NWCitizen Publisher’s Voting Choices

I stopped by to visit our county auditor, Debbie Adelstein, Friday afternoon. Of the estimated 75,000 to 80,000 ballots expected this election, only 23,908 have been received so far. Only about 30%. That is a slow start for this close to election day.

Why? Adelstein thinks it may be because it's such a long ballot. She said voters “...have to spend some time on it and want to take it seriously.” Whatcom County has 129,208 registered voters for this election. About 60% of those registered will actually vote.

We at NWCitizen have focused on the jail sales tax issue and why we all strongly feel that this should be voted down. But given how many ballots are still out there, citizens will likely use this windy and rainy weekend to hunker down and try to intelligently fill out a very long ballot. So, here is my perspective on most ballot questions. Other writers on NWCitizen disagree with me on some of these choices. I consider myself to be an Independent and a liberal. But I expect some of my Democrat friends will chastise me for my recommendations. Being liberal does not mean being a Democrat.

Propositions and Initiatives

County proposition No. 2015-1, the jail facilities sales and use tax. NO. Rejected. This will waste millions of dollars, burden us with excessive jail operation costs, not serve justice and has been deceptively promoted. There are several articles about this on NWCitizen.

County Proposition No. 1, method of electing council members. I am voting YES, to approve this. Representatives to a council, legislature or house of representatives should be elected by the people they represent. This issue has been turned into a proxy fight over the Cherry Point coal port - and it should not be. We in Bellingham should not be so fearful of our rural neighbors. They have good common sense, just as we do.

Propositions 2 and 3 deal with preventing district-only voting from being reversed in a future election. I’ll vote NO on both, but they are not so important.

Proposition 4 allows more words to describe an initiative. YES, approved, is my choice. More info is good.

Props. 5, 6, 7 and 8 are all minor adjustments and a quick reading of the ballot descriptions will tell you whether or not your personal values support or object to them.

Proposition 9 and 10 should be rejected. I am voting NO on both. They are both dirty political tricks by our County Council. Proposition 9 especially was set up by the Democratic Party and they have been very deceptive in their campaigning for its passage. Basically, the liberal council is trying to poop on the Charter Review Commission.

Proposition 9 creates five districts. I am voting NO. If passed, Propostition 9 will ensure permanent Bellingham control of the County Council. This is simply not fair and as a liberal I will not vote for a rigged system. We all decry the increased divisiveness in our politics these past few years - in local as well as state and national politics. Well, Proposition 9 will increase this divide.

The proponents for five districts have cited how the present three districts are gerrymandered, out of date and unfair. Not a single proponent ever mentioned this before last May. This crisis was invented from thin air to counter the Charter Review Commission putting the district only voting on the ballot - Proposition 1. Proposition 9 is a poison pill to Proposition 1. If both pass, Bellingham retains its control of the County Council.

Proposition 10 is also a NO vote. It is another poison pill by the County Council to prevent future Charter Review Commissions from doing their work. It requires a supermajority to put an issue on the ballot. The normal work that a council or commission is elected to do should only require a majority. The purpose of the Charter Review Commission is to consider items to place on a ballot. The present system should remain. I am rejecting Proposition 10.

State Initiative 1366. I am voting NO. Tim Eyman put some good initiatives on the ballot a few years ago, but now he is just working to cripple our state legislature. 1366 is blackmail and has evil motives.


Gary Jensen gets my vote for port commissioner. Bobby Briscoe would also make a fine commissioner. But Jensen is better qualified to help the port make better decisions. We need someone who can stand up to Dan Robbins and Rob Fix and team up with Mike McAuley. Robbins has controlled Jim Jorgensen these past years and has made terrible decisions. Port Executive Director Rob Fix and Dan Robbins are effectively our port commission now. If Briscoe is in Alaska fishing during summer months, he won't be here when we may need him. He is a fine fellow but not as experienced in local politics and business as is Jensen.

