Port Commission Expansion to be on November Ballot

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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.

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

Michael McAuley

May 14, 2012

Hello all.

In fairness to Jim J. his slow response, which he told me after the vote, was because he’d rather have 5 districts.  I can’t say I disagree with that position since it gets right to the heart of the representation issue. 

The Port has a county wide governance structure. So where the county has districts such that each has an even chance for equal representation, 4 districts with an at large or 5 districts with no at large would provide that equal opportunity for across the county port reps. 

So if the issue passes this fall then districts could be an issue for future commissions.  As it is, the people will have an opportunity to decide and that’s as it should be.

Mike M


Tip Johnson

May 14, 2012

Thanks for making the motion, Mike.  I was a bit worried for a time, but I think that was a good compromise. I am glad you added the bit about any adjustments the auditor might require because I think I left the Everett election date on that copy!

As for Commissioner Jorgenson’s concern, I hope you will assure him that this measure in no way prevents five districts. I was quite surprised at the Port’s esteemed counsel’s advice that five districts could not be achieved after electing two at-large positions. It’s not true, but it is scary how close that bad advice came to derailing approval of the motion. He was actually rather insistent on the matter.

RCW 53.12.010
Port commission — Number of commissioners, districts.
2(b) In a port district with five commissioners, where two of the commissioner districts include the entire port district, the port district may be divided into five commissioner districts if proposed pursuant to a resolution adopted by the board of commissioners or pursuant to a petition by the voters and approved by the voters of the district at the next general or special election…

I’m not sure why your attorney would peer into his law book and pretend to read you otherwise.  If I am not mistaken, he is paid quite a bit more than those commissioner costs Mr. Fix showed us.  For the money, I’d rather have two more commissioners than bad legal advice.


David Camp

May 15, 2012

It was an interesting meeting. The presence of (Senator) Harriet Spinel and another State legislator who I didn’t know says to me that Mr. Walker, who it seems to me has been the beneficiary of considerable party political support, may have run off the reservation. He got a pretty good slapping at the last couple of meetings, despite the best efforts of Port staff to head off the inevitable. We’ll be watching Messrs. Chmelik, Fix, and Stoner navigate this duckboat with interest.

The key issue to me is that the Port has made several poor strategic decisions in the easy money years that put residential and commercial development over running a working Port. And all the while keeping the owners (Us!) out. Access! Access! This is what’s required. And now the boys have contaminated the Cornwall Avenue landfill site with dioxins, rendering access all around, including the lovely little beach at the foot of Cornwall Avenue, carcinogenic. Nice work.


Todd Granger

May 15, 2012

Read Chmelik.

“We recognize that our clients will have divergent views. These clients expect and deserve that their attorneys will not be involved in public debates in which their interests or positions are challenged. Therefore, our attorneys and staff will look for opportunities to serve our community which do not involve us in public debate.”

The following is a list of representative municipal governments where our representation is a matter of public record.

Various fire districts located in Whatcom, Mason, Island, Skagit, Chelan, Grant, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, King, Lewis, Lincoln, Pacific, Pierce, San Juan, Snohomish, Spokane, Thurston, and Yakima counties…

Interesting when you house is on Fire, and one little Fire Boat’s MIA?

“and do thing’s right.” What wrong with this bald picture?



Todd Granger

May 15, 2012

Various fire districts, United We Burn!

Bellingham Belle, 1980?