At the May 14 Port of Bellingham meeting, the port commission approved a resolution that would put a proposition on the November ballot asking voters whether to expand to five commissioners. We all hoped the issue was final and the resolution would be sent to the auditor to be placed on the ballot.
Today, I heard from a very reliable source that the commission plans to change the resolution at tomorrow's (Tuesday, June 5 (not 4 as first posted)) 3 p.m. meeting. I phoned commissioner Mike McAuley and he confirmed. Based on advice from the port's attorney, Frank Chmelik, the commission plans to discuss the issue and re-vote to modify the request - and make it a two-part question for the voters. One portion would be whether to expand the commission, and a second question will ask whether the additional two commissioners should be at-large positions or the port should be expanded to create five port commission districts.
Here is the rub. None of this is on the port commission agenda for tomorrow. This is one of the old processes the port used years ago to avoid any public notice of their actions. They claim they do not have to list all their actions and can leave off intended issues for discussion and a vote.
Whether we think a two-part ballot question is okay or not, the commission already voted on this issue at their May meeting. That should be the end of it. Planning to modify this, at a meeting when the public is unaware of their intent, is unconscionable. Indeed, if they think they can modify the resolution, do they have plans to rescind it - cancel it entirely? In fact, they are able to rescind the proposition anytime up to the November 6 election day.
It is sad to think we need to go to tomorrow's meeting - but I will be there. We need others there as well. Our message is simple. Stick with your resolution. Do the honorable thing.
Here is the motion and vote per the minutes of the May 14 meeting:
"Motion approved with a 2-1 vote. Commissioners Jorgensen and McAuley voted in favor of signing a resolution on June 12, 2012 and effective June 12, 2012 , to place before the voters an increase of the Port Commission from three to five members with two at-large to be voted on at the November 6, 2012 general election. Commissioner Walker voted against."
This mischief is the result of Chmelik doing his best to slow down, water down, confuse, and delay the intentions of the resolution passed on May 14. Tomorrow, he will tell the commissioners their resolution is illegal and it asks the auditor to do something illegal. That's ridiculous. Of course the resolution is legal. But the hope is that commissioner Jorgensen will be swayed to change his mind, again, and then he and commissioner Walker can pass a new resolution.
The other part of Chmelik's advice to the commission and the auditor is that there can be no election of new commissioners until November 2013. He almost has the auditor convinced. This will leave us with another 19 months of rule by Walker. And by splitting the issue into two questions, it increases the chances of failure at the ballot box. Regardless, the resolution is legal, as is the single question on the ballot.