Voting Suggestions for Whatcom County, Part 2

In the previous post, we looked at Voting Suggestions for Whatcom County Council.  We’ll have a brief review here as well, but let’s also consider the rest of the ballot for Bellingham and Whatcom County voters.

For those that consider themselves progressives, there are a few resources to look to for more information and endorsements. One is the Fuse Progressive Voters Guide.  Another source is Whatcom Conservation Voters. They are a a non-partisan grassroots political organization that works in Whatcom County on environmental issues.  They advocate for responsible growth, clean water, habitat conservation and many environmental causes.  Washington Conservation Voters endorsements can be found here.

One more is The Political Junkie’s Voters Guide, by fellow blogger Riley Sweeney.  With few exceptions, all of these guides named are supporting the same candidates and the same initiatives.  It is Riley’s endorsements that I’ll review here in abbreviated form.  All quotes below are from Riley Sweeney, unless otherwise noted (example: Whatcom Democrats). I agree with all of his choices, except for the last two.

Stuck on your ballot? Let Riley help!
Stuck on your ballot? Let Riley help!

State-Wide Measures

I-517: Vote No. “This is Tim Eyman’s latest initiative and as usual, it is a mediocre idea wrapped in a whole bucket of bad ideas…”

I-522: Vote Yes. “This would require most grocery items to display whether or not they had been genetically modified. Currently, Monsanto is spending $4.2 million in Washington state to block this measure.”

Advisory Votes: Riley published a whole article about this earlier in the week, so check it out for the details but the end result is the same. Vote “maintained” for all of these measures.

Whatcom County Council (Redux)

(See previous post for more detail on County Council)

“If you care deeply about stopping the coal terminal, this decision is easy. Do not vote for anyone who has taken money from the Coal industry.”

My comments: Check out Riley’s reporting on coal industry money coming to Council candidates in the link above, and check out the Herald article about even more coal industry money coming to the Save Whatcom PAC. Whatcom Democrats are urging citizens to contact the Attorney General and demand an investigation. They claim that disclosure laws were violated – that the donated money from SSA Marine, Cloud Peak Energy, Global Coal Sales, and others were deliberately hidden. A statement on the Whatcom Democrats website:

“With critical races in the balance, community leaders in Whatcom County are calling on the Washington State Attorney General to step in and make Saving Whatcom PAC and their big coal donors comply with the laws of Washington.

Washington state law requires the five largest donors to an advertisement to be printed on a piece of mail or television advertisement.  They have set up two committees and transferred money between them, in an attempt to hide donor names from the public.”
– Whatcom Democrats

Vote for the candidates who have not accepted money from big coal: Buchanan, Browne, Mann, and Weimer.

Port of Bellingham

Commissioner District 1: Renata Kowalczyk.  “She brings an outsider’s perspective which is desperately needed at the port, yet shares our values for what the port’s role is in our community. Her opponent, Dan Robbins, has done little this campaign other than repeat weird communist smears from the anonymous writers at the Whatcom Excavator and tout his failed businesses. The choice is clear, Vote Kowalczyk.”

Commissioner District 2: Mike McAuley.For the last four years, Mike has been the lone voice of sanity on the Port Commission.”

Bellingham City Council

Council Ward 4: Pinky Vargas. “She is smart, an effective communicator but more importantly, would bring some vital self-awareness to the city council.”

Council At-Large: Roxanne Murphy.While I appreciate Bob Burr’s activist spirit and desire to push complacent politicos out of their comfort zone, the City Council needs a steady hand and they will have one in Roxanne Murphy.”

Bellingham School District

Proposition 1:  “Our schools are criminally underfunded. Walk into an school and you will see employees working two or three jobs to cover the budget cuts, improvements being delayed, technology that is decades old. We should be investing in our schools and this bond is a good start. Vote approved.

Director Position 4: Steven Smith.Wait a minute Riley, you endorsed John Blethen in the primary? What happened? Well, I met with Steven Smith and was blown away. This Western business professor moonlighting as school board member brings the right mix of compassion and technical skill to the school board. We talked at length about the need for, and challenges of, measuring emotional growth as part of a child’s educational experience. Quantifying our schools beyond SATs and dropout rates to see what is really happening with each cohort of learners. Smith is using his position on the board to build the tools so future board members can assess the progress we have made and where we need to grow.

While I respect Blethen a great deal, and encourage people to vote for him based on his long record of involvement, I am voting for Smith.”

My comments: I have quoted the entirety of Riley’s School District choices above, because these are the two items on the ballot that I disagree with, though I think Riley has made a good case for his decision.  In my view of an integral permaculture future, we can’t expect business as usual to continue – honestly considered, we don’t have the money to spend on all the projects we’d like, and we have to start making some hard decisions.  Schools are underfunded, but can we really afford to rebuild Sehome High School (my alma mater) at this time? And is closing Larrabee school the right choice, forcing more resources to go toward transporting students longer distances?

