need to be a mix of single-family and multi-family with a variety of housing options.
What is your involvement with the Building Industry Association of Whatcom County?
I joined the BIAWC to network with other builders and take advantage of the rebate program they have for L&I premiums for safe contractors. I have served on the board of directors for 5 or 6 years. I have heard some people describe the BIAWC board as a more right wing political organization, but I haven’t found it to be that way. In the years I have served there has been a good mix of men and women on the board and a variety of viewpoints. We have moved away from endorsing candidates to an issue based ranking system for candidates. The idea is to build relationships with our elected officials. We also surprised a lot of people this past year when we endorsed the Bellingham Home Fund.
What would you do to get more action at the waterfront?
First, I would make sure we are being a good partner to the Port and Harcourt. I think that is happening currently, and it would continue to be a priority for me. Second, I think we could benefit from more competition on the property, and if that means investing in phased infrastructure development prior to awarding the next development agreement it could be worth the investment. I would like to see multiple bidders next time we issue requests for proposals.
What is your position on broadband and a dig once policy?
I don’t think there is much debate that the United States is falling behind other countries in the development of high speed and affordable communications networks. I am still learning about this issue, but in places that have robust fiber optic networks, the Internet speeds and capacity for sharing data is incredible.
It’s not just download capacity for consuming information but upload capacity for producing work. The next wave of innovation and job creation will require a more complete fiber optic network. The next wave of wireless will require good fiber to support it and I support spending resources on developing an infrastructure plan for a fiber optic network. If we do it properly we can have both a financial and a social benefit.
What is your educational background?
I have a Bachelors of Science degree in Construction Management from Central Washington University.