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Hannah Stone selected for Bellingham city council

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• In Bellingham,

Hannah Stone, a resident of the Columbia neighborhood, married mother of two, and a 10 year practicing immigration attorney, was selected unanimously on Monday evening to a city council seat. It is an interim seat, to serve out the term vacated by Roxanne Murphy who has moved to Alaska to take a job. It is the second year of the two term At Large council position, and it runs only until the November 2019 election is certified. However, Hannah plans to run for the council seat in next year’s election, so she is likely to remain on the council.

In her written application, she wrote: “The high quality of life that Bellingham purports to offer is not currently accessible to all residents of our fine city. There is important work to be done and I am ready to roll up my sleeves, reach out to constituents, and engage with the community at-large.”

In her brief speech to the council, along with the other 23 applicants, Hannah said what is bringing her to the table - to apply for the council seat - is being renters in Bellingham for 10 years, being first time home buyers now, and her concern for small businesses, education, and affordable housing.

You can view her speech to the council at the time from 1:08:30 to 1:11:40.

She was chosen after a unique and confused process by the council of coming and going between executive session and brief appearances in the council chamber. After naming their preferred choices of 4 to 5 people, they later each nominated one person and then wrote those names on slips of paper and had the clerk draw one name at random from a bowl - and all six then voted for the first name - Hannah Stone. That concluded the process. View at the same video link time from 2:14:30 to 2:17:15.

She will probably be sworn in today in front of a local judge, and take her seat on the council next Monday, Oct 8, at the regular council meeting.

The council chamber was packed with residents, many no doubt family and friends of the 24 applicants.

If council member Pinky Vargas wins the election as 42nd district state senator in November, then this will require a repeat process when she resigns this winter.

About John Servais

Columnist • 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

Larry Horowitz

Oct 02, 2018

3 words regarding council’s silly process:  Ranked Choice Voting

 

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Dick Conoboy

Oct 02, 2018

This process unjustly confers the power of incumbency which is gifted in this case by only 6 members of the community, the city council.  That is why you saw nearly 2 dozen people arise as if from nowhere (in some cases) to throw their candidacy in the ring.  There were some excellent candidates in the field but anyone thinking about going for the at-large seat in 2019 will have a very hard time and mirror the last election for council members where there were no opponents to sitting members at all except in one case which was an obviously lost cause from the beginning.

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Jon Humphrey

Oct 03, 2018

I’m happy to say that Hannah and I had a great conversation about public broadband/Dig Once yesterday. She is very concerned about the Digital Divde, an issue that the low-income Big Teleocm connections do not address as I’ve written about here. The Digital Divide is the issue that got me into working on public broadband in the first place. Still, while I am personally pleased, I think that especially in the modern age, council repalcements should be put to a general vote by the population. Appointments are, by nautre, not democratic. Yes, they chose well this time, but remember, we have a mail-in ballot system. We can quickly, and efficiently, take a special vote on just about anything. So why let the rest of the council choose at all when asking the citizens is so easy. Hell, we could do it with computers if we had the right IT folks overseeing it.

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Dick Conoboy

Oct 03, 2018

Jon,

Glad to hear that you had a conversation with our newest council member and that she is concerned with the digital divide.  The proof is in the voting taking place on the dais.  Let’s see what she can do.

Hannah is a virtual unkown to me.  During the last 15 or more years watching and working with the city council, I don’t remember seeing her at all, however, I have learned of her efforts on the school bond campaign, certainly a laudable effort.  What I am looking for is how she will work to protect our neighborhoods and if she can hold her own against the real estate and the development wave that is sweeping the nation and this city in the name of an equity that is not achievable with the free market. 

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John Watts

Oct 05, 2018

Twenty years ago, I was also appointed to serve the remaining year of Arne Hanna’s term. At  60 years old, I appreciated the time to serve the public, without having to mount a hasty political campaign with which I was not familiar. This bootstrap assignment made it possible for an ‘outsider’ like me to learn about local people, processes and issues, which I did to the best of my ability; then successfully ran for election & re-election, a total of 9 years. 

At that time, I heard much of the same rhetoric of too easy entry, unfairness and barely concealed jealousy. Understandable, but real. However, these concerns are already addressed in the City’s adopted procedures, and in the hands of 6 elected Council members, each sworn to act in the best interests of citizens. I see this temporary selection as being both fair and efficient in ensuring all citizens are represented without undue delay and expense. 

Appointments are a very desirable way to gain access to local government - compared to a full campaign process - and the instant ‘incumbency’ is helpful to gain public recognition and future election credibility. So what? All of the 24 applicants were aware of these possibiities, and thank goodness they applied! This is one sure way to introduce new blood into our politics, and if it awakens other concerned citizens to think of serving, that is good!

