Charter Review and District Only VotingPermalink +
Thu, Apr 17, 2014, 9:40 am // Riley Sweeney
“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?
Thu, Apr 17, 2014, 9:40 am // Riley SweeneyA simple explanation of the Charter Review and analysis of District only voting
Tue, Mar 11, 2014, 10:24 am // Riley SweeneyRiley catches State Rep. Vincent Buys for soliciting funds during session
Paper Dreams in Fairhaven
Mon, Dec 16, 2013, 12:30 pm // John ServaisFerndale Mayor Gary Jensen has decided not to file for the 42nd state Senate seat currently held by Doug Ericksen.
5 comments; last on Dec 24, 2013
Tue, Nov 12, 2013, 10:21 am // Riley SweeneyRiley crunches the numbers on Renata and McAuley's races to find answers
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Tue, Nov 05, 2013, 8:21 pm // John ServaisWith lots of outside county money flowing in to our local races, this election is weird. But real - and we county residents have spoken.
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Sun, Oct 20, 2013, 7:07 pm // John ServaisKen Bell has my vote over Mike McAuley for port commissioner. And Renata Kowalczyk has it over Dan Robbins.
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Wed, Oct 02, 2013, 5:40 am // Riley SweeneyRiley uncovers how the Coal Industry is funding conservative candidates in Whatcom County
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Thu, Sep 19, 2013, 6:08 am // Riley SweeneyRiley examines who is donating to which candidates
Mon, Aug 19, 2013, 7:08 am // Riley SweeneyRiley whole-heartedly urges Doug Ericksen to run for Congress in 2014
2 comments; last on Aug 19, 2013
Sun, Jun 30, 2013, 10:28 am // John ServaisBellingham City Council ready to approve $500,000 of trails money for resurfacing plastic grass on Civic Field.
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Fri, May 17, 2013, 4:44 pm // John ServaisTuesday morning and nothing in today's Bellingham Herald. Nor online. We provide the basics to fill in this latest omission by our "daily" newspaper.
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Mon, Apr 22, 2013, 5:52 am // Riley SweeneyRiley attends Tea Party training and runs afoul of Rep. Overstreet
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Fri, Feb 22, 2013, 2:47 pm // John ServaisThe election created a new park district with taxing power - but with NO control over Chuckanut Ridge - the 100 acre woods.
1 comments; last on Feb 23, 2013
Wed, Feb 13, 2013, 3:42 pm // John ServaisThe Park District vote is close and we will not know final results until late ballots are counted.
6 comments; last on Feb 19, 2013
Sat, Feb 09, 2013, 12:14 am // John ServaisThe proponents have avoided the issues on the Park District as the close of voting nears this weekend.
2 comments; last on Feb 12, 2013
Wed, Feb 06, 2013, 10:42 pm // John ServaisWhen is a vote No the most positive and common sense action? Check the park district opponents website to learn why.
15 comments; last on Feb 10, 2013
Tue, Feb 05, 2013, 12:59 pm // John ServaisThis Park District proposal has several ironic twists and facets - some involving the advocates.
10 comments; last on Feb 07, 2013
Sun, Feb 03, 2013, 3:05 pm // Guest writerNicholas Zaferatos explains why he is concerned about the park district and looks at the long and short term views if the issue.
11 comments; last on Feb 06, 2013
Sat, Feb 02, 2013, 11:18 am // John ServaisThe Chuckanut Park District ballot issue has another 10 days to run. A few notes about NWCitizen and this issue.
11 comments; last on Feb 05, 2013
Fri, Feb 01, 2013, 3:16 pm // Guest writerDr. Gibb explains some history to the issue in a brief article.
8 comments; last on Feb 03, 2013
Thu, Jan 31, 2013, 12:36 pm // Guest writerPaul Leuthold and Byron Elmendorf explain why to vote NO on the Chuckanut Park District ballot measure.
19 comments; last on Feb 12, 2013
Thu, Jan 31, 2013, 12:26 am // Guest writerGuest post by long time south side resident Marci (Hanson) Haskell on why to vote no on the Park District
5 comments; last on Feb 01, 2013
Wed, Jan 30, 2013, 9:40 am // John ServaisThe Park District is a panic action that over taxes a small group. A city wide solution is by far the better way to proceed.
13 comments; last on Jan 31, 2013
Thu, Jan 24, 2013, 4:09 pm // John ServaisUpdated Sat, Jan 26. A primer on the special Parks District election - and where to find more info.
15 comments; last on Jan 31, 2013
Thu, Jan 24, 2013, 9:49 am // Guest writerBy Bill Geyer. South Bellingham citizens vote over the next couple weeks on a self tax to form a park district and pay the Chuckanut Ridge debt.
30 comments; last on Jan 31, 2013
Tue, Jan 15, 2013, 4:53 pm // Riley SweeneyRiley looks into Ericksen's legislative efforts this session
1 comments; last on Jan 22, 2013
Sun, Nov 04, 2012, 9:21 am // Paul deArmondThe Whatcom county Voters’ Pamphlet containing misleading and untrue statements by unregistered, unaccountable and anonymous front groups.
