Now that the ballots are coming soon, I decided to make a rundown of who (and what) I believe would best serve Whatcom County.
This year, we have 10 charter amendments placed on the ballot. Eight were proposed by the Charter Review Commission, a commission elected every 10 years to propose amendments to our way of government in Whatcom County. The remaining two were proposed by the Whatcom County Council, who is granted the power to propose charter amendments in the Washington State Constitution. Anyway, here’s what I think of them:
Charter Amendment 1: Provides for “district-only voting” for county council elections; council members would only be voted on by the people of the district they represent. Vote APPROVED.
Originally, I was opposed to this ballot measure. This is because our current three county council districts are very flawed, and don’t represent the communities of interest in Whatcom County, causing district-only voting to have a negative impact. However, Charter Amendment 9 would create five county council districts, and I am very confident that Amendment 9 will pass. With five county council districts, district-only voting would be the better option. Communities of interest would be divided, and each of them would elect their own representative. With at-large voting, the county council is more likely to be dominated by only one political party, whether Democratic or Republican. With five districts, and district-only voting, this would be nearly impossible. Different communities of interest have very different political views.
One argument against district-only voting is that voters will have power “taken away” from them because they would not be able to elect representatives from the entire county. However, no power would be “taken away” from voters. Each individual voter would have a higher percentage of the total number of votes cast. This would cause each voter to have much more power in the elections that they do vote in.
I would also like to point out that if district-only voting passes, there will still be either one or two* at-large council seats where everyone in Whatcom County gets to elect their representatives.
*One council seat if amendment 9 fails, two if it passes.
Charter Amendment 2: Prohibiting the county council from proposing charter amendments on issues approved by two-thirds of voters. Vote REJECTED.
This charter amendment would take power away from voters. If the county council proposes a charter amendment, it has to be approved by voters no matter what. If the voters decide to change their minds on issues they previously decided on by a large margin, they should be allowed to.
Charter Amendment 3: Prohibiting the county council from amending the sections of the Whatcom County Charter regarding the county council. Vote REJECTED.
This charter amendment has a similar intent to the previous one. It would take power away from the voters. If the county council proposes a charter amendment, it must be approved by voters.
Charter Amendment 4: Increasing the word limit for ballot questions from 20 to 40 words. Vote APPROVED.
All this would do is allow for more clarity on the ballot by allowing for longer ballot questions. So far, I have heard no argument against this amendment.
Charter Amendment 5: Decreasing the amount of signatures needed for ballot measures to be placed on the ballot. Vote APPROVED.
Imagine having to collect signatures from 15 percent of voters in the last election. It would be extremely difficult; it would be about 18,000 signatures. This amendment decreases that number to eight percent of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. It isn’t an extremely drastic decrease, but it is a significant portion.
This amendment would also cause more issues to be placed on the ballot for voters to decide on, therefore representing voters more.
Charter Amendment 6: Decreasing the amount of signatures needed to place Charter Amendments on the ballot. Vote APPROVED.
Currently, to place a charter amendment on the ballot, signatures from 20 percent of the voters in the last gubernatorial election. This amendment would decrease that number to 15 percent. Vote for this amendment for the same reasons I stated in my explanation of why to vote for Charter Amendment 5.
Charter Amendment 7: Imposing a term limit on county council members and the county executive. Vote REJECTED.
This amendment would limit the number of terms council members are allowed to serve to three terms. I’m opposed to term limits in general. If the people want to keep someone in office for more than twelve years, that means they served the county very well and should stay in their position. The best term limit is the natural term limit where elected officials that the voters like are reelected, while the ones they dislike are defeated for reelection. We need very experienced people on the county council. If term limits were passed a number of years ago, Pete Kremen never would have won a fourth term as county executive (which he won by a very large margin). He was popular for the whole time he was county executive, and served the people’s beliefs. Barbara Brenner wouldn’t be on the county council right now. She is the voice of no political party, no special interests, and she doesn’t accept campaign donations. She simply represents all of the people of Whatcom County, and therefore is continuously is reelected even though she raises no money. Council member Brenner challenges many opinions to serve Whatcom County, and she brings many new ideas to the county. This often leaves her the only council member voting for or against something, but it is definitely a voice we need on the county council.
Charter Amendment 8: Allowing for more than two political parties on the redistricting committee. Vote APPROVED.
The current system is broken; only allowing the Democratic and Republican parties on the committee that draws political districts. This often leads to very odd partisan district boundary lines that don’t represent people. Further, the Libertarian and Green parties are growing rapidly in number, especially among younger people. They deserve to have a voice.
Charter Amendment 9: Changes the number of county council districts from three to five, and adding an additional at-large position. Vote APPROVED.