A statement taken from the Facebook page of the Coalition to Save Larrabee:

Not one dollar of the 220 million dollar school bond ($160 million principal + interest) will be spent to reduce classroom sizes, hire or adequately pay even one more teacher, fund enrichment programs, environmental learning, support neighborhood schools, STEM education, or the arts. As Democrats, when we are asked to support education we ask, “where do I sign?” But this time around we have to pay attention even if it is politically uncomfortable. Closing Larrabee Elementary School is the canary in the coal mind. The first sign that the Superintendent has a vision that is counter to our community’s vision. The Superintendent is marching us away from small classroom sizes, away from walkable neighborhood schools, and towards 10 million dollar district offices, bloated top administration budgets, and policies that reflect a belief that student learning will increase if teachers just work harder, accept less pay and benefits, volunteer more of their time, and sacrifice…
– Coalition to Save Larrabee

See also David Marshak’s article opposing Proposition 1 in the Oct. 8th Cascadia Weekly, reprinted here: “Rebuilding Sehome High School” Makes No Sense.

Please read John Blethen’s opinion piece at the Bellingham Herald: John Blethen Propose More Public Input; Attention to Bellingham Neighborhood Schools.

Research supports that small neighborhood schools are more effective academically and socially, especially for children living in low-income households, and encourage parent involvement. Neighborhood schools are essential for community building. It is imperative that the Bellingham School District aligns their school facilities planning process with the city of Bellingham to be in step with the Bellingham Comprehensive Plan, with public schools retained and new neighborhood schools located consistent with the city’s commitment to progressive urban smart-growth principles.
– John Blethen

My recommendation: Vote No on Proposition 1, and vote for John Blethen, Director Position 4.

Voting Suggestions for Whatcom County Council

Vote button

Ballots have been mailed, so it’s time to get clear on how to vote, and then make sure we follow through by November 5th.  If there are any doubts about how to vote, there are many resources out there that are more than happy to advise.  For those of you who live here in Whatcom County, WA, I’ll share my favorite voting guides.

Whatcom County Council
These are the races that are getting the majority of media attention – even from outlets beyond our region, and for good reason (hint: the proposed coal port).

For a little background, let’s review some of my previous posts: Could Our Obscure County Election Change the Planet?  This post linked to a National Journal article which pointed out that our upcoming County Council election could be crucial to the decision that ultimately decides whether the Gateway Pacific Terminal (aka “the coal port”) gets built or not.  And Why You Should Care About the Growth Management Act if You Live In Whatcom County discussed another reason to pay attention to the County Council election – because poor land use planning is eroding our ability to be resilient, and because we are currently out of compliance with state law, which is costing us $$$. Next I wrote a post called Zone 9 From Outer Space, where we looked at how the County Council has dealt with zoning issues, using the example of the controversial slaughterhouse issue.

That last post linked to some excellent commentary by Tim Johnson, over at Cascadia Weekly’s The Gristle. If you need further education about how to vote in these races, I’ll once again refer you to the Weekly, October 15 edition.  First, check out  The Gristle, where this week’s theme is Election Fraud.  Johnson warns: “We’ve now entered what has traditionally been the Dirty Tricks eclipse of local elections, where ugly shadow money long withheld comes flooding into campaigns only to be fired out again in torpedoes of late-hour hit pieces filled with lies, smears and petty character assassinations, the background of which won’t fully surface until after the election. The irony for voters who have not yet made up their minds about which candidates deserve their vote is the quality and reliability of information that surfaces from this point forward is much reduced.”

Johnson then proceeds to give an excellent background on the issues at stake, and how they’ve been handled to date for the County Council.  Interestingly, following Johnson’s premonition, the Bellingham Herald today reported that there have been huge sums of money flooding into the “Save Whatcom” PAC from those outside of our county who have a financial interest in seeing the Coal Port developed. Most of it from Coal companies themselves.  See Coal Interests Give More than $100,000K.  The interesting thing is, this money has not been spent yet, so there is one more reason to believe we’ll see last minute shenanigans and smears.

In regards to the candidates themselves, once again Johnson has an excellent analysis of each race.  Pick up a copy, or download the digital version of this week’s paper.  Or just read my quick summary, which follows. Note that the Dirty Coal Conglomerate money is hoping to convince you to vote exactly opposite of the recommendations below.

Kershner Vs. Buchanan: Kershner is caring, orderly, respectful, and has integrity.  However, she has promised as a central theme in her campaign that she will continue to keep the county out of compliance with state law in regards to the Growth Management Act.  Out of compliance with state law = illegal. On the other hand Barry Buchanan is a known, thoughtful, proven candidate who will help the Council become compliant with state law and end the lawsuits.  Vote Barry Buchanan.

Mann vs. Elenbaas: Ben Elenbaas presents himself as a moderate – essentially identical to the actual policy positions that Ken Mann has taken on the County Council.  The truth is that Mann actually is a moderate, and Elenbaas has strong ties to the tea party, and was a primary architect of the foul smelling slaughterhouse zoning proposal.  “Bottom line, whatever Elenbaas says he wishes to achieve on council, Mann is already delivering.” Vote Ken Mann.

Weimer vs. Luke: “Carl Weimer is the most gifted and informed policymaker working as an elected official in Whatcom County…By contrast, Luke is a one-note candidate. And even on that one note –aggressive revolt against GMA–she is not sharp, failing to articulate her concerns with even a single example.”  Enough said. Vote Carl Weimer.

Knutzen vs. Browne: On Bill Knutzen: “Ill temper does not mix well with dim-wittedness.”  On Rud Browne: “Browne is unique among candidates in his ability to transcend the standard left/right divide of local politics.”  Knutzen talks about jobs, but Browne is an actual job creator. Vote Rud Browne.

Coming up next: Suggestions for the other items on your ballot.