I hope the trend toward more active citizen involvement continues! Maybe next time appointments are necessary we’ll have a similar turnout of candidates. In the mean time, I welcome Hannah Stone as our new Council Member At-Large, and wish her every success as an engaged elected official. 

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Jon Humphrey

Oct 05, 2018

Thanks John, with all due respect, it’s 2018. It’s easy to do a secure online voting system instead of appointments. This rhetoric is not old, and I doubt anyone here is jealous. It’s a dumpster fire over at City Hall after all. Signing up to serve at this time is heroic. Still, appointments are simply an outdated system from a time when the majority of the population couldn’t read, get places quickly, our mail system was bad, and computers didn’t exist. If the system is broken, we should fix it, not say that people are just jealous if they don’t like it. Our government should not be so expensive or hard to serve in, in the first place. Your argument is really for campaign and voting reform. Even if it doesn’t read that way on the surface.   

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John Servais

Oct 05, 2018

I’m sorry John Watts, but no one mentioned anything about jealousy here.  Not an issue except for one you have now made up.  The thread is about the stupid process for selecting a replacement for a vacant seat.  Both the idea of the remaining six council members selecting one, instead of the next special election being used for this purpose.  And also about the ad hoc and arbitrary selection process dreamed up by the city attorney Ruffatto.  Thus the first comment by Larry Horowitz.  

With 24 candidates - or even with the 9 finalists - a process of Rank Choice Voting is the perfect way to make the final selection.  Ruffatto’s process in not in city code.  There is no “city adopted procedure”.  It was ad hoc between Dan Hammill, the council president and the city attorney Ruffatto.  And it heavily favored the first drawn candidate from the bowl - thus totally absurd. If Holly Huthman - or a couple others - had been the name first drawn, then she might have gotten 4 votes and been the the new council person.  Five of the council members put Holly’s name down as one of their top 5 or 4.  The process was screwy. Dysfunctional.  And not an established procedure.  

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Stan Snapp

Oct 05, 2018

I disagree with long time friend John Watts.  Not all that long ago the council selected a retired Mayor to come back and serve as interim Mayor for some very good reasons. It leveled the playing field for any who was willing to face the voters in a Primary and a General election. The Charter recognizes the value of having voters select their representatives whenever possible. Appointments are recognized only in cases where having a seat vacant for long periods is not good. With Tim Douglas filling in the city had the continuity that a 12 year veteran brought to the table. The voters got to select from a large group of candidates. John thinks it worked out well because the council chose to make him an incumbent and he was then easily elected when that time came around. Had he faced the voters with many others running against him the outcome could have been very different. John did a good job because he is bright and a quick study. He also faced a lot of opposition on many issues. I went to him once as an a advisory board member and said I had a concern and he told me to get in line, in a very arrogant manor. John served with an “I know best” attitude that he displayed often and it was not well received by many. Council speaks with four votes and John often struggled to get them because of the superiority complex he often displayed to council members and the public. 

It is well known that incumbents seldom face opposition when their term is up. If they were elected it is obvious that folks are happy with their service on the voters behalf. When appointments are up though, convincing six council members with an application and a 3 minute speech is surely the easy way to incumbency and that is not a good thing. But the numbers that turn up for the easy way has been more than two dozen at the county and the city both in recent times. 

Just looking at my six years recently serving with no one running against me at reelection time, I would have expected to make a list or two if qualifications were a factor over, gender for example. In my six plus years I served and chair almost every council committee, was elected president of the council by three of the current sitting members and was an elected officer of the countil 5 of my six years. Tip Johnson was the only other experienced candidate and he served a very long time ago.  He got one honorable mention. 

After a long executive session where council members were only to discuss “qualifications” when they returned with their lists, of their 29 choices, 27 were women and only two were men. On their second Executive session, they chose from a person that made most of their lists. I expect that, like myself, who has been in public life here for decades their selection is a complete unknown and would have had an uphill climb to convince voters to support her. Not any more. John Watts says that this new surge in citizen involvment is a good thing. I would agree if even a handful of these new shooting stars came forward to run when Roxanne did. Appointments bring people out because it is the easy way to break in. I much prefer that people file for office and make their case to the voters as to why they should be elected.  Very few applicants had much in the way of “experience” to bring to the job. On the plus side several have served in their local neighborhood group. Rare were advisory board or other city experience. The Charter created these “elected offices” for many reasons and stated clearly that the voters should fill elected positions. It will be interesting to see if many of these applicants are willing to file for office next time around and face the voters. 