Yes, Jensen has spoken in favor of the coal port, but the port has nothing to do with that decision. There are also charges about his donors and his election finance reports. Both are side shows and do not negate the abilities he will bring to the port. Above all, we need a tough commissioner who will help the elected commission take back control of the port. Jensen and McAuley will do that.

Todd Donovan gets my vote for the County Council. Todd is exceptionally qualified. He is a government and public policy wonk. He is liberal and I like that. He is open minded and brings reasoned intelligence to issues. Bruce Ayers has made himself into a one issue candidate, backing the awful jail tax. He served us well on the Bellingham council back in the 1990s but he has changed. Todd is the better of the two.

Kathy Kershner also gets my vote for County Council. Why would this liberal vote for a Republican? Because Satpal Sidhu has shown he is not an independent thinker, but Kathy is. Our council needs a responsible conservative who can bring out other perspectives on issues. This makes for a healthy council. Since Sidhu was appointed last March, he has been controlled by Rud Browne. He simply is not an effective participant in the decision making process.

We liberals complain that conservatives do not elect reasonable and well meaning representatives. Well, Kathy Kershner is just such a person. She proved her independence the last time she was on the council, casting the key vote for the 8,000 acre land transfer on Lake Whatcom for a county park. Because of that, the uber conservatives in Whatcom County abandoned her in the next election. We liberals should help her get elected. She will be much better on the council than Sidhu. She will bring an important conservative viewpoint to discussions. We city folks should not work to deny our conservative rural neighbors a fine representative.

That is it. Oh sure, I will be voting for Joy Gilfilen for county executive. But Louws will win by a landslide. There is nothing I can add to what you very probably already know about these two.

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

Walter Haugen

Oct 31, 2015

Well, I disagree with most of John’s choices.
BUT - after the election John will be stirring up trouble and working on an alternative (this blog/citizen journalism) AFTER the election. This is something that nearly all the liberals and so-called progressives won’t be doing. Most of the people who are so “fired up” about the election will just go back to sleep.

Me? I will still be working on alternative farming after the election. It isn’t sexy and it requires sweat and time. Of course if some of you liberals and so-called “progressives” are doing the same, good on you.


David Camp

Oct 31, 2015

Well, John, if being a liberal means obligingly presenting your hindquarters so they can be kicked, then you, sir, are a liberal!

Because County Prop 1 is about the worst attempt at gerrymandering Bellingham voters (libruls!) out of fair representation that could be devised by local reactionaries funded by out-of-State dirty coal money.

Give your flipping head a shake.


Tip Johnson

Oct 31, 2015

Briscoe, not Jenson.  The Port desperately needs representation from the marine trades.  Jenson’s statements were disingenuous, saying he wanted to create good jobs for single moms.  Those who worry that Briscoe is unprepared should consider that sometimes a hick is better than a slick.  This principle also informs my endorsement of Joy Gilfilen.  She has already set in motion changes that will reverberate in Whatcom County for a long time.

There is a lot to recommend district only voting - for instance, the courts often impose it to enforce the Voting Rights Act - but the districts must be thoughtfully formed in the interests of better representation, not for increasing control.  Neither Prop 1 or 9 meet this bar and should be rejected.  If we need to consider new districts, which we do, let’s use the process already in place and start studying the composition of the county, the communities of interest and get the redistricting commission to work.

Kershner does her homework and thinks for herself, and that is a valuable quality in elected officials.  However, it will take a while for me to trust her after supporting the liberalization of slaughter throughout the AG zone without adequate protections for water resources, habitat, etc.  Satpal will get my vote and hopefully find the courage to start thinking for himself.  He’s plenty smart and that’s a good place to start.

Other than that, I agree.


Sandy Robson

Oct 31, 2015

I respect John Servais and his NWCitizen website as a valuable source for information.

He has the right to his opinion and to publish his opinion. That being said, I don’t feel he has the right to misinform readers with some of the reasoning he has stated. In his reasoning for his support of Prop 1, he wrote:
“This issue has been turned into a proxy fight over the Cherry Point coal port - and it should not be.  We in Bellingham should not be so fearful of our rural neighbors.”