The current three district system, adopted sometime around 1950, is very outdated. It is left over from when Whatcom County didn’t even have a Charter, but a form of government with three commissioners instead of an executive and council. In 1950, the system probably worked fine. The county population was less than one third of what it is now. Therefore, there was less people per district then than we would have per district even with five districts now. Aside from that, there is no way to divide up communities of interest with only three districts. Each district has a slice of Bellingham and a slice of rural Whatcom County. Both of these areas have a very different way of life. Five districts would divide up communities of interest; two districts in Bellingham, three elsewhere. Rural Whatcom County voters would have their representatives, and Bellingham would have theirs. This would provide for a council that is reasonably balanced between political views at all times.
Charter Amendment 10: Requiring a super-majority vote of the Charter Review Commission to amend the county charter. Vote REJECTED.
As with amendments two and three, this would take away voters’ power to decide on issues. This amendment was put out on a highly partisan agenda in reaction to the 2015 Charter Review Commission. I agree that the Charter Review process seemed like some kind of joke, and only a few commissioners (both liberals and conservatives, by the way) were interested in proposing reasonable proposals that would help Whatcom County, instead of very strange, vague, partisan proposals that would clearly be rejected on the ballot. However, this will not happen every Charter Review process. And no matter how ridiculous a Charter Amendment may be, it still has to be approved by voters. If an amendment is too unreasonable, it would be rejected.
JAIL FACILITIES SALES AND USE TAX: Vote REJECTED.
WHATCOM COUNTY COUNCIL
County Council District 1: Vote Todd Donovan.
Todd Donovan has proven to be a great elected official, after serving on the Charter Review Commission. He was one of the few commissioners who came up with any pragmatic, reasonable proposals or ideas. If elected to the county council, Todd Donovan would help come up with more practical solutions to the problems facing Whatcom County, and bring up much more discussion than what is currently happening on the Whatcom County Council. He has extensive knowledge on almost all of the issues facing Whatcom County.
Bruce Ayers is Todd Donovan’s opponent. He is clearly a very Tea Party Republican. While on the Bellingham City Council, Bruce Ayers got little accomplished and was not known for representing the people of Bellingham. His campaign is focused almost completely on building the new jail, and he seems to lack knowledge on just about all other issues. When Bruce Ayers does talk about something besides the jail, it is usually about how he wants to have almost no development regulations to help developers take over all of the farmland in Whatcom County.
County Council District 2: Vote Kathy Kershner.
Kathy Kershner had non-partisan, pragmatic approaches to issues during her four years on the county council. Large highly partisan special interest groups try to cover this up, so don’t get fooled by them; I have literally looked over every single vote Kathy Kershner took during her four years on the county council, and I didn’t find one time when she didn’t have the best interests for Whatcom County in mind. These special interest groups also spread the myth that Kathy Kershner has no interest in protecting the environment. This is also not true. After looking over Kathy Kershner’s voting record, I have found numerous occasions when she voted in favor of protecting the environment, most notably her support of the Lake Whatcom Reconveyance, arguably the most controversial issue of her term from 2010 to 2014. If you do think Kathy Kershner is a Tea Party Republican, that is exactly what large special interests want you to think, and you are falling into their trap of misleading the public on issues. I don’t know where the myth about Kathy Kershner being a Tea Party Republican started, but if you check your actual facts, as I did, you will find this to not be true. Aside from special interests misleading voters on Kathy Kershner, she is more likely to go above and beyond with the work it takes to be on the county council than her opponent, as she has proved during he four years previously on the county council.
Kathy Kershner’s opponent, Satpal Sidhu is a different story. The same special interests that try to make people think that Kathy Kershner is a Tea Party Republican try to make Satpal Sidhu sound like an environmental hero with tons of political experience. The fact of the matter is, Satpal Sidhu had never had any political office until he was appointed to the county council in March 2015 after out-going council member Sam Crawford resigned. During Sidhu’s seven months on the county council, he hasn’t made any really large notable accomplishments. Once at a candidate forum, Satpal Sidhu had no answer when asked about flood control issues. Despite what special interest groups say, he has few environmental accomplishments. He does own a solar firm, but the job of being on the county council would have no way to reflect that, so owning of a solar firm is, in reality, irrelevant to the election or county council government in general. The main group of people Satpal Sidhu has promised to represent in Whatcom County on his campaign is large, commercial berry farmers who play a part in degrading environmental quality. So, in reality, Kathy Kershner may be the better choice even for environmental reasons.
WHATCOM COUNTY EXECUTIVE: Vote Joy Gilfilen.
