Monday, February 28, 2011

Whatcom County's population now over 200,000

I made a note of it when USA's population passed 300,000,000. Now it's Whatcom County's turn where Bellingham is located. Recently passed the 200,000 mark.

One way to reduce illegal immigration is to allow more legal immigration. The quota for legal entries to this country is a number that can stimulate discussion. It kind of reminds me of Bellingham's contentious "20 year growth estimate."

That's a number also.

Any value, set for that number sparks discussion. How much do we want Bellingham to grow? How should we plan the city if it does grow; density, parks, transit? Will future residents still be able have a big yard, or drive a car? What's desirable? Denser cities often mean each resident has a smaller footprint on the environment. Less apt to own a car for instance. People also talk about increasing cultural vitality.

Of course there are no absolute answers to these questions, but public discussion is interesting. Washington State Growth Management law requires cities to come up with projected growth estimates. Where that number is set always becomes a "political football." And that's just an estimate. Still, it creates very interesting discussion.

Another aspect of immigration reform is discussion of a "guest worker program." I hear, from listening to the radio a lot, that many people just want to work in USA temporarily and travel back and forth to their home country. In some cases, people might be trapped in this country by fear that they couldn't come back if they went to their home country for part of the year. A guest worker program could "ironically" mean more people going back to their country of origin for part of the year.

It's kind of like the college students in Bellingham. That segment of our population tends to just be here for part of the year.

Then there is the idea of building a fence on the border to cut down on illegal immigration. Could be effective, but not the most compassionate way to go. Also could lead to an economic barrier. In Bellingham, there are people who talk about building a wall across I-5 to keep out new residents.

The issue is basically about population growth and how to avoid it, or adjust to it.

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