Various Opinion Articles (Op-eds) by Council Member Jon Mutchler

published in the Ferndale Record and Bellingham Herald.


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Jon Mutchler on the police station move to old library  (2009)
Jon Mutchler on the $1,000,000 gift for a library  (2010)
Jon Mutchler on the new "Welcome to Ferndale" sign  (2010)
Jon Mutchler on the proposed sales tax increase (2/10 of penny) for streets  (2012)
Jon Mutchler on the proposed property tax increase for the new Main Street library  (2013)
Jon Mutchler on  the signs of potential political candidates who SHOULD NOT RUN FOR OFFICE  (2013)
To comment on any of Jon's opintion pieces email Jon at

Compromise is the grease that gets things done
Police station to library move good deal for Ferndale

Op-Ed by Jon Mutchler, published in Ferndale Record Journal, Dec 2, 2009

Married? Then you understand compromises. Try building a house as a family (we've built two in Ferndale) and you'll earn your advanced degree in the art of compromise.

Effective governing requires finding common ground. Compromise is the grease that gets needed things done.

Your council reached a reasonable, good, and win/win compromise regarding the police station and library challenges.

Their recent decision can be summarized as follows:

1. The city will repair and reopen the old Boys and Girls Club building.  Costs are essentially covered by the insurance settlement following the 2007 fire.

2. Following that, our library will make it's first move to this building and serve our community in this temporary spot for perhaps 1-3 years.

3. The empty library will be remodeled and expanded to serve as the new permanent police station. Centrally located and adjacent to the Public Works Department, this is a terrific location for our officers and their vehicles.

4. The library will embark on a successful fundraising campaign which already has seed money of a $1,000,000 private gift, an initial commitment of $1,000,000 from the city, and a lovely piece of property on Main Street. Once completed they will move out of the old Boys and Girls Club into a new library.

I personally like the economics of this plan. Although not exactly what I campaigned for during the election it meets the primary social and economic values I stated: "We need to build a modest police department now; but this isn't a good time to spend money on a new library."

(Note: if in doubt about the need for a police station, read the 2006 WASPC assessment that highlighted our station's gross deficiencies in "workspace," "protection," "safety," "privacy," and its various code violations; pages 28-29. If you need a copy of these pages, send me an email and I will forward them to you).

Here is the simple math: During this building and economic slowdown it is less expensive to build. Contractors are bidding significantly less than they were two years ago. Converting the library into the police station could come in at around $5,000,000 or less. Additionally, historically low interest rates today bring down those borrowing costs.

Contrast the cost of converting the library (into the police station) with building a new station on a piece of city land. According to my inquiries we are saving about $1,500,000. And most of that savings will and should go toward the new library. As stated earlier, $1,000,000 has been promised so far by council.

During the campaign I stated my support for an overdue and sorely needed police station to replace our inferior, unsafe, and outdated rental facility. But I didn't want to make any commitments to new library.

So in my way of looking at things we are only paying for the cost of a needed police station (something the city has promised the community for 24 years). But we're also getting a library with no additional direct costs to city government.

I share the goal of some on the council to keep this revised police/library project at around $6,000,000. That's very doable. Contrast that with the $8,000,000 proposal that was recently on the table for these two projects. Or the cost of a complete "law and justice center" that was contemplated a year ago at around $11,000,000. Compromise.

Still, can we afford it? This debt can be serviced using the revenues the city receives from the solid waste tax. This is the tax we charge all of Whatcom County residents for the privilege of bringing their garbage to Ferndale. Put another way, we are moving ahead with this project without raising our property or sales taxes.
Jon Mutchler

To comment on any of Jon's opintion pieces email Jon at




Thoughts about the new "Welcome to Ferndale" sign
Op-Ed by Jon Mutchler, published in Ferndale Record Journal, April 7, 2010


Smoking, Gambling, Male Strippers...

Welcome to....

Las Vegas? Reno? No.

Welcome to Ferndale.


