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Election Results - November 2013

The preliminary results from the Auditor are now posted.

Whatcom County Auditor - Election Page

Wow. The big news is Whatcom County Council is going liberal - and against the coal port. All four liberal candidates are winning by 54% and higher - solid margins that should hold up as more ballots are counted during the next few days. Two conservative incumbents have been voted out of office - Bill Knutzen and Kathy Kershner. Rud Browne and Barry Buchanan have replaced them. Liberal incumbents Carl Weimer and Ken Mann have beaten their-uber conservative challengers - Michelle Luke and Ben Elenbaas.

This puts liberals in control of our County Council. Ken Mann has often shown an eclectic tendancy, but hopefully he will be encouraged by this election to ally with Carl, Rud and Barry. This election effectively takes power away from Sam Crawford who has been the intellectual leader of the conservatives for years. Pete Kremen and Barbara Brenner have also lost much of their ability to be swing votes or play to the audience. Carl Weimer will, in this writer's judgement, now take the leadership role for the council majority. He is the best person for the job.

This reminds me of the county election in 1991 - when liberals swept the election. Hopefully, this year's winners will take a look back at that council and learn a lesson. That liberal council had a god complex and ignored the concerns of rural landowners with onerous and excessive environmental and planning rules. In the 1993 election, the conservatives took back control of the council and have effectively held it until tonight. This council can make progressive decisions and protect our environment while also being sensitive to how these laws impact rural land owners.

There is every reason to now believe this council will vote to reject the coal port. This is the main message of this election given the huge amounts of money the coal interests poured into this campaign. We voters said NO to the coal port. Forget all the quasi-judicial crap - this is raw politics. We in Whatcom County do not want the coal port and we can expect our new council to reject this crazy and environmentally disastrous project. Lynden can thank this council because the coal trains were going to stream by, 24/7, next to the Badger Road if this coal port went in. The rail lines from the south cannot handle the extra trains.

I had to check with Tip Johnson for some technical facts about the absurd slaughterhouse code this council passed recently. The new council, in January, can start an amendment process to dramatically trim this ordinance down to something reasonable. Tip started a petition last week - it was printed in the Cascadia Weekly - to completely eliminate this ordinance. I have heard that the measure may be challenged to the Growth Management Hearings Board - which may be the most efficient way to remove this law. This present council, with Sam Crawford's guidance, treated the progressive and liberal members of our county community pretty much as the 1992 liberal council treated the conservatives. And I suspect this slaughter house law contributed to the defeat of all four conservatives. Along with the coal port.

Huge change in our local government. This change in the County Council dwarfs any possible changes in the Bellingham Council or the port commission. The County Council is the game changer for our local politics for the next four years. Yes, four. These four council members can dominate the council through the 3 person election in two years. And there is every chance that one or two of those incumbents will be voted out of office for a progressive in 2015 because local liberals and Ds can now focus on getting three good candidates prepared.

Well, that is it for tonight. Thanks for reading. I hope my candid and non partisan posts on NWCitizen provide you with information and perspective of value to you.

About John Servais

Writer • Fairhaven, Washington USA • Member since Feb 26, 2008

John started Northwest Citizen in 1995 to inform fellow citizens of serious local political issues that the Bellingham Herald was ignoring. With the help of donors from the beginning, he has [...]

Comments by Readers

Doug Karlberg

Nov 05, 2013

For an old liberal, this election should have been easy on your heart. Get well John. Your advice to incoming Council is spoken like a true statesman, a role that fits you well, and should serve our community better than more divisiveness.

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Tip Johnson

Nov 05, 2013

Coal has been controversial, but not on the Council’s agenda.  The most controversial agenda item this year was widespread slaughter - the Council’s ideological press to open 88,000 acres to slaughter as a permitted use.  They did it by dint of sheer, unmitigated political arrogance and policy ignorance.  They ran their propertarian article of faith roughshod over the rural population of Whatcom County (half), and it cost them the election.

I mean, coal too, but…

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Wendy Harris

Nov 06, 2013

Assuming that it is some “liberal” thing to ignore rural business concerns regarding onerous environmental rules, you should find reassurance in the fact that we have elected a politically moderate slate for the council, with Carl being the most progressive.  (I am not sure how onerous the environmental rules could have been in 1991, before the CAO and the SMP were even in place.)

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Riley Sweeney

Nov 06, 2013

Fantastic news last night and sends a really clear message to the Tea Party Republicans on the County level. You make some great points, John and I whole-heartedly agree.

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John Servais

Nov 06, 2013

Wendy,  the point is this new council hopefully will respect the large numbers of residents who disagree with the council.  It is not a “liberal” thing to ignore rural residents.  It is a tendency of victors to feel they have a mandate and can steam roller over opposition without listening to their concerns. We have seen that in our US Congress with the House being arrogant fools and not respecting the normal unwritten rules. 

Our county conservatives have legitimate concerns about how many environmental laws and codes are worded and how they are enforced.  I’m liberal and a tree hugger - but have seen enough examples of enviro true believers being brutal and insensitive to legitimate conservative concerns.  If this council does that, then I think we could again see a majority county reaction against progressive and environmental changes.

As one who tries to discuss issues with conservatives, I have a respect for their points of view.  Most of my liberal friends do not.  This, to me, is the fatal flaw of liberals.  Being liberal should, by definition, mean one is open minded to all sincere ideas, beliefs, values and interests.  My point is this new council hopefully will act with caution and not simply see the next four years as a chance to put in place their agenda with the attitude that the conservative and rural folks just have to accept it. 

How do they do that?  With open processes, not rushed, with genuine hearings and meetings that allow genuine dialog and consideration of legitimate options.  Not, for example, the imposition of blanket setbacks from creeks with strict enforcement.  There are many examples.  Rural folks should not feel their life style is threatened and their stewardship of their own land is suspect.

