Charter Review and District Only Voting

Permalink +

Thu, Apr 17, 2014, 9:40 am  //  Riley Sweeney

District Only Voting Trends

“Treasuring the many wonders of our unique environment and realizing that the power and duty to govern and protect this region is inherent in its people, we, the citizens of Whatcom County, in order to have a government which advances justice, inspires confidence, and fosters responsibility, do adopt as the foundation of our government, this Charter.” -Whatcom County Charter, Preamble

This year, Whatcom County voters have a unique opportunity. They will be able to rewrite the constitution of our county government. This process is called a County Charter Review.

Most counties in Washington state do not have a charter. They use the standard setup outlined by the State Constitution and the legislature, where three county commissioners are elected by the voters, and they appoint a county manager to serve as the executive branch. This setup works just fine in say, Adams County (pop. 19,200), where the most debated subject is resurfacing the main road that runs through the county to handle more truck traffic.

But this setup runs into trouble when it is applied to say, Thurston County (pop. 260,100). Three full-time commissioners simply cannot handle all the duties of a county government when it gets to be that size, so Whatcom County (pop. 205,800) found a different solution.

In 1978, the voters approved a “Home Rule Charter” which means that the citizens of Whatcom were seizing the power to reorganize their government, as provided for in the state constitution, making us the third such county to do so in the history of Washington.

Our County Charter serves as our county constitution. You can read it in its entirety here.  It outlines who is elected (county executive, sheriff, treasurer, auditor, prosecutor, assessor and council) and who is appointed (county clerk, medical examiner, board of health, etc). It defines the powers of each office, lays out the procedure for elections and defines compensation and concepts like conflict of interest.

According to our charter, every ten years the citizens will form a commission to, “review the Charter to determine its adequacy and suitability to the needs of the county and may propose amendments.” They will serve without salary and usually attend a series of meetings that span six months. The commissioners are elected by council district, with the top five vote getters in each district being seated for a total of fifteen commissioners. All the amendments proposed by the commission must be put to a vote in November 2015.

The Charter Review Commission has the power to drastically change the way we operate as a county. Just to pick one drastic example, they could strip the County Council of its ability to approve land use permits, a major blow for Gateway Pacific Terminal opponents. Alternately, they could turn the county executive into an appointed position and give that power to the County Council, raising the stakes for council races to ridiculous levels.

However, the most likely battleground this year is over district-only voting. Charlie Crabtree, chair of the Whatcom Republicans and confused newspaper reader, has made it crystal clear that his priority for the Charter Review is district-only voting. As he wrote in his emails to disheartened Republicans after they lost control of the Council last year,

"In 2005, voters in Whatcom County voted to elect their councilmembers by the district where they reside instead of an “At-Large” County-wide Election. The first election to be “district only” was 2007. Five weeks after the 2007 election, led by Barbara Brenner, the council passed an ordinance to reverse the people’s decision. This ordinance was passed without hearing. It was placed on the ballot and an uneducated public put “at large” voting back in place. The November 5th election shows the “Brenner effect” of Ken Mann and Carl Weimer not getting a majority vote in the district they will end up representing."

Right now, council candidates must live in their district, pass a primary in their district and then be elected county-wide. In 2013, a majority of the Democratic votes came from the 1st District, which includes south Bellingham because that’s where the Democratic ground game focused their efforts. This increased turnout helped reelect Weimer and Mann.

Crabtree has been beating this drum for many years. He wrote the PRO position in the 2005 voters pamphlet for district only voting, however this may not be a winning strategy for the Republicans.

Here is the breakdown by district of the Democratic votes for the last four years.  As you can see, the Democratic total of votes continues to grow in all three districts. This is especially telling since the last redistricting (2012) added more conservative precincts to the 2nd District, and moved more liberal precincts into the 1st. Even with that boost, the Republicans are losing ground county-wide.

If we move to district-only voting, it would go into effect in 2017. If these trends are to continue, that would put the 3rd district at 48.3% Democratic and the 2nd at 44%. With Carl Weimer most likely retiring from council in 2017, it would mean a competitive race in the 3rd, and Ken Mann staring down a difficult situation in the 2nd. Except by this point, Mann will have served for 8 years, and every year he does better than the year previous. The incumbent factor is hard to shake (see Brenner, Barbara).

No matter how the issue of district-only voting is resolved, the Charter Review Commission is a vital pivot point for elections in Whatcom. If you are interested in serving, reach out to whichever party you identify with and let them know.