Commuters and visitors traveling I-5 near Slater Road (Exit 260) know what we're referring to: the recently installed 2-sided jumbo-tron sign advertising the services of the Silver Reef Casino and soon to be built smoke shop and artisan store. Large and in high-definition, it was erected to be seen by Seattle from the south and Whistler from the north.

The digital screen flashes promotions of the casino, tobacco store, and images of near-nude beefcakes (starring in last weekend's sold-out Chippendale's event). And underneath this collage of Nevada-style entertainment: Welcome to Ferndale.

This is not the image and "first impression" our city leaders, Chamber of Commerce, and community desire. So, what happened? Why did this become the city marquee -- our community's gateway message?

A couple years ago the privately-held land adjacent to I-5 and north of Slater was removed from Ferndale city zoning and placed into tribal trust in exchange for mitigating financial compensation (equal to the property taxes the city would have received had it remained within the city limits).

Ferndale was also provided free use of the sign to promote city events (Pioneer Days, Farmers Market, Street Fair, etc.).

That makes sense and I understand why we might herald the benefits of the free advertising for communities activities. But, did we think this one through?

Sure, we know what Ferndale is about: farming, families, football. We're about a superior quality of life. Good schools and a business friendly culture. We take pride in our great vistas and views: the Nooksack River, Mount Baker, Cascades, and San Juan Islands. We brag about our safe neighborhoods and clean parks.

But what is our message today to thousands who drive by Ferndale each day?

I realize my sentiments will appear prude and old-fashioned to some readers. But they resonate with many citizens who don't object to the sign or even the casino, but wonder why our city would identify itself so closely with activities that are, frankly, generally discouraged---especially with our young people?

My suggestion? Ferndale, go ahead and use the sign to promote city events. But remove the permanent "Welcome to Ferndale" part. How much would that cost? I don't know, you'll have to tell me: what is the price of a first impression, reputation, and public image?

To comment on any of Jon's opintion pieces email Jon at





$1,000,000: Now it's our turn
Op-Ed by Jon Mutchler, published in Ferndale Record Journal, March 17, 2010


My perspective on donations is unique. As a pastor my income depends upon the weekly church collection. We "pass the plate" and our members - without coercion, compulsion, taxation, or legislation - graciously and voluntarily share their income and wealth to support those who gratefully serve them.

Generosity still amazes me.

We-the community of Ferndale-have been given an extraordinary donation of $1,000,000. I, for one, wish to shout a heartfelt, "Thank you!" What a wonderful act of generosity and vision.

But gifts can be complicated. This one has generated controversy and misunderstanding so let's set the record straight.

Four years ago an individual wished to make a $1,000,000 "lead gift" for a significant Ferndale project.  After consulting with the Whatcom Community Foundation (which interviewed leaders who looked at the long term needs of Ferndale) the giver decided his/her gift would become the down payment on a new library.

But here are the challenges:

1. A new library could cost 5-10 million dollars.

2. These are tough economic times and we don't have that kind of money in the piggy bank. And we won't "max out" the city credit card for this project.

3. A new library, although desired, is not at the top of our priorities. Those priorities start with a police station (our officers have been crammed in a "temporary" rental for 24 years). Following that is a list of infrastructure needs (streets, sewer, water, etc.). These aren't exciting items, but they are essential and need to be done first.

So this boils down to a timing and a resource challenge.

It might be like a kind uncle giving a niece and her new husband $25,000 for a house down payment. The grateful couple would love to buy a home, but they are finishing college, their car is broken, and they just learned she is pregnant. Even with some moonlighting it just doesn't "pencil out" to buy now. With planning and discipline, some day it will.

So, where are we in all this?

The 2009 city council voted to move forward on expanding and remodeling the current library into a modern police station. This is a great location and the ideal use of this facility. Construction work on the back side could begin in 10 months.

And our library? No, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls: we won't throw them out into the street.

1. They could stay in the library while initial expansion work begins on the back side of that building.

2. They may move into a temporary facility. This is not ideal and comes with some pain, but our library friends and city are looking at options.