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David MacLeod

Nov 06, 2013

John,
Good analysis. I am often more progressive in my personal views than most, especially when it comes to environmental and resource concerns. However, as I said on my own blog, it is important to remember that elected officials are expected to represent all of their constituents, not just the ones who voted for them. If they do not, we could see a swing back in the other direction in the next election cycle.

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Wendy Harris

Nov 07, 2013

The facts speak for themselves.  The 2013 State of the Sound Report came out last week and reveals a badly degraded Puget Sound, where mitigation is not sufficient to keep up with the impacts of past and new development. Here in Whatcom County, the results are similar.  Almost every watershed is degraded and AG activities are the primary source of water quality degradation. Rather than suggesting environmental extremism, it suggests environment regulations are too lax, and not sufficiently enforced. Add to this the findings of the Growth Management Hearings Board finding that the county has failed to protect water quality and quantity in rural areas.

So excuse me if I get a little pissy when I hear these kinds of BS arguments being raised. Protecting the environmental against a net loss in ecological function is a prerequisite of any development or land use activities. And actually enforcing these standards is not an act of an arrogant government. Buffers are based on science based studies, and as enacted in local code, are almost always the minimum, or below the recommended minimum, of width needed.

The last thing we need to be doing is fueling conservative backlash and encouraging attacks on existing environmental standards. The truth is that we have been borrowing on the future for a long, long time and not paying the real cost of the damage we are inflicting and it has taken us to the point of a global environmental crisis.

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John Servais

Nov 07, 2013

Wendy, you just might go ballistic when I start writing about the so called man made global warming crisis.  So, you and I will disagree and that may be just fine.  Your research and commitment to the environment are very valued by myself and many in our county.  I am very pleased that you choose to present your writings on NwCitizen. 

The political aspect of how change is implemented in society is the challenge.  That is what I am writing about.  All of us have deeply held values and that is the basis of disagreement and conflict.  We all need to not make our values like a religion and cast non believes as heretics to be ignored.

This is the key problem with the AGW (manmade global warming) believers.  It has become religion and if a person does not pledge a belief in all tenants then they are branded a heretic and marginalized.  In my experience, 99% of AGW believers are closed minded to rational discussion and scientific results.  It is the modern religion for liberals.

Stream setbacks are ultimately based on a value of what our Sound should receive - and that value is set by humans.  It is arbitrary, albeit with a lot of intelligent considerations.  But if we truly put our water and the Salish Sea as needing top priority then you, myself and all 200,000 plus outsiders in Whatcom County should leave tomorrow and allow the Lummi and Nooksack to properly care for the area as they did for thousands of years. 

That is an extreme extension of your thinking.  So the question is where is the ground where we can live together and do our best to not wreck our environment. The solution is far more complex than just tough enviro laws and cold hearted enforcement - as you seem to suggest.  I do not expect to convince you but am stating where I am on this issue. 

The new council has a chance to bring our Whatcom County community back to together while reversing the tragic environmental neglect and destruction of this present council over the past few years.  I hope they do.

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John Lesow

Nov 08, 2013

John, it is pretty clear that the “old” County Council, and by extension their Amen Chorus on the County Planning Commission, had no problem ignoring large numbers of residents that disagreed with Council’s land use actions over the past 4 years.

Add to that the Growth Management Hearings Board and the Washington Appellate and Supreme Courts, who have consistently affirmed the majority of land use actions brought by County citizens that had to resort to legal challenges when it became apparent that the present Council was willing to bend the rules.

Following the 2009 elections, that kind of arrogance ushered us into yet another Era of Noncompliance, which has cost taxpayers dearly and produced few tangible benefits for the majority of citizens in Whatcom County.

We could have avoided huge and wasteful expenditures of time and taxpayer money if the Crawford Council had accepted the previous Council’s GMA-compliant recommendations and gone forward.  But no.  Council had to push their exurban agenda for our rural areas and dilute responsible legislation for the Lake Whatcom Watershed.  Not to mention the wrongheaded Slaughterhouse Rules that were well covered by you, Tip Johnson and others in this blog and elsewhere.

Between 2004 and 2009, County Planning Commission meetings consistently drew large audiences representing a wide spectrum of opinion.  However, public participation has declined sharply over the past few years due to a valid perception that the majority of Council and Commission have little regard, and in some cases outright contempt, for the opinions of environmentally responsible spokespersons like Wendy Harris, Jean Melious, David Stalheim and a host of others.

If the Critical Areas Ordinance and Shoreline Management Plan (both passed by the “old” Planning Commission and County Council) have onerous and/or unworkable provisions that are hurting County residents, I am sure their concerns will be addressed responsibly by the new County Council in an invective-free atmosphere.  A refreshing change.

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John Servais

Nov 08, 2013

John,  as you are a past member of the planning commission, when people were listened to, I appreciate very much your perspective.  And your optimistic view of the next few years.

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Alex McLean

Nov 08, 2013

California Governor Jerry Brown was interviewed recently and had a nice quote that I think resonates with the above dialogues—my edit is fairly obvious in the parentheses.

“Society is not a contraption that you can just kind of jigger around like you might an Erector Set. It’s an organism that has a very powerful DNA that permits change but only very slowly. So you have to understand the basic structure of (Whatcom County), of the communities, and then work with that to bring out the best and compensate for those that are less attractive aspects.”

All-in-all, except for virtually zero change on the Port, this year’s victories are really encouraging: I’m taking the cyanide capsules out of my mouth, for now, and raising a glass to a successful thwart of the idiot apocalypse that was bearing down upon us.

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