There is ample evidence from Charter commission email records, and from over $112,000 having been dumped into the Pacific International Terminals Clear Ballot Choices PAC and Whatcom Republican PAC, to show that Prop 1 district-only voting is definitely a Cherry Point coal port fight. Over $58,000 of that total which is in the PIT PAC is to be used for supporting Props 1, 2, and 3 and opposing Props 9 and 10. Either John S. is not aware of that, or he is ignoring those facts. I was actually surprised that NWCitizen had not yet reported on the huge amount of coal terminal money flooding our County election. While I’m sure there are some who favor district-only voting for other reasoning than GPT, I think John S. is ignoring the evidence which demonstrates the coal terminal significance.

Also, in that quoted excerpt above, John S. wrote: “We in Bellingham should not be so fearful of our rural neighbors.” That sounds like a straw man argument to me. I have not heard that idea from people who oppose Prop 1. However, I do hear similar messaging coming from the DOVE PAC/Karl Uppiano, the Whatcom Republican Party, and Kris Halterman/Liberty Road, pitting rural versus city, which I do not think this is a case of. But they want to put that idea forth to people. I’m surprised to see John S. perpetuating that message here.

John S. also wrote: “Propositions 2 and 3 deal with preventing district-only voting from being reversed in a future election.  I’ll vote NO on both, but they are not so important.”

While I’m glad that he opposes Props 2 and 3, I think that when he states “but they are not so important,” it is a disservice to his readers, as it ignores the very important implications that those two Props carry with them. They were originally designed by conservative Charter Commissioners to “eliminate” (I believe that was one of the words used in emails between Charter commissioners and Whatcom Republican Party leadership and others) or prevent, the County Council from proposing Charter amendments relating to the election of County Council members; and from proposing amendments to previous Charter amendments that have been approved by 2/3 majority of voters. Then, after County Attorney Dan Gibson advised the Charter commission those would be against the State constitution, Props 2 and 3 were amended to require a unanimous vote by Council rather than outright prohibit them.

Props 2 and 3 are mechanisms designed by conservative Charter commissioners with which to potentially enable the locking-in of the district-only voting system indefinitely, by requiring an unfair high bar, a unanimous vote by County Council. It is one thing to have simply proposed district-only voting, but for the conservative Charter commissioners to have proposed and approved Props 2 and 3 is unfair and undemocratic. And, for the conservative commissioners to have originally passed amendments that would outright prohibit the Council from proposing such amendments was completely out of order.

John S. wrote that Props 9 and 10 “are both dirty political tricks by our County Council,” but he provides no evidence to support such a statement. And he adds that the Democratic Party has been “very deceptive in their campaigning for its passage,” yet does not give any substantiation for that statement.

He ignored the fact that the PIT Clear Ballot Choices PAC and PIT/GPT’s other advocates such as the DOVE PAC and Whatcom Republicans have been deceptive in their advertising regarding some of the propositions. Examples would be the recent mailer by Clear Ballot Choices PIT in which they used quotes from a letter to the editor published in Cascadia Weekly, but designed the mailer in such a way to promote the idea that Cascadia Weekly had written those excerpts used which was not the case; or the fact that the Whatcom Republicans incorrectly describe Props 2 and 3 on their website; or that the Clear Choices PIT PAC was created at the last possible minute in order to hide the PIT-funded support for Props 1, 2, and 3 and opposition to Props 9 and 10, from voters for as long as possible.

John S. wrote: “Proposition 9 creates five districts. I am voting NO.  If passed, Propostition 9 will ensure permanent Bellingham control of the County Council.”
I do not know how he can make that statement especially because the district lines have not even been drawn for the 5 districts in the Five Fair and Equal Districts proposition, as that would be done by a re-districting committee, after the proposition would be passed.

