Charter Review and District Only Voting

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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

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Rep. Vincent Buys Appears to Break State Fundraising Laws

Tue, Mar 11, 2014, 10:24 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley catches State Rep. Vincent Buys for soliciting funds during session

0 comments

Johns Repair

Specializing in German vehicles...

Gary Jensen Not Running for State Senate

Mon, Dec 16, 2013, 12:30 pm  //  John Servais

Ferndale 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

Election Analysis: What Happened with the Port Races?

Tue, Nov 12, 2013, 10:21 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley crunches the numbers on Renata and McAuley's races to find answers

2 comments; last on Nov 13, 2013

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

Ken Bell and Renata for Port

Sun, Oct 20, 2013, 7:07 pm  //  John Servais

Ken Bell has my vote over Mike McAuley for port commissioner. And Renata Kowalczyk has it over Dan Robbins.

8 comments; last on Oct 30, 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

Greenways Levy Money Used for AstroTurf

Sun, Jun 30, 2013, 10:28 am  //  John Servais

Bellingham City Council ready to approve $500,000 of trails money for resurfacing plastic grass on Civic Field.

15 comments; last on Jul 02, 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

City Controls Chuckanut Park - Not New Park District

Fri, Feb 22, 2013, 2:47 pm  //  John Servais

The 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

Thoughts on the Park District Vote

Wed, Feb 13, 2013, 3:42 pm  //  John Servais

The Park District vote is close and we will not know final results until late ballots are counted.

6 comments; last on Feb 19, 2013

Time to Vote on Park District

Sat, Feb 09, 2013, 12:14 am  //  John Servais

The proponents have avoided the issues on the Park District as the close of voting nears this weekend.

2 comments; last on Feb 12, 2013

Check the Protect Bellingham Parks Website

Wed, Feb 06, 2013, 10:42 pm  //  John Servais

When 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

Ironies With the Park District

Tue, Feb 05, 2013, 12:59 pm  //  John Servais

This Park District proposal has several ironic twists and facets - some involving the advocates.

10 comments; last on Feb 07, 2013

The Big Picture on Chuckanut Ridge

Sun, Feb 03, 2013, 3:05 pm  //  Guest writer

Nicholas 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

A note from the publisher

Sat, Feb 02, 2013, 11:18 am  //  John Servais

The 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

Chuckanut Mountains and the Park District

Fri, Feb 01, 2013, 3:16 pm  //  Guest writer

Dr. Gibb explains some history to the issue in a brief article.

8 comments; last on Feb 03, 2013

Former Park Directors Against Park District Proposal

Thu, Jan 31, 2013, 12:36 pm  //  Guest writer

Paul Leuthold and Byron Elmendorf explain why to vote NO on the Chuckanut Park District ballot measure.

19 comments; last on Feb 12, 2013

It Is Not a Vote to Save The Forest

Thu, Jan 31, 2013, 12:26 am  //  Guest writer

Guest 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

Why I am voting NO on the Park Disttict

Wed, Jan 30, 2013, 9:40 am  //  John Servais

The 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

Feb 12 election:  Bham Southside Only

Thu, Jan 24, 2013, 4:09 pm  //  John Servais

Updated Sat, Jan 26. A primer on the special Parks District election - and where to find more info.

15 comments; last on Jan 31, 2013

Prop 1: New Parks District is Wrong Approach

Thu, Jan 24, 2013, 9:49 am  //  Guest writer

By 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

Doug Ericksen’s Opening Moves

Tue, Jan 15, 2013, 4:53 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley looks into Ericksen's legislative efforts this session

1 comments; last on Jan 22, 2013

Stealth Politics Returns

Sun, Nov 04, 2012, 9:21 am  //  Paul deArmond

The Whatcom county Voters’ Pamphlet containing misleading and untrue statements by unregistered, unaccountable and anonymous front groups.

3 comments; last on Nov 06, 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

Print Media: Death Knell or Phoenix Moment?