3. Finally (and this freshman council member likes this), they might move into "part" of the new library on the new Main Street site provided by the city.

Architects have been directed to design our library to be built in stages. The first section could house essential library functions. Said another way: we are looking at building what we can afford right now using the $1,000,000 gift, another $1,000,000 or so the city can provide today, and additional donations that are coming in weekly.

Then as fund raising progresses, the economy returns, and other capital projects are completed, we can look at finishing our library.

Now this is where the preacher side of this council member comes out. The Mutchlers made a donation to the library and will give more. I urge every citizen and each business that believes in the importance of a library to write a check or make a pledge today.

Folks, we're a fabulous city. We can get this done. It's our turn. Learn more at Mail checks to Whatcom Community Foundation, 119 Grand Avenue, Suite A, Bellingham, WA 98225. You must mark "Ferndale Library" on the memo.

To comment on any of Jon's opintion pieces email Jon at For final article on library (2013), click here.


Conservative in favor of road tax

(from Ferndale Record, February 1, 2012) by Jon Mutchler


This fiscal conservative is voting on February 14 in favor of Ferndale Proposition 1 - the 2/10ths of a cent sales tax increase for Ferndale roads. There are many benefits for Ferndale.

This money does not get sent to, filtered through, or diluted in the black holes of Olympia or Washington D.C..  It stays here and can only be used for street repairs and improvements. We control it, choose the neediest repairs, and benefit 100% from this money. Its ours.

This is unlike the current 8.5% sales tax we pay:  less than 10% of that amount (0.845 cents on the dollar) stays in Ferndale; over 90% gets funneled through county and state bureaucracies.  The same with taxes at the gas pump:  Whatcom is a net donor county.  We send more gas tax money to Olympia than they send back to us for our roads.  The rest is sent to places like King County.

This tax is unique in that it has a sunset provision and will end unless citizens approve it again at the ballot box. How many taxes do that?

It's a small amount. You would need to spend $1,000 to notice a $2 increase on your retail sales receipt. If you spend $5000/ year in taxable purchases here (remember, grocery food and services are not taxed) you would pay an additional $10/year.

Everyone that shops (and drives) in Ferndale would contribute to the road repairs- not just Ferndale residents and businesses.   And this amount (starting at $300,000/year) will increase as retail business increases through new development and a maturing economy.  It also has the real potential of multiplying when we apply for state and federal matching grants.

Ferndale has kicked the proverbial can down the potholed road for too long and our crippled streets are damaging our cars and creating unsafe conditions for our children and citizens. Financing and starting repairs now will (1) save us from more extensive and expensive work later, (2) begin to bring our 55 miles of public streets to modern and expected standards, and (3) enhance the quality and safety of public right-of-ways. 

The recession, decreases in state and federal funds, and impacts from past state initiatives have reduced money for local street repairs.  Your Ferndale council studied and debated several revenue options and although I was on record of supporting a slightly different, "hybrid" approach for street funding, I believe this is a reasonable, fair, affordable and effective option for us now and has my full support. 

Some might say that the streets are in disrepair because the city has wasted the money elsewhere.  I assure you (and I've looked at the city finances intently for two years as a council member) that Ferndale runs a lean, efficient, and professional municipality on limited resources.  We have moved ahead with essential and critical projects.  Most visible is the "new" police station which will open around June in the vacant, but recycled and remodeled former library.  After decades of promises,  delays, and "getting by" with an inferior rental space, we will soon benefit from a police station worthy of our officers and citizens.

By approving Proposition 1 we take control and responsibility of our own problems and challenges, not looking to Olympia or Washington, D.C.. This is a conservative approach:  they're our streets, we'll take care of them. We'll pay for them.

Thank you for joining me and voting "yes" on February 14.

Jon Mutchler
Local pastor and Ferndale City Council member.


