In a confused port commission meeting, where finding Waldo would have been easier, commissioner Jim Jorgensen reluctantly joined commissioner Mike McAuley to put port commission expansion on the November 6 general election ballot. With at least two dozen supporters of the ballot issue in attendance and a dozen speaking to the issue, the commission had a long and difficult discussion.
Commissioner Scott Walker spoke against putting the measure on the ballot, with comments belittling the petition signature drive. Mike McAuley made the motion, and after a long period of reflection, Jim Jorgensen seconded the motion. McAuley structured his motion so as to put the measure on the November ballot and not the August primary ballot. Eventually the vote was quietly taken, with Jorgensen and McAuley supporting and Walker voting against.
While the petition drive sought to put the question on the August ballot so two new commissioners could be elected in November, all seemed relieved and fine with a November ballot. This frees supporters from a summer of standing at markets and events collecting signatures. The petition signature drive stops immediately - but the organizers think it prudent to save all petitions, just in case something goes wrong.
If the proposal to expand to 5 commissioners is passed by voters in November, the two at-large commissioners will be elected at the Feb 12, 2013 special election and will take office on Feb 26 when the election is certified.
The state law allowing voters to expand port commissions was enacted in the early 1990s with sponsorship from then state representative Harriet Spanel, after being first suggested by then county council member Ken Henderson. Both spoke today for putting the measure on the ballot. Also speaking in favor were former Bellingham mayors Ken Hertz and Dan Pike.
There is much that can be written about the confusion of today's meeting. While the new county auditor, Debbie Adelstein, was there to answer the questions of the commissioners, it seemed the port legal staff was reading the state law for the first time. Port staff gave a presentation with several factual errors, including when new commissioners would be elected and for how long. Commissioner Walker did his best to confuse the issue in hopes of getting Jorgensen to not support McAuley's motion. It all went on for over an hour as the roomful of supporters tried to not slap their heads in astonishment at some of the things said. At the end, Jim Jorgensen stared at the table for a long time and then said, “Yes, I'll second.” The motion passed quickly and it was over. On to November.