I can state with confidence, after reviewing hundreds and hundreds of Charter Commission email records, that there was a great deal of hidden organizing, strategizing, etc, between the Whatcom Republicans, Commissioner Chet Dow and some of the conservative commissioners, Whatcom Tea Party leadership, and even a paid GPT consultant, about numerous Charter amendments—especially the ones that are now Props 1, 2, and 3 on the ballot.

And, it is important for the public to know that there are a number of the conservative Charter commissioners who have either not complied at all, or not complied fully, with my June 2015 public records requests. I am still in the process of trying to work with the County to obtain those outstanding records after having provided evidence of the non-compliance issues. Of course, it causes me to wonder why those particular commissioners would not be complying.

Lastly, every single one of the conservative Charter commissioners either have publicly supported the coal terminal, or have benefitted from coal terminal funded-independent expenditure advertising. That is undeniable.

As for my strong disagreement with
John S.‘s picks of Gary Jensen for Port commissioner and Kathy Kershner for County Council, I will try to address those in a separate comment, as this comment is already long.


Walter Haugen

Oct 31, 2015

So I was thinking today about what kind of changes would happen in the executive branch of the county government if Joy Gilfilen defeats Jack Louws for Whatcom County Executive. Not only would it be a “change of the guard,” it would probably have other salutary consequences. [Synonyms for salutary: beneficial, advantageous, good, profitable, productive, helpful, useful, valuable, worthwhile; timely.]

1) The boondoggle jail initiative would have to go back to the drawing board and something that actually benefits society AND those convicted of a crime would result.
2) The County Council would have to actually think about the whole idea of incarcerating people, instead of blindly following whatever the County Executive wants, as they do now. This might actually help them grow out their spines, which would have other salutary effects.
3) Developers would actually have to justify their subsidies and high profit margins. They would no longer just get a blank check.
4) Corrupt land deals, such as the purchase of the land in Ferndale for the presently proposed jail, would be a thing of the past.
5) The Whatcom County Sheriff would no longer have a blank check to flout the law, incarcerate people at will, and leave them to rot in an unsafe environment, while he lobbies for a bigger office and jail that primarily benefits himself and the law enforcement welfare system (this includes private prison corporations). This alone would be a sea change.
6) The County Prosecutor and his staff would have to justify their heavy-handed approach to bail and actually justify the large number of people jailed for minor offenses.
7) The local Democratic Party would have to scrap their cozy relationship with law enforcement and actually try and implement their “big tent” philosophy, instead of only paying lip service while protecting their white, middle class privilege.
8) I could go on and on, but I have to make dinner.


Sandy Robson

Nov 02, 2015

I don’t have the energy at this moment to comment in detail as I had planned to do about John Servais’ selection of Gary Jensen for Port and Kathy Kershner for County Council. So, I will simply say that Gary Jensen’s actions on behalf of SSA/PIT and its proposed coal terminal, including agreeing to be used, as mayor, in a multi-media advertising campaign for GPT, should never be dismissed or discounted. He has never withdrawn his support for GPT and no amount of his talking around the subject of coal and the coal terminal should cause voters to forgive his GPT-related
misdeeds—in my opinion, it’s just electioneering on his part.

As for Kathy Kershner, in 2013, when she was a County Council member and Chair of the Council, she sent a September 13, 2013 letter to the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency, asking them to drop the lawsuit the agencies had filed in 2013 against Rader Farms in Lynden, for its farming operation’s violation of the Clean Water Act, stemming from Rader Farms illegally clearing Category 1 wetlands in 2005, without getting a permit or submitting a plan to Whatcom County. Ms. Kershner wrote in her letter to the DOJ and EPA, “this direct action against Rader Farms, Inc. is part of a long list of roadblocks that government agencies have put up that stop jobless residents in Whatcom County from having the chance to pay their bills and feed their children.” Ms. Kershner also wrote, “Unnecessary and senseless regulation is an insidious job killer,” and she called the lawsuit “inflammatory.”

So, Ms. Kershner, then Chair of the Whatcom County Council,  told agencies which are entrusted to keep our environment protected and our water and air safe, not to do so.