For more “Keep it Simple, Sweeney” explanations of local political issues, check out some of these articles: Bellingham Waterfront 101, what is the Growth Management Act, and why can’t we pass gun legislation?

Charter Review and District Only Voting

Thu, Apr 17, 2014, 9:40 am  //  Riley Sweeney

A simple explanation of the Charter Review and analysis of District only voting

0 comments

County Considers Purchasing Toxic Property

Wed, Mar 19, 2014, 9:32 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley digs into the county's plan to buy the county morgue

3 comments; last on Mar 24, 2014

Johns Repair

Specializing in German vehicles...

Fukushima Radiation Found In Canada

Fri, Mar 14, 2014, 9:47 am  //  John Servais

Fukushima radiation has been found 20 miles from Whatcom County farmland along the Fraser River in British Columbia.

1 comments; last on Mar 17, 2014

County Hires GPT Permit Lead as Senior Planner

Mon, Mar 10, 2014, 9:51 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley digs into an unusual hiring decision at the County Planning Dept

1 comments; last on Mar 10, 2014

Relevant Documents to Libel Threat

Tue, Feb 25, 2014, 8:29 pm  //  John Servais

The full text of Craig Cole's threatening letter of libel against the Whatcom Watch. And the emptiness of the threat.

16 comments; last on Mar 20, 2014

Craig Cole Threatens Libel Suit

Wed, Feb 19, 2014, 4:48 pm  //  John Servais

Craig Cole, the local contact for the proposed Cherry Point coal port has threatened the Whatcom Watch with a libel lawsuit.

6 comments; last on Mar 20, 2014

Do Changing Liquor and Marijuana Laws Affect DUIs

Mon, Feb 17, 2014, 7:26 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley digs through court data and discovers the real impact of privatization and legalization

0 comments

Lecture on County Water Issues Draws Crowd

Fri, Dec 06, 2013, 11:03 pm  //  Wendy Harris

The county will be required to consider water quality and water quantity when planning rural growth.

3 comments; last on Dec 10, 2013

County Releases EIS, Prepares to Purchase Jail Site

Mon, Nov 18, 2013, 10:59 am  //  Riley Sweeney

The county takes two big steps forward on the new jail, while still missing the point

0 comments

Election Results - November 2013

Tue, Nov 05, 2013, 8:21 pm  //  John Servais

With lots of outside county money flowing in to our local races, this election is weird. But real - and we county residents have spoken.

11 comments; last on Nov 09, 2013

How the Coal Industry Funneled $40,000 into Whatcom

Wed, Oct 02, 2013, 5:40 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley uncovers how the Coal Industry is funding conservative candidates in Whatcom County

11 comments; last on Oct 03, 2013

Over $330,000 raised and spent on elections in Whatcom County

Thu, Sep 19, 2013, 6:08 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley examines who is donating to which candidates

0 comments

Can We Talk? Doug Ericksen for Congress!

Mon, Aug 19, 2013, 7:08 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley whole-heartedly urges Doug Ericksen to run for Congress in 2014

2 comments; last on Aug 19, 2013

Water Agreement Fails Scrutiny

Tue, Aug 13, 2013, 11:31 pm  //  Wendy Harris

The City of Bellingham memorandum of agreement with Lynden does not make sense. What is going on?

4 comments; last on Sep 10, 2013

Celebrations More Racist than Verdict

Sun, Jul 14, 2013, 10:25 am  //  John Servais

The explosion of hate and racist rhetoric is the saddest aspect of the verdict. The evidence was complicated and the verdict difficult to make.

2 comments; last on Jul 16, 2013

Zero Public Process for New Jail

Fri, Jul 12, 2013, 8:29 am  //  John Servais

Riley Sweeney has a short but important expose over at the Political Junkie today.

1 comments; last on Jul 12, 2013

Caught In The Whatcom Court System

Fri, May 31, 2013, 4:43 pm  //  John Servais

Luba Pekisheva has been given a confusing run around in our Whatcom County courts for over three years. Judges, prosecutors and clerks have all participated.

0 comments

Safeguard the Southfork

Thu, May 30, 2013, 11:01 pm  //  Guest writer

Jeffrey Margolis urges us to request the Nooksack South Fork Valley be included in the Coal Port environmental study.

3 comments; last on Jun 02, 2013

Our Water - War or Pieces?