FOOTNOTE: This ballot proposition passed easily, about 63% in favor, 37% opposed (50 % needed)

To comment on any of Jon's opintion pieces email Jon at


Ferndale bond keeps matching grants for library construction



Five blindfolded men described an elephant. One, feeling the tail, "It's like a rope." The second, grasping the writhing trunk, "It's like a snake." Another, stroking a floppy ear, "A fan." Another kicked the elephant's leg, "Like a tree." The last, caressing its pointed tusk, "A spear."

All perceived something different.

Ferndale's new library opportunity is like that. Citizens have different perspectives - all valid.

Here's my take to answer lingering questions and inspire a confident "yes" vote for Proposition 1 on April 23.



Citizens will vote on a $550,000 levy to build a $5.5 million library. If approved, a typical homeowner will pay less than $1 per month for 14 years and cover only 10 percent of the library cost.

How did Ferndale get such a wonderful deal?

A 2006 "needs assessment" confirmed the former library was inadequate. Although technology changed the design of modern libraries, their necessity and usage increased. Demand upon Ferndale's library and programs grows yearly.

In 2007 a donor came forth with a $1 million gift. (Fast forward: Thanks to many partners like the Whatcom County Library System, the Whatcom Community Foundation, and Friends of the Library, donations have now surpassed $3 million!)



While this was occurring, Ferndale was working on strategies to build a police station. Until recently, Ferndale was renting space that was formally deemed unclean, unsafe, undersized and inadequate to protect officers and staff, victims and evidence.

Site location was a challenge. But an idea emerged. The library would become vacant and Ferndale could save citizen money by transforming the library into our first dedicated police station.



And the library? Had fundraising proceeded faster the new library could have been built before our police moved. But a recession hit, fundraising slowed down, and there was no certainty that funding would be completed by a predictable date.

So council, acting on convictions that a police station was urgent, chose to move the library into temporary facilities at Pioneer Pavilion - Ferndale's old roller rink and former Boys and Girls Club. It had been salvaged and remodeled following a fire and will eventually become a multi-purpose community events facility after the library moves to its permanent home. (We are good at recycling buildings!)

So the Pavilion was remodeled. The library took up temporary residence. The former library building was redesigned into a police station. Our police moved in. And library fundraising continued.

With me so far? Now, some money stuff.



In 2009, City Council pledged $1 million toward the new library and property on Main Street. A year later (taking advantage of matching gifts) council pledged another $250,000.

Some saw this as the amount saved when Ferndale avoided building a police station from the ground up - something that could have added $2 million to the cost of that project. Others saw this as fair "compensation" for using the former library.

Some wanted to pledge more. Others less.

My own view?

I take the Goldilocks judgment that $1.25 million was "just about right." It's an amount, council determined, that could be safely financed through real estate excise taxes (paid when someone sells property) along with a modest 0.5 percent increase in solid waste taxes (which will be distributed among all of Whatcom County amounting to less than $1 per year per household).

So it's the fall of 2012. We dedicated our new police station. Our library staff was serving citizens temporarily (and in limited capacity) at the Pioneer Pavilion. Fundraising, though under way, was short by $2.5 million.

Then another $1 million matching gift was announced. And through donations and a large grant 70 percent of it was matched in short order.



We are very close. By passing this small $550,000 levy all matching gifts will be maximized. Grants (which have a time limit and can be lost this year) will be fulfilled and used. And construction on a great new community building will begin this fall.

Ferndale citizens are thoughtful and conservative when it comes to pocketbook issues. They recognize a great stewardship opportunity when they see it. Passage of Prop. 1 gives the city a new library and frees up the Pioneer Pavilion for countless other uses. And all for less about a buck a month. Let's finish this project by voting "yes" on April 23. Visit for more.



Jon R. Mutchler is a Ferndale City Council member, pastor of Ferndale Alliance Church, husband and father of seven children.