Thu, Oct 18, 2012, 3:15 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley talks about the Seattle Times, Newsweek and the future of Print Media

0 comments

Rep. Jason Overstreet’s Record

Tue, Oct 02, 2012, 8:35 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley pores through Rep. Jason Overstreet's legislative record

7 comments; last on Dec 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

Is Bellingham Home Fund Deeply Flawed

Fri, Sep 28, 2012, 8:45 am  //  Guest writer

Jack 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

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

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

Cascadia Weekly Rips Port - Urges 5

Wed, May 09, 2012, 5:11 am  //  John Servais

Today'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

Speakers to address Port on Tuesday

Mon, Apr 30, 2012, 9:54 pm  //  John Servais

Several people will be urging the Port of Bellingham commissioners to place the question of expanding to 5 commissioners on the ballot.

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

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

Congressional Candidates and Overstreet’s Town Hall

Sun, Feb 19, 2012, 5:37 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley at The Political Junkie attends a forum of Congressional Candidates, and a town hall meeting in Lynden

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

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

Jack Petree, Olympia, the Whatcom Council and Obama’s Inner Circle

Wed, Jan 11, 2012, 9:04 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Latest from the Political Junkie on a variety of subjects

7 comments; last on Jan 16, 2012

Rick Perry, Can We Talk?

Tue, Dec 13, 2011, 10:58 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley has a conversation with Rick Perry

2 comments; last on Dec 16, 2011

Election Analysis: What does it take to win a county seat?

Fri, Nov 18, 2011, 1:28 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley examines Maginnis/Crawford and Kremen/Larson

0 comments

Election Analysis: Dropoff, Lynden Suburbs and the “Buys Bounce”

Thu, Nov 17, 2011, 6:20 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley looks at Lynden and coins some new phrases.

0 comments

Political Junkie Election Analysis: Louws/Ericksen

Wed, Nov 16, 2011, 1:31 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley takes a look at Louws/Ericksen in the search for moderate Republicans

1 comments; last on Nov 17, 2011

Kelli Linville is elected Mayor of Bellingham

Tue, Nov 15, 2011, 6:21 pm  //  John Servais

Results are posted as of 5:21 pm. Use links at top of right side column.

2 comments; last on Nov 15, 2011

Still over 6,000 ballots to count

Mon, Nov 14, 2011, 5:52 pm  //  John Servais

Kelli Linville takes safe lead for mayor of Bellingham. Sam Crawford is leading for county council.

1 comments; last on Nov 14, 2011

Snail Pace Counting: Cost, Speed, or Accuracy. Pick two.

Sun, Nov 13, 2011, 3:45 pm  //  Guest writer

Guest writer, Stephen K. Schuck, a citizen elections observer, explains the processes and problems with vote counting

4 comments; last on Nov 14, 2011

Election count update for today

Sat, Nov 12, 2011, 9:51 pm  //  John Servais

Christina Maginnis now leads Sam Crawford - but this and the Bellingham mayor's race are still undecided.

4 comments; last on Nov 13, 2011

Right shift debate and snail pace counting

Fri, Nov 11, 2011, 6:03 pm  //  John Servais

Is 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

From the Political Junkie: Is Mitt Romney actually Arrested Development’s Michael Bluth?

Fri, Nov 11, 2011, 9:44 am  //  Riley Sweeney

Mitt Romney is darn lucky

0 comments

Post Election Musings

Thu, Nov 10, 2011, 8:34 pm  //  Paul deArmond

A disorderly collection of random thoughts after the election

2 comments; last on Nov 11, 2011

From the Political Junkie: Voting Trends

Thu, Nov 10, 2011, 12:09 pm  //  Riley Sweeney

Riley examines WHEN people turn in their ballot, as opposed to who they voted for

3 comments; last on Nov 11, 2011

No right shift in election results

Wed, Nov 09, 2011, 7:16 pm  //  John Servais

Christina 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

Morning after thoughts on the election

Wed, Nov 09, 2011, 9:31 am  //  John Servais

Will 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

Three options for election night analysis

Mon, Nov 07, 2011, 12:56 am  //  John Servais

Riley'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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