Fri, May 24, 2013, 12:18 am  //  Guest writer

Marian Beddill provides a general guide for the public, with a look at the history of water rights in Washington state.

4 comments; last on May 26, 2013

Demonically Possessed Slaughter Crazed Ideologues Wrecking Rural Whatcom

Wed, May 22, 2013, 10:12 am  //  Guest writer

By Guest Writer Nicole Brown. This is a call to action for county citizens as the county tries to ram through the slaughterhouse rezones.

7 comments; last on May 26, 2013

Who is filing for elective offices???

Fri, May 17, 2013, 4:44 pm  //  John Servais

Tuesday morning and nothing in today's Bellingham Herald. Nor online. We provide the basics to fill in this latest omission by our "daily" newspaper.

9 comments; last on May 23, 2013

Freedom Academy Comes to Whatcom County

Mon, Apr 22, 2013, 5:52 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley attends Tea Party training and runs afoul of Rep. Overstreet

1 comments; last on Apr 22, 2013

Closing Arguments in Defense of the Reconveyance

Mon, Mar 11, 2013, 6:37 am  //  Guest writer

Guest writer Shane Roth writes in favor of the reconveyance of Lake Whatcom land back to the county.

1 comments; last on Mar 11, 2013

PeaceHealth Merger Threatens Women’s Health in Whatcom County

Tue, Feb 26, 2013, 6:39 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley details upcoming merger between PeaceHealth and a much more conservative entity

1 comments; last on Feb 26, 2013

The County Planning Commission is Broke

Wed, Jan 30, 2013, 12:09 am  //  Wendy Harris

The planning commission no longer serves its purpose due to Council's poor appointment choices

2 comments; last on Feb 10, 2013

Aquatic Invasive Species Plan for Lake Whatcom

Mon, Jan 28, 2013, 1:52 am  //  Wendy Harris

Improving ecosystem functions holistically is the best form of protection for the Lake Whatcom.

1 comments; last on Jan 28, 2013

EIS Scoping Period for GPT is Closed

Tue, Jan 22, 2013, 6:19 pm  //  Wendy Harris

Links to a few noteworthy GPT scoping comments .

1 comments; last on Jan 22, 2013

Is Noncompliance Addicting?

Fri, Jan 11, 2013, 1:35 pm  //  Wendy Harris

A proposed amendment to the Lake Whatcom watershed moratorium will increase water quality degradation

1 comments; last on Jan 12, 2013

Noncompliance 2013: The Game

Sun, Jan 06, 2013, 11:49 pm  //  Wendy Harris

Watch the Whatcom County Council wiggle its way out of the latest round of GMA compliance requirements for Lake Whatcom

1 comments; last on Jul 27, 2013

Whatcom County STILL Not Compliant With GMA

Fri, Jan 04, 2013, 11:37 pm  //  Wendy Harris

Council majority willing to spend, and spend, and spend public funds defending development rights

2 comments; last on Jan 05, 2013

Video of Mudslide Derailing Train Monday

Wed, Dec 19, 2012, 11:12 am  //  John Servais

A dramatic video of yet another mudslide near Everett - and what will be coming down on coal trains. Amtrak service to Bellingham is shut down.

4 comments; last on Dec 20, 2012

Coal Ship Wrecks Vancouver Terminal

Sat, Dec 08, 2012, 1:43 pm  //  John Servais

A giant coal freighter went right through the long dock early Friday morning. Nothing in print edition of Herald

3 comments; last on Dec 11, 2012

Slaughterhouses and Rendering Plants - Videographers Needed

Mon, Dec 03, 2012, 3:26 pm  //  Tip Johnson

Wherein citizens must hold their representatives' feet to the fire

6 comments; last on Dec 09, 2012

The Public Locked out of Jail Selection Process

Sat, Nov 10, 2012, 9:53 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley examines why the new jail site was selected without public input

1 comments; last on Nov 12, 2012

Meat Axe or Scalpel?

Sat, Nov 03, 2012, 1:21 pm  //  Tip Johnson

An letter to the County Council on opening the county to the slaughter industry

8 comments; last on Nov 08, 2012

Election Predictions

Wed, Oct 31, 2012, 7:29 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Here's your shot at fame and glory as a political pundit

4 comments; last on Nov 02, 2012

Rep. Vincent Buys’ Record

Tue, Oct 02, 2012, 8:22 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley examines Rep. Vincent Buys' legislative record

1 comments; last on Dec 02, 2012

Lummi Nation Opposes Coal Terminal

Fri, Sep 21, 2012, 8:53 am  //  John Servais

Bellingham Business Journal breaking story - Lummi's to hold meeting today at noon to speak against the Cherry Point project.