She will not get my vote because of her taking that action.


David McCluskey

Nov 02, 2015


To address your comment:

“John S. wrote that Props 9 and 10 “are both dirty political tricks by our County Council,” but he provides no evidence to support such a statement. And he adds that the Democratic Party has been “very deceptive in their campaigning for its passage,” yet does not give any substantiation for that statement.”

You might have not read it, but I had filed an ethics complaint against the county council for their actions.  You can find a link to my full complaint here.


I dont know if these are the items that John S. had in mind, but I know to me it sure was dirty political tricks.

John S. was once again right on target with the comment that this is a proxy fight over the “Coal” port.  Lisa McShane was already prepared to beat this drum back in April.  See her email from a PDR below.

—————Forwarded message—————
From: Lisa McShane

Date: Thu, Apr 9, 2015 at 6:59 PM
Subject: DRAFT interim message
To: Alex Ramel

, TODD DONOVAN , Crina Hoyer , Matt Petryni , Mike Estes , Ken Mann , Dean Nielsen , Raven McShane , Dan McShane , Mitch Friedman , Patrick Stickney

Hey all,
I’d appreciate your keeping this confidential. I can’t think of another time when I’ve emailed draft messages out to a group of people!

Please take a close look and let me know your thoughts, suggestions, gut feelings about what is and isn’t compelling and clear. And for those of you who need to move forward right away and get messages out to people - please feel free to use these.


Interim DRAFT Messages on District-Only Voting

Outside corporate interests want to rig our local elections.

Big Coal and their tea party candidates couldn’t win at the ballot box so now they’re trying to rig the system.

Fewer voters = more power for special interests

The last time Whatcom County had 3 districts and district-only voting, we had 3 public works departments.

This is a tea-party scheme to divide Bellingham and reduce our vote with gerrymandered districts.

The tea-party activists lost an election and now they want to take away the voting rights of people in Bellingham.

Every voter in Whatcom County has a vote on everyone who represents us. District-only voting means you lose your right to choose who makes decisions for you.

If you like Washignton DC politics, you’ll love the gerrymandered district-only voting scheme the tea party has for our local elections.

Tea-Party Republican ideas failed at the ballot box. Now they’re trying to change the rules to take over county government.

Tea-party republicans want to steal our local elections

Rig the system to benefit their Big Coal donors.

IF you like what they’re doing in DC, you’ll love district-only voting.

This is a crass political move to take away your vote.

They’re trying to roll-back an election result.

Losers, backed by the coal industry, are trying to rig the system to get what they want.

The tea party rammed this through at the third meeting with no public hearing.

State law says that districts should “be drawn so as to coincide with the boundaries of local political subdivisions and areas recognized as communities of interest. The number of counties and municipalities divided among more than one district should be as small as possible.” Dividing Bellingham up into 3 districts makes no sense and probably violates state law. The last thing we need is for the tea party to throw our elections into litigation.




Doug Karlberg

Nov 02, 2015

While I respect John Servais’s opinion, and the incredible service the NW Citizen has provided this community for decades now. I do believe that Sir John had missed the boat with his endorsement of Mayor Jensen for Port Commissioner.

You can check out the converstaion and my reponse to both Mayour Jensen and current Port Commissioner Robbins on the Whatcom Commercial Fishermen’s Association home page on Facebook, but I will excerpt below.

Link: https://www.facebook.com/ComercialFishermansAssociationOfWhatcomCounty/

Doug Karlberg: This is from Port of Bellingham Commissioner Dan Robbins Facebook page. If elected this will make two out of three Port of Bellingham Commissioners who are for a coal terminal. Please vote Bobbie Briscoe for Port.

Gary Jensen: I have talked to Dan Robbins quite a bit but I don’t believe he had said anything about the SSA Terminal one way or the other. I get where you are going, as coal is an easy product to hate and easy to build a campaign around.