FOOTNOTE: This ballot proposition passed easily, about 62% in favor, 38% opposed. (60 % needed)



Tell us what you really think, Jon Mutchler

Written by Ralph Schwartz | The Bellingham Herald | May 6, 2013



It is a special thing when politicians speak their mind - I mean really let people know what they think, and not just about an issue dear to them.

Reporters become inured to statements by elected officials, knowing they often say what they think their constituents want to hear, or a practiced talking point, and not anything that's viscerally real to them.

This expectation can lead to some earth-shifting moments during interviews, as when Ferndale Mayor Gary Jensen took responsibility for Ferndale's unpopular and sometimes damaging (to appliances) hard well water.

This was what Jensen told me in December, when I interviewed him for a Jan. 2 story on Ferndale's water. This quote didn't make the story:

You better go into any leadership job knowing the buck stops here. Ultimately everything is my fault because I'm responsible. I'm supervising the people who supervise the people. I understand that. It's a weight you have to bear.

Ferndale City Council member Jon Mutchler also has some advice for would-be elected leaders. He told me he posted what follows last night on his Facebook account, with a couple minor tweaks. I saw both versions, and this version is certainly no tamer than the original.

As Mutchler says, next week is the week to file for a space on the ballots this summer and fall. If you are thinking about running for office, the one-term councilman (who himself is running for re-election) would have you read these rules of disqualification:

Mutchler says....

Filing season is coming up (May 13-17) and I am asked now and again, especially in late spring, on whether someone should run for this or that office. Most of the time I say, "Go for it, why not? How can I help?"

But some people should not run - for anything, except perhaps sewer inspector.

Let me opine on that theme. I shall avoid Red/Blue issues here. I am sorry if I come across a little feisty. But at least you get the candid and honest Jon.

1. If your wife hates your guts, or your ex-wife hates your guts, or your kids can't stand you, we'll likely hate your guts too. Don't run!

2. If you're a partisan-ideologue-Kool-Aid-drinking-rigid-non-thinking-political-hack-conformist who can't see the practical needs and opportunities of your city or county past your dark Blue or Red blinders, don't run! You're worthless.

3. If you're a big immature baby that can't handle being on the losing side of a vote now and again or criticism from a colleague or citizen, don't run!

4. If you hold grudges and can't look your fellow man (or woman) straight in the eye and learn how to work with people with whom you disagree, don't run!

5. If you got such low class and character that you'd vote for or against a measure, just to punish someone you don't like, or benefit someone you do, don't run!

6. If you're too lazy to do your homework, think for yourself, or study up on all issues pertaining to your job, then don't run! You're a lazy dummy.

7. If you're a wife beater or child abuser or secret pervert, don't run! Just turn yourself in.

8. If you think you're the smartest person in the room and everyone else is less qualified than you, don't run! You're the idiot. Trust me, you really are.

9. If you can't recall once in the last year where said, "Got that wrong - bad call - I made a mistake - my bad..Sorry." Then don't run! You're an arrogant buffoon.

10. If you don't like people, would rather listen to yourself than the concerns of others, or can't tolerate the complaining of others, then don't run! Remember, it's called PUBLIC SERVICE.

11. If you are a one-item, single agenda, one song politician, don't run! I don't care if you want to save the spotted unicorns or you don't want John Coltrane in Whatcom County, there are too many complex issues needing your full and disinterested attention.

12. If you see this office as merely a stepping stone to higher office, don't run! You need to be here and now present on this job. That's why you're elected.

13. If you can't be polite and respectful in disagreement, but have the need to belittle or dismiss citizens, please don't run! You're an embarrassment.

14. If you haven't read the US Constitution and Bill of Rights lately, and don't know who the major authors of each are, for heaven's sake, don't run!

15. If you don't like yourself, chances are we won't either. Don't run!

16. If you think there's only one way - your way - to solve community challenges, then don't run!

17. If you can't respect the pocketbook, property, jobs, dreams, choices, ethnicity, beliefs, freedoms, families, responsibilities, and opinions of others, then please, PLEASE, don't run! This is America.

Jon R. Mutchler


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