7 comments; last on Nov 04, 2012

Local Conservative Blog Fails at Flowcharts

Wed, Sep 05, 2012, 11:00 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley patiently explains to the Whatcom Excavator what a flowchart should look like

0 comments

Our Right to Decide?

Mon, Aug 20, 2012, 6:24 pm  //  Guest writer

David Maas, a retired college prof, asks why the city of Bellingham is supposedly powerless to stop the development of a private project that will reshape our community?

5 comments; last on Aug 26, 2012

The Political Junkie interviews “Power Past Coal”

Mon, Aug 20, 2012, 8:00 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley sits down with Matt Petryni with Power Past Coal to get the latest scoop

0 comments

Coal Free Bellingham: Point Proven?

Thu, Aug 09, 2012, 8:30 pm  //  Larry Horowitz

Questions raised by the Superior Court's barring of the Bellingham Community Bill of Rights initiative from being placed on the ballot.

21 comments; last on Aug 17, 2012

The Political Junkie covers the Tea Party forum

Fri, Jul 20, 2012, 4:44 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley gathers quotes, video footage and pictures from the recent tea party forum

1 comments; last on Jul 20, 2012

Oh no!  Whatcom population sees slow growth

Tue, Jul 10, 2012, 8:45 am  //  Larry Horowitz

Wanted: Someone to interpret chamber president Oplinger's remarks

13 comments; last on Jul 13, 2012

From the Political Junkie: Judges, Jails, and Local Politics

Wed, Jul 04, 2012, 10:42 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley interviews judicial candidates, reviews campaign tactics, and discusses fireworks

0 comments

Port attempts to kill initiative for two new seats

Sun, Jun 17, 2012, 8:52 am  //  Paul deArmond

Port Commissioner Scott Walker and attorney Frank Chmelik get caught ballot-rigging again

20 comments; last on Jun 21, 2012

Last chance, file for PCO

Fri, May 18, 2012, 10:27 am  //  Riley Sweeney

A short plea for public involvement from Riley

0 comments

5 Port Commissioners Initiative Now Circulating

Sat, Apr 28, 2012, 9:09 am  //  John Servais

A county wide initiative will allow voters to decide whether to expand the Port of Bellingham commission from 3 to 5 commissioners.

1 comments; last on Apr 28, 2012

Ron Paul Delegates Railroaded at Whatcom GOP Convention

Tue, Apr 24, 2012, 11:07 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley attended the Whatcom GOP Convention and reports back

1 comments; last on Apr 29, 2012

The Road to Nowhere Can Go Forward

Tue, Apr 24, 2012, 12:02 am  //  Guest writer

Developers are gaming the system with help from the county government - and big changes are made in multiple small changes.

1 comments; last on Apr 27, 2012

Two Port Commissioners Held Illegal Meeting

Tue, Apr 10, 2012, 7:52 pm  //  John Servais

An illegal serial Port Commission meeting should be investigated by the State Auditor, and two commissioners should be made accountable for their actions.

5 comments; last on Apr 11, 2012

Growth, Sprawl & Infill:  Padden Trails Project

Fri, Apr 06, 2012, 7:16 am  //  Guest writer

Ken Mann writes a guest article of his personal support for the Padden Trails development inside the Bellingham city limits.

3 comments; last on Apr 07, 2012

We Can Expand Port Commission to Five

Wed, Apr 04, 2012, 2:16 pm  //  John Servais

State law allows us to pass an initiative and increase the number of port commissioners from three to five. Thanks to Harriet Spanel.

4 comments; last on Apr 05, 2012

Questions about Population Growth

Mon, Apr 02, 2012, 11:43 am  //  Larry Horowitz

Where to begin? Misinformation. Disinformation. Truths. Myths. Same old, same old. Paradigm shift. GMA. OFM. Growth pressures. Population loss. Growth subsidies. Proportionate share.

36 comments; last on Apr 11, 2012

The Curious Disappearance of Bob Ferris

Fri, Mar 09, 2012, 11:15 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley gets to the bottom of this in a NWCitizen Exclusive

4 comments; last on Apr 01, 2012

Squalicum Mountain development gets favors from county

Sat, Feb 18, 2012, 3:03 pm  //  Guest writer

No EIS - no real county planning concern about developing Squalicum Mountain and degrading Lake Whatcom water even further.

