Unanimous Yes vote for 5 county council districts

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Wed, Apr 20, 2016, 8:01 pm  //  John Servais

From left, Democrats Mike Estes & Lisa McShane; Tjalling Ypma and Dr. Kingsley; Republicans Mark Nelson & Brett Bonner. The LWV video taped the meeting - and Judy with camera are just included.

Note:  Ralph is under the weather this evening so I covered this final meeting of the Districting Committee.  Ralph plans to post tomorrow evening a perspective on the process.  

In a surprise move at this evening's Whatcom County Districting Committee meeting, the committee voted 5 - 0 to approve a modified plan by Democratic Party member Mike Estes.  After a few minutes of presentation of his map, the chair of the committee, Dr. Kingsley, called for the vote.  Four hands went up - from the two Democrats and two Republicans.  Dr. Kingsley's tie breaking vote was not needed, but he joined in with his hand to make it unanimous.

Whatcom County is now a 5 districts county. The committee presented the plan to county auditor, Debbie Adelstein.  Since statehood in the 1800s, our county has been three districts.  When the home rule charter was adopted in 1978, it kept the three districts.  The efforts to change voting processes and districts has been going on for a year - and the districting committee has been deadlocked on the issue for all its meetings the past three months.  Until tonight.

Here is how the short 25 minute meeting ran.  

First, Republican Brett Bonner motioned for a vote to enable Dr. Kingsley to vote - to become the fifth vote on the committee.  Karen Franks, the county legal council to the committee strongly approved that move as being more inline with the intent of the laws on redistricting. Until tonight, Kingsley was the fifth member and chaired meetings, but was not a voting member.  

Then began the process of comparing the three maps in contention - any one of which could be modified and adopted - the Districting Master's map, and one each from the Republicans and Democrats. Those of us following the process expected a probable deadlocked vote with the issue going to the courts or the county council.  As the Republican map showed Sumas back inside District 4, the Farmlands district, there was a possibility of a compromise. 

Brett Bonner presented the final Republican map - but after a couple minutes explaining it, he withdrew it, saying he realized this evening that it had problems balancing out the population totals of the districts.  

Then Mike Estes presented a final Democratic map, with the most obvious tweak being the placement of Sumas back in the Farmlands district from the Foothills.  Mike explained why this was the best plan.  After he was through, Dr. Kingsley looked around and noted it was time for the first actual vote.  He called for the vote and it was adopted.

Immediately after the vote, Brett Bonner asked to read a statement and was granted permission.  He proceeded to read his statement - which is attached as a pdf file to this article.  He stated that he and Mark had voted for the Democrat map to prevent a long divisive legal process resulting from a deadlocked committee.  He said he and Mark had tried to work with the two Democrats to find a fair districting plan only to be met with an absolute refusal by the Ds to negotiate at all.  He encouraged citizens to challenge in court the Proposition 9 that was put to the voters last fall and to challenge what he called the "corrupt" and "illegal" processes that put it there.  He really ripped into the process - and you can read his statement in the attached PDF file.  

Others made a few closing comments, they approved the minutes of the last meeting and then the committee adjourned and dissolved.  Sine fine.

There is a video of the entire 25 minute meeting posted at the League of Women Voters website.  Judy Hopkinson, of the League, has diligently done her best to video record each committee meeting.  And do it with the minimal equipment she owns.  We owe her and the League a thanks as this is the only video record of this important county government process.  It is now part of our history. 

Attached Files:

-> Brett Bonner statement to Districting Committee of April 20, 2016

Abe Jacobson  //  Wed, Apr 20, 2016, 9:09 pm

Prior to Charter Amendment Initiative 1, there were At Large general elections.

Sometimes the Republicans won (e.g., 2009), while at other times the Democrats won (e.g., 2013).

The Republicans on the Charter Review Commission complained that their party was marginalized by At Large voting.

So the Republicans recommended District-only voting (Amendment 1), and it passed. Surely, the Republicans were going to love District-only voting, based on the amount of time and money they and their allies put into Amendment 1.

Now we have District-only (oh, sorry, Carl, “District-oriented”) voting.

So, why aren’t the Republicans happy? Why the long faces? Is this not a time for celebration? Why do they still feel marginalized?

Because their wet dream of D-O voting within the original 3 districts is not going to happen.

Rather, we will have D-O voting within 5 new districts that the voters robustly approved. 5 districts that are not amputated pieces of Bellingham, but rather, true communities of interest treating all County residents fairly and equally.

If the Republicans don’t like the process that they began but then could not control, then may I make a modest proposal: Make the general election At Large. Then each voter votes for all 7 council members, and no voter can feel “packed”.

Abe Jacobson


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