If you enjoy the content you find here, please consider donating to support our continued efforts to bring you the best news and opinion articles we can. We hope you like the recent update to NWCitizen, and look forward to bringing you more insight into local politics and issues in 2017.

Support NWCitizen Not Now

Ken Bell and Renata for Port

By On

I will be voting for Ken Bell and Renata Kowalczyk for Port of Bellingham commissioners. That's right - I do not want Mike McAuley to continue as port commissioner even though I was one of those who encouraged him to run last time. Mike has been a big disappointment. Ken is far superior in his understanding of how our port should operate as well as what is best for our waterfront and local economy going forward. Mike is a well liked, sort of “ah shucks” guy during a campaign, but as we have seen over the past four years, he can quickly forget his campaign talk. I have greater hope for intelligent thinking and good decisions from Ken Bell. And this is an election for the future of Bellingham's economy, not a vote on who is a nicer, “gee whiz” guy.

Four years ago, a few of us encouraged four challengers to run for port commissioners - with the plan to create two primary races and force discussion of port issues during the primary campaign and thus more awareness of issues by voters. In past elections, port incumbents have ignored challengers, instead using the money of the “powers that be” for a media blitz in the last three weeks before the election. By forcing primaries, we brought the issues into the open before the August primary. One incumbent arrogantly thought he could ignore the primary, and the challenger, until the media blitz - and one of our four challengers won. The winner was Mike, but it could have been any of the other three.

Ken Bell is a superbly qualified candidate. He understands the needs of businesses in the private sector. He understands ports. He has ideas we need in Bellingham. A port district is, in the end, an industrial development agency. The present port commission, with McCauley going along, works for port revenues and against private business revenues. How? With unfair and sliding-scale rents that can leach profits from renters, and by spending taxpayer money