Updated: Last Monday, at the Bellingham City Council’s Special Meeting I was approached by Councilmember Rud Browne to look at and correct what I had reported on the timeline of events for Whatcom County Council’s Proposition 9, which is one of the many items to be voted on in the November General Election. Councilmember Browne stated that they had not passed the ordinance by consent agenda. Going back through the Whatcom County Council’s Action Taken Report for June 23rd, 2015, I did mistakenly report that the item was brought forward by consent agenda when in-fact it was introduced to be placed on the July 7th, 2015 Council agenda for public comment, Council discussion, and potential approval or rejection by the Council. I want the record to show the facts, and apologize for this error.
In my opinion the action taken by the Council regarding the passage of Proposition 9 and 10, still showed a lack of concern to fully vet them in public. Had they taken their time they may have come up with more than just an idea, and most certainly it would have been vetted for conflicts in the Charter, our Port and School Districts, et al.
During my search to confirm Councilmember Browne’s request for correction I found the online version of the June 23rd, 2015, Whatcom County Council Agenda, which does not include the introduction of items AB2015-206 thru 208; of which AB2015-206 is the controversial Proposition 9. Also, found in my search was a link to the League of Women Voters minutes on the Council’s June 23rd, 2015, meeting. which I have posted here for you to read their version of the evening’s events.LWV 6/23/15 Minutes
Today, in the Skagit County Superior Court I witnessed a ruling that was bizarre. The judge did a great job of excusing the shoddy work done by the Whatcom County Council, but he refused to call it invalid because he could not allow himself, as the judiciary, to interfere in the will of the people.
Fact No. 1 – RE Sources and others working with their organization went on a signature gathering hunt to see if they could acquire enough signatures to place an initiative on the 2015 General Election ballot asking to change Whatcom County from three districts, to five districts. RE Sources was only able to gather approximately 2,000 signatures, which was about 80% short of the necessary signatures to have an initiative placed on the ballot.
Fact No. 2 – Charter Review Commissioner, Todd Donovan (political science professor at WWU) brought forth this same proposal to the Charter Review Commission for consideration as an Amendment to the WC Charter, to be voted on at the 2015 general electorate. The Charter Review Commissioner’s had in the end decided that this issue created more unanswered questions and issues, than could be addressed by the Commissioner’s. The Charter Review Commission voted 11 – No vs. 4 – Yes, (a super-majority vote) to not put this Amendment proposal on the 2015 ballot.
Fact No. 3 – RE Sources and others working with their organization took their proposal to the Whatcom County Council and requested that they pass it as an Ordinance (which they do have the legislative authority to do) and then place it on the 2015 General Election ballot.
Fact No. 4 – The WC Council brought Ordinance 2015-029 forward as a consent agenda item for consideration at their regular meeting, to be held on June 23rd, 2015, at 3:30 pm, prior to the opening of their 7:00 pm regular meeting. Consent agenda items are issues that do not require discussion at the time, because they are considered items to be of inconsequential importance. “Changing Whatcom County from three districts to five districts, is to be considered inconsequential?” The Council passed the consent agenda (a compiled number of items to be brought up at the next regular session) unanimously.
Fact No. 5 – Somewhere between June 23rd, 2015 and June 30th, 2015, Councilmember Rudd Browne, drafted a new Exhibit A, which is named as an attachment to the Ordinance 2015-029. This change was not publicly explained prior to the Council’s public hearing on this ordinance, July 7th, 2015. The only reference made to the public at the hearing was that the Council would be voting on the blue-version of the ordinance. There was no discussion that the original ordinance had been altered after-the-fact of Council’s approval to bring it forward on June 23rd, 2015.
Fact No. 6 – WC Council Prosecuting Attorney Karen Frakes, stated that the altered version had been posted to the Whatcom County website, for anyone to read and note that it had been changed (?).
Fact No. 7 – The Whatcom County Auditor stamped and certified the original Ordinance 2015-029 and Exhibit A, on Aug. 4th, 2015, within the 90 day window to have the ordinance placed on the 2015 ballot. Then the Auditor’s office was made aware of the changed Exhibit A, and hence stamped for certification the altered version on Aug. 20th, 2015, well after the 90 day window to have the ordinance placed upon the 2015 ballot.
Fact No. 8 – The Whatcom County Council went to extra-ordinary lengths to place such an inconsequential item onto this 2015 General Election ballot, and in so doing made many procedural errors, which the Judge at the Skagit County Superior Court today, dismissed as not harmful to the voters of Whatcom County.
Fact No. 9 – The language and intent of this initiative was put together by RE Sources, a 501(c)3, nonprofit organization, whose former chairman is now the Chair of the Whatcom County Council, and who regularly attends their meetings, functions, and events. Were this not RE Sources and friends, would it have received this extra-ordinary treatment?
The facts have been laid out for you and the decision will be yours alone to make this November 2015.
Will you the voters reward the actions of the Whatcom County Council and RE Sources for a Sustainable Community?
Will you the voters allow the Whatcom County Council to gerrymander the voting districts and insure that Bellingham will control how Whatcom County can grow and change?
Or, will you the Voters show up in enough numbers to Vote “Yes” on the Charter Review Commission’s Propositions 1, 2, and 3; to insure that you regain your voices in how Whatcom County is governed, and Vote “No” on Whatcom County Council’s Propositions 9 and 10, where the Whatcom County Council and RE Sources have designed their own fiefdom’s and plan to keep it as theirs forever.
~ Kris Halterman