Jack Louws (Joy Gilfilen’s opponent) has been a good county executive, but Joy Gilfilen would excel. She isn’t highly partisan, like many other candidates in the 2015 election, and listens to everyone. Joy Gilfilen has been in business all of her life, so she has a deep understanding of the economic issues in Whatcom County. A combination of listening to people and an understanding of issues makes Joy Gilfilen similar to Barbara Brenner, just more liberal. That is what we need for county executive.
PORT OF BELLINGHAM COMMISSIONER DISTRICT 3: Vote Bobby Briscoe.
Bobby Briscoe has very extensive knowledge in the issues facing the port, being a commercial fisherman for forty years. He supports businesses and the environment at the same time, and has specific ideas on how to do so. At the Tea Party forum, Briscoe spoke of how the port should measure it’s success by the amount of jobs it creates, while opposing dredging, and being very hesitant about any idea that might harm the environment.
At the Tea Party forum, Briscoe’s opponent, Ferndale Mayor Gary Jensen, stated that the port should measure it’s success by the profit it makes. At the same time, he supports dredging and has said nothing about environmental protection at the port. In fact, he is the only candidate for a countywide election in Whatcom County that outspokenly supports the harmful and illegal Gateway Pacific Terminal. Gary Jensen also has no port experience, compared to Bobby Briscoe’s forty years as commercial fisherman. The port commission is already enough of a mess, but Gary Jensen would add to that; during his eight years as mayor of Ferndale, he spent his time defending himself from the public instead of listening to them.
Ferndale Mayor: Vote Jon Mutchler.
While I often disagree with Jon Mutchler, I maintain that he would be a great mayor of Ferndale. During his six years on the city council, he was one of the few council members that no one was afraid of disagreeing with. Despite often being farther to the right side of the aisle, he listened to both perspectives, and voted accordingly. During his year on the Whatcom County Charter Review Commission, Jon Mutchler was one of the conservative commissioners, but he didn’t always vote with them. In fact, his views were quite centered. Never once did he argue with someone who came up to speak to the commission, as the Tea Party commissioners did. Further, Mutchler has been endorsed by the Lummi Business Council, because they believe he would be the best candidate to work with in the many issues that impact Ferndale and the Lummi Business Council. Numerous Ferndale residents have endorsed him for the same reason.
Ferndale City Council Position 3: Vote Glenn Stewart.
Glenn Stewart does know about politics, having been the chair of the San Juan County Democrats. Also, Stewart is a voice needed on the city council; the voice that would bring new ideas to the table, no matter how strange they may be. He also seems to want more businesses in downtown Ferndale, something badly needed in Ferndale.
Incumbent Keith Olson is Glenn Stewart’s opponent. During his time on the city council, he vigorously supported stopping the building of a large house near the Ferndale Library. He also vigorously supported banning marijuana in Ferndale. Those are his accomplishments… so vote for Glenn Stewart.
Ferndale City Council Position 4: Vote Teresa Taylor
Teresa Taylor knows Ferndale, having lived there and raised kids who both went to Ferndale Schools. This represents many people in Ferndale who are currently being underrepresented on the Ferndale City Council. She is endorsed by many people with all different sorts of political views, including Ferndale City Council member Jon Mutchler, Democratic State Senator Kevin Ranker, former Ferndale City Council member Lloyd Zimmerman, well-known Bellingham liberal Bob Burr, Tea Party conservative Orphalee Smith, and the Lummi Business Council.
Vote for the Ferndale Metropolitan Parks District.
Parks are something Ferndale lacks and greatly needs. The only large, well-known parks are Vander Yacht park and Pioneer Park. Yes, there are more parks, but the other parks consist basically of only a playground and some lawn. Ferndale also isn’t very pedestrian-friendly, and parks would also help with this issue. A metropolitan parks district may also provide recreation in our parks.
Initiative 1366: Vote No.
This initiative was proposed by Tim Eyman, who is currently under criminal investigation for misusing campaign funds. Initiative 1366 is a very odd, possibly unconstitutional measure that bullies the legislature into passing a constitutional amendment that would require two-thirds vote of both houses for a tax increase. Any sales tax increase would be prohibited by this initiative, until this happens, no matter how badly the revenue is needed.
Initiative 1401: Vote Yes.
This initiative prohibits selling, purchasing, trading, or distributing products containing anything from a species threatened for extinction a gross misdemeanor or a Class C felony. These are common sense regulations that should have been in place decades ago. Trafficking of species threatened for extinction is a world wide problem that contributes to extinction of such animals.
Vote MAINTAINED on Advisory votes 10 and 13 (Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1443 and Engrossed Senate Bill 6138). Vote REPEALED on Advisory votes 11 and 12 (Engrossed Substitute Senate Bills 5052 and 5987).