3 comments; last on Nov 06, 2012
Wed, Oct 31, 2012, 7:29 am // Riley SweeneyHere's your shot at fame and glory as a political pundit
4 comments; last on Nov 02, 2012
Thu, Oct 18, 2012, 3:15 pm // Riley SweeneyRiley talks about the Seattle Times, Newsweek and the future of Print Media
Tue, Oct 02, 2012, 8:35 am // Riley SweeneyRiley pores through Rep. Jason Overstreet's legislative record
7 comments; last on Dec 02, 2012
Tue, Oct 02, 2012, 8:22 am // Riley SweeneyRiley examines Rep. Vincent Buys' legislative record
1 comments; last on Dec 02, 2012
Fri, Sep 28, 2012, 8:45 am // Guest writerJack Petree, guest writer, points out serious flaws in Bellingham Prop 1, the Home Fund, that is intended to help the poor get housing.
18 comments; last on Dec 02, 2012
Fri, Jul 20, 2012, 4:44 pm // Riley SweeneyRiley gathers quotes, video footage and pictures from the recent tea party forum
1 comments; last on Jul 20, 2012
Wed, Jul 04, 2012, 10:42 am // Riley SweeneyRiley interviews judicial candidates, reviews campaign tactics, and discusses fireworks
Sun, Jun 17, 2012, 8:52 am // Paul deArmondPort Commissioner Scott Walker and attorney Frank Chmelik get caught ballot-rigging again
20 comments; last on Jun 21, 2012
Fri, May 18, 2012, 10:27 am // Riley SweeneyA short plea for public involvement from Riley
Wed, May 09, 2012, 5:11 am // John ServaisToday's Cascadia Weekly rips the Port staff on changed waterfront plans and sees 5 commissioners as possible solution to poor decision making.
2 comments; last on May 10, 2012
Mon, Apr 30, 2012, 9:54 pm // John ServaisSeveral people will be urging the Port of Bellingham commissioners to place the question of expanding to 5 commissioners on the ballot.
Sat, Apr 28, 2012, 9:09 am // John ServaisA 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
Tue, Apr 24, 2012, 11:07 am // Riley SweeneyRiley attended the Whatcom GOP Convention and reports back
1 comments; last on Apr 29, 2012
Wed, Apr 04, 2012, 2:16 pm // John ServaisState 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
Sun, Feb 19, 2012, 5:37 pm // Riley SweeneyRiley at The Political Junkie attends a forum of Congressional Candidates, and a town hall meeting in Lynden
Tue, Jan 31, 2012, 8:36 am // Paul deArmondPort Commissioner Scott Walker and attorney Frank Chmelik get caught ballot-rigging again
Thu, Jan 19, 2012, 5:29 pm // Riley SweeneyRiley discusses the Jail, Jack Louws, and an impartial council with our new Council Chair
1 comments; last on Jan 20, 2012
Wed, Jan 11, 2012, 9:04 am // Riley SweeneyLatest from the Political Junkie on a variety of subjects
7 comments; last on Jan 16, 2012
Tue, Dec 13, 2011, 10:58 am // Riley SweeneyRiley has a conversation with Rick Perry
2 comments; last on Dec 16, 2011
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Thu, Nov 17, 2011, 6:20 pm // Riley SweeneyRiley looks at Lynden and coins some new phrases.
Wed, Nov 16, 2011, 1:31 pm // Riley SweeneyRiley takes a look at Louws/Ericksen in the search for moderate Republicans
1 comments; last on Nov 17, 2011
Tue, Nov 15, 2011, 6:21 pm // John ServaisResults are posted as of 5:21 pm. Use links at top of right side column.
2 comments; last on Nov 15, 2011
Mon, Nov 14, 2011, 5:52 pm // John ServaisKelli Linville takes safe lead for mayor of Bellingham. Sam Crawford is leading for county council.
1 comments; last on Nov 14, 2011
Sun, Nov 13, 2011, 3:45 pm // Guest writerGuest writer, Stephen K. Schuck, a citizen elections observer, explains the processes and problems with vote counting
4 comments; last on Nov 14, 2011
Sat, Nov 12, 2011, 9:51 pm // John ServaisChristina Maginnis now leads Sam Crawford - but this and the Bellingham mayor's race are still undecided.
4 comments; last on Nov 13, 2011
Fri, Nov 11, 2011, 6:03 pm // John ServaisIs the idea of right shift a fantasy? When will we see one? Also, why do we suffer such dysfunctional election processes?
4 comments; last on Nov 14, 2011
Fri, Nov 11, 2011, 9:44 am // Riley SweeneyMitt Romney is darn lucky
Thu, Nov 10, 2011, 8:34 pm // Paul deArmondA disorderly collection of random thoughts after the election
2 comments; last on Nov 11, 2011
Thu, Nov 10, 2011, 12:09 pm // Riley SweeneyRiley examines WHEN people turn in their ballot, as opposed to who they voted for
3 comments; last on Nov 11, 2011
Wed, Nov 09, 2011, 7:16 pm // John ServaisChristina Maginnis has gained on Sam Crawford for county council. With no late right shift, three races could go either way.
2 comments; last on Nov 10, 2011
Wed, Nov 09, 2011, 9:31 am // John ServaisWill close races shift to the other candidate? Just how many ballots are left to count? When will we know for sure?
1 comments; last on Nov 09, 2011
Mon, Nov 07, 2011, 12:56 am // John ServaisRiley's web blog, Sam Taylor live video on the Internet, and Servais giving his opinions on KGMI
4 comments; last on Nov 09, 2011
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