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John Servais

Oct 05, 2018

Incumbency is huge in modern elections.  Too huge.  The sitting official has the name recognition and is a known entity.  Citizens are unlikely to file and run against an incumbent because the odds are heavily against a challenger winning.  Yes, even on our Bellingham city council. 

When John Watts was appointed in mid 1998 to replace our beloved Arne Hanna, he then ran for the office in 1999 - unopposed.  A shoo in.  No contest.  Why challenge an incumbent.  In 2003 when he ran his second time, he had one opponent and won. So in 9 years of serving, he had only one election campaign - and no primary campaigns.  The advantage of being appointed is beyond measure.  It is a free ticket to public office.  He served for his first 5 years with the voters having no choice in the matter.  Voters only get to choose from those who file. And the system is stacked against challenging an incumbent.  

Rank Choice Voting levels the field and allows challengers a fair chance to be elected.  Thus the reason we cannot get our incumbent councils and legislatures to bring on this new system.  It may take an initiative.  

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John Watts

Oct 05, 2018

Wow, didn’t expect to rouse hornets with my comment! Regarding jealousy, that was expressed to my face, more once. Didn’t make that up.

Regarding the process for appointment, the IRV idea seems ideal, but I didn’t hear of it until after the fact. Need to contact Council in timely fashion. My own appointment turned out to be illegal, since voting happened in Executive session - now corrected.

I readily admit to being an imperfect Council Member, and did have trouble attracting 4 votes, especially on the Watershed Acquisition measure, maybe others. Sorry if I came on too strong at times, but that usually self-corrects in ways to be discovered later. Fact is, I worked extra hard and long to know as much as possible on every issue. This did not please a number of people.

Petty animosities aren’t productive or fun, and in local politics aren’t soon forgotten. But, these do come with the territory and in the end mean little to most.

Bottom line: I’d do it again, and thank the unfair, outdated process that enabled me….

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John Watts

Oct 06, 2018

This discussion has challenged me to research the process of this particular appointment more closely. Basically, I find nothing wrong in the procedure followed; it was a legal and practical way to proceed, that eliminated most untoward influences, including a narrowing of the field by secret ballot, then using an unbiased lottery system to set the sequence of public voting. How can a temporary appointment be any fairer than that? Any candidate selected would need to get a minimum of 4 votes; Hannah apparently got 5 in making the short list, and a unanimous 6 in the actual voting! Can’t do better than that!

After listening again to the 3 minute speeches, I mostly agreed with the short list determined, although a bias toward women was evident - but that was OK since Roxanne was being replaced. Robert Mittendorf’s Herald article listed -after the fact- the 5 ‘finalists’ as Hannah Stone, Hollie Huthman, Lisa Anderson, Sarah Goodin, & Shavia Muchirawehendo, all of whom seemed very satisfactory. That reflects the wisdom of carefully -and anonymously- narrowing the choices, as any one of them could have won. Only the luck of the draw happened to favor Hannah, so she wins 13 months of public service, but no guarantee of a 2-year election afterwards.

Hard to imagine a conspiracy theory in that process, don’cha think? Of course improvements can be made, they always can….

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John Servais

Oct 06, 2018

John Watts, you seem to have a habit of creating a straw man to then knock down.  No one in this thread has suggested a conspiracy theory.  If such is on some FB thread somewhere, well, one can find every kind of conspiracy about everything on earth on FB.  Or if you think it implied here, then please explain.

The comments note the dysfunctional method used to choose the new council member.  And also the ad hoc nature.   This is an issue that needs further looking into. 

To answer your question - again - if Hollie Huthman’s name had been the first to be drawn in the “unbiased” drawing, then she would probably have gotten 4 votes and the process would be over.  Even though in a functional process another candidate might have gotten more and been selected.  A moot point now.  There was no vote for the most favored of the 5 finalists. Rank Choice Voting (RCV), also known as Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), is a very fair, proven, and well known method.  The council could also have taken two public votes, one as sort of a primary to narrow the field down to two candidates, and then a final vote on their choice.  Very fair.  Very obvious.  The question is why did the city attorney Ruffatto and council president Dan Hammill not use a simeple and fair process.

Your latest comment mostly rehashes the facts as stated above.  Except you got wrong one of the key steps the council followed - they narrowed their choices in open council session, not anonymously as you state.  The video plainly shows this. So it does not reflect the “wisdon” of any narrowing in closed session.  Which would have been against the law.  

John, we welcome you to commenting here.  We are quite candid and it does get warm here, but we try to stick with issues and make fair comments on public officials past and present.  If you want to characterize us as “hornets” then perhaps you are missing the point of this open thread.  We do not give special reverence to public officials, past or present.  It is the facts, the reasoning and the values that matter here.  

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