0 comments

Port attempts to kill initiative for two new seats

Tue, Jan 31, 2012, 8:36 am  //  Paul deArmond

Port Commissioner Scott Walker and attorney Frank Chmelik get caught ballot-rigging again

0 comments

UPDATE: City of Bham Moonlighting Issue - More Documents

Mon, Jan 30, 2012, 11:58 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley updates us on the latest facts coming to light about City of Bellingham employee moonlighting

2 comments; last on Feb 01, 2012

A Worm’s Eye View of our local WorkSource Center

Wed, Jan 25, 2012, 10:42 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley visits the local WorkSource center and interviews the regional director

0 comments

The Political Junkie interviews Kathy Kershner

Thu, Jan 19, 2012, 5:29 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley discusses the Jail, Jack Louws, and an impartial council with our new Council Chair

1 comments; last on Jan 20, 2012

 

New Links

Julia Ioffe/New Republic
the Oatmeal

Current Interest

Community Wise Bellingham
counterpunch
Friends of Whatcom
Guardian Unlimited
Lummi Island Quarry
Reconveyance Challenge
Whatcom Elections

Publisher Recommended

counterpunch
GlobalPost
Guardian Unlimited
League of Women Voters
Paul Krugman - economics
Sweeney Politics

Local Blogs & News

Bellingham Herald
Bham Herald Politics Blog
Bham Politics & Economics
Bob Sanders
Cascadia Weekly
Citizen Ted
Ferndale Record
Friends of Whatcom
Get Whatcom Planning
HamsterTalk
Jack Petree
KGMI
Latte Republic
League of Women Voters
Lynden Tribune
MikeatthePort
Northern Light
Sweeney Politics
Twilight Zoning
Wally Wonders
Western Front - WWU
Whatcom Watch

Local Causes

Bellingham Police Activity
Chuckanut Community Forest
Chuckanut Mountains
Citizens of Bellingham
City Club of Bellingham
Community Wise Bellingham
Conservation NW
Cordata & Meridian
Facebook Port Reform
Futurewise - Whatcom
Lake Whatcom
Lummi Island Quarry
N. Cascades Audubon
NW Holocaust Center
RE Sources
Reconveyance Challenge
Reduce Jet Noise
Salish Sea Org.
Save the Granary Building
Transition Whatcom
WA Conservation Voters

Governments

Bellingham
Port of Bellingham
Skagit County
US - The White House
WA State Access
WA State Elections
WA State Legislature
Whatcom Auditor
Whatcom County
Whatcom Elections

Weather & Climate

Cliff Mass Weather Blog
Climate Audit
NW Radar
Two day forecast
Watts Up With That? - climate

Leisure

Adventures NW
Edge of Sports
Entertainment NNW
Famous Internet Skiers
Sailing Anarchy

Good Links

Al-Jazeera online
Alaska Dispatch
AlterNet.org
Antiwar.com
Arab News
Asia Times
Atlantic, The
Common Dreams
counterpunch
Crosscut Seattle
Daily Kos
Daily Mirror
Doonesbury
Drudge Report
FiveThirtyEight
Foreign Policy in Focus
GlobalPost
Guardian Unlimited
Gulf News
Haaretz
Huffington Post
Innocence Project, The
Intrnational Herald Tribune
James Fallows
Jerusalem Post
Joel Connelly
Juan Cole
Julia Ioffe/New Republic
Le Diplo
Media Matters
Michael Moore
Middle East Times
MoveOn.org
Nation, The
New American Century
News Trust
NMFA
numbers
Online Journal
Palestine Daily
Palestine News
Paul Krugman - economics
Personal bio info
Portland Indy Media
Progressive Review
Project Vote Smart
Reuters
Sea Shepherd
Slate
Talking Points Memo
the Oatmeal
Tom Paine.com
truthout
War and Piece
Washington Votes
WikiLeaks.ch
ynetnews.com

NwCitizen 1995 - 2007

Early Northwest Citizen

Internet At Its Best

TED

Quiet, Offline or Dead

Bellingham Register
Carl Weimer
David Hackworth
N. Sound Conservancy
No Leaky Buckets
Northwest Review
Orcinus
Post-Oklahoman Confessions
Protect Bellingham Parks
The American Telegraph
The Crisis Papers