As I have stated in public many times, my position on coal has evolved. I’m not for burning coal for energy production. It seems a large part of the world market is also changing their mind also.

Are elected officials allowed to change their mind? Not according to you people. Obama was against the equal marriage act, now he is for it. Hillary was for the Keystone Pipeline now she is not for it.

After Tuesday night we will know who the next Port Commissioner will be. At the end of an election every public servant should know that they will be representing those who voted for them and also those who did not. You almost have to live through it to understand that or you will never get anything done while in office. Compromise was a word used often in past politics to accomplish great things and still is valuable today.
Oh and by the way, Mr. Briscoe is a nice guy and I believe he spells his name Bobby not your spelling of Bobbie,

Port of Bellingham Commissioner Dan Robbins: Gary, you must understand Doug Karlberg will say anything to win, even if it is not true. That is just how he is.

Doug Karlberg:

Port of Bellingham Commissioner Robbins. I cannot tell you how disappointed I am to have you accuse me of being a liar. As a constituent I felt I was entitled to an honest opinion, and regardless of your own, you would respect the democratic process.

Unfortunately, you defame my character, without a shred of evidence. Truly unprofessional in my opinion. Upon our first meeting I sensed a inner bully in your personality, and this confirms this intuition.

Commissioner Robbins, I challenge you to provide the evidence of my untruthfulness. If you can find something that I have gotten factually wrong, I will promptly admit my mistake, and apologize publicly. I reserve the right to come to independent opinions based upon facts though.

Port constituents, customers, and employees had long suffered under a domineering and self-centered Commissioner Walker. A Commissioner who did not tolerate those who dared disagree with his perfect judgment. Those who disagreed with him suffered public scorn, bullying, and firing. A tragic service to the public. I hope you do not follow this path, but if you chose to I will put up rational, and logical resistance. Count on me exercising my democratic rights, and your bullying is a personal challenge that I will not back down from.

Now onto Mayor Jensen, whom you are supporting, and also comments above.

Mayor Jensen, we have laws which protect the voters rights to make informed decisions. Primary among these laws are the regulations of the Public Disclosure Commission. Their goals are stated below as copied verbatim from Washington State statute.

“The Public Disclosure Law relies on the antiseptic qualities of “sunshine” and several prohibitions to assure citizens of Washington that governmental systems and individuals who operate within it are open and honest. Before deciding which candidate, ballot proposal or pending legislation deserve support, the law provides citizens with an in-depth look at who is financing a campaign or has hired legislative lobbyists.”

Mayor Jensen, on Oct. 13 you owed the public an accounting of who gave you campaign contributions. Oct. 13 is critical, as the ballots were mailed. This deadline should be of no surprise this is not your first political race.

You missed this deadline, and took coal money approximately a week prior, and did not reveal this fact to the voters.

Then on Oct. 24th, you paid the Herald to run your ads.

Then on Oct. 27th the Herald endorsed you for the Port Commission.

Finally after the Herald presses were rolling, you released the information that you had taken coal money, also on Oct. 27.

To the best of my knowledge, the Bellingham Herald detailed the expenditures of every candidate who took outside money, including coal money, except for one candidate, and that is Mayor Jensen.

Let me know if I have this time-line accurate.

Now both yourself and Commissioner Robbins received campaign contributions from coal interests.

Both yourself, and Port of Bellingham Commissioner Robbins have downplayed the role of the Port in this upcoming coal terminal decision.

I don’t buy this explanation. The coal industry wants something. The coal industry did not give you money because they like the way you part your hair.

What does the coal industry want?

Don’t say nothing, because we are not that naive, and you are not that dumb.

The coal industry gave you and Commissioner Robbins money for a reason. The two of you represent a controlling majority on the Port Commission. For many of us this is a serious issue, and we have the right to ask, and the right to know, and not be mislead or lied to.

What does the coal industry want from the Port Commissioners that they have contributed to the candidates.

Just be honest with us.

We have the right to ask. And in my opinion, we have right to know, before we vote

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