The Port of Bellingham's attempts at sabotaging the expansion to five commissioners began the moment initiative backers asked the port to adopt their petition. Commissioner Scott Walker and port attorney Frank Chmelik immediately began trying to kill the initiative.
There is no legal basis for changing the wording of the initiative submitted by the petitioners. The guiding case law is a Washington Supreme Court ruling on a 2000 initiative: Amalgamated Transit Union Local 587 v. State. The state Supreme Court reaffirmed their broad interpretation of the “single subject rule” on May 31, 2012 when they struck down a challenge to the recent liquor initiative: Wash. Ass'n for Substance Abuse & Violence Prevention v. State. Both rulings clarify the “single subject rule” that Walker and Chmelik are abusing, ignoring and twisting.
The “single subject rule” says an initiative may accomplish two things if they are reasonably related. Port commissioners and port districts are reasonably related. The single question on the initiative petition was: shall we increase the number of port commissioners from three to five and make the new commissioners at-large? This would enable the entire county to nominate port candidates for the new positions. It was simple, direct and economical. The scallywags controlling Whatcom County’s least transparent taxing authority want to make it complicated, convoluted and expensive.
The initiative language submitted by Whatcom County citizens was approved by the county auditor’s office and reviewed by the prosecuting attorney’s office. It is a single ballot item and is fully in compliance with the law. So, splitting the propositions into two ballot items is a shyster’s trick that flies in the face of up-to-date case law.
Last Thursday, the port published the agenda for their next meeting. The port now has two agenda items for two separate ballot propositions. At the last meeting, they had language for one ballot proposition. Two ballot propositions are a clumsy attempt to kill the initiative. The last time this shabby trick was used in Everett, a first term commissioner got booted out of office once his constituents got a taste of his two-faced mendacity. Two linked initiatives usually will fail because both have to pass at the same election to succeed. A single initiative is hard to pass, two together are virtually impossible.
Port Resolution 1310 is what the initiative petitioners asked the port to do: increase the number of commissioners to five. The port adopted the initiative and immediately commissioner Scott Walker and port attorney Frank Chmelik began blowing smoke and trying to complicate the initiative.
Chmelik has pretended to read aloud from the Revised Code of Washington while lying about what was printed on the page in the law book. You can listen to the port’s recording and hear it yourself. Reading aloud is usually learned in grade school.
Walker and Chmelik will undoubtedly make up more lies and attempt to twist the meaning of the recent Supreme Court ruling. They have until the next meeting to come up with some justification for turning a single initiative question into two separate ballot issues.
The second port resolution should die at the upcoming port meeting. Walker will move the resolution be adopted. Both Jim Jorgensen and Mike McAuley have said they prefer redistricting into five new port districts. Redistricting is expensive and time-consuming but it can be done before candidates file for the 2013 primary.
The port’s first proposition:
PROPOSITION NO. 1
PORT OF BELLINGHAM, WASHINGTON
NUMBER OF PORT COMMISSIONERS
The Commissioners of the Port of Bellingham adopted Resolution No. 1310, concerning a proposition to increase the number of Port Commissioners. This proposition would increase the number of Commissioners of the Port District from three (3) Commissioners to five (5) Commissioners. Should this proposition be approved?
Yes............................. [ ]
No……………………… [ ]
There will be more smoke and mirrors until the August 7, 2012 cutoff date. Walker and Chmelik will undoubtedly keep squirming and twisting until time runs out. There are clear deadlines this year and next; they are carved in stone.
Redistricting for five new districts or making the new commissioners at large comes down to interpreting a single sub-article of the Washington Revised Code: Chapter 53.12.010(2). There appears to be no case law to guide port redistricting versus at-large, nor does the RCW clear up the murky language. However, the law is quite clear that stalling will not delay things any longer than a year.
If voters approve increasing the number of commission this November, there shall be new port commissioners on the 2013 November ballot.