Charter Commission Tricks


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Whatcom County Charter Review Commission Meeting this evening, 6 p.m., Monday, July 6, 322 N. Commercial - the County Annex building, kitty corner from city hall

The conservative majority has shown their contempt for democracy and fair process with their tricky and clever moves.

In two hours, the commission will hold their last meeting. It may well be a very short one as the conservative majority has shown their comfort with dirty tricks. On Thursday, July 2, Ben Elenbaas, the chair of the commission, suddenly scheduled a “special” meeting for this evening, Monday, July 6. Since Friday, July 3, was a legal holiday, he actually did it with the shortest possible legal notice.

By doing this, Elenbaas tricked two liberal commission members into taking vacations this weekend, through today. Thus, they are out of town for this surprise meeting.

What has not been reported is that there will be no public comment time at this evening's meeting. Check out the agenda here.

The real losers in this are the more reasonable conservative swing votes. By eliminating at least two of the liberal votes from tonight’s meeting, the swing votes are powerless. Thus, the more conservative minority can push through the final ballot measures for submission to the County Council.

There is still a July 13 meeting scheduled but it will be cancelled tonight. This will be the final meeting. Look over that agenda for clues to their plan. The July 13 meeting would have had a full debate and the full commission voting on the final measures to present for the County Council meeting on July 21. That is what Ben Elenbaas had tricked the liberals into believing. You can bet he made sure his conservatives knew not to plan vacations over the long 4th of July weekend.

Tomorrow’s County Council meeting will be a circus. Many will be there to protest this violation of fair process. The County Council should take a very critical approach to the forwarded ballot measures.

So - a surprise, short, one-legal-day notice and no public comment. Two tricks aimed at minimizing open public process. These commissioners say they are putting forth measures that will increase fairness in our democracy. We should question both their motives and integrity.

About John Servais

Citizen Journalist and Editor • 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

Walter Haugen

Jul 06, 2015

The surprise here is that this caught people flat-footed. The so-called “progressives” still don’t give the rightwing whackos enough credibility for their ground game. However, the “progressives” and “liberals” will likely win anyway. Of course neither side learns anything from this tempest in a teapot.


Daniel Warner

Jul 07, 2015

I don’t quite get why the conservatives dislike the present three-district system.  It is true that in the most recent elections conservatives came up short on the County Council, but before that they had a majority.  The Council seems to swing back and forth fairly regularly, which suggests the system is working okay.


Walter Haugen

Jul 07, 2015

It is a mobilizing tactic. Keeping a conservative majority on one commission, which is supposedly a “people’s commission,” gets the troops fired up. The charter is also a local “constitution-like” document, so the resonance is powerful. The billionaires need shock troops and the Tea Party wingnuts are happy to oblige.

Chiara Rose’s time on the anchor chain served the same purpose for the left-leaning progressives. However, the rightwing whackos are in it for the long haul. The progressives drift away after the charisma of the moment fades. The days of giving up your middle-class privilege to go work in a factory in order to unionize the workers is long past.

“In every American community you have varying shades of political opinion.
The shadiest of these is the liberal.
Ten degrees to the left of center in good times,
Ten degrees to the right of center if it affects them personally.”
- Phil Ochs, intro to Love Me, I’m a Liberal

When people are willing to put their money and their labor where their mouths are, we will get some progress. [Some of you are already doing this, of course, but you are in the tiny minority. And I don’t count those working in gubbmint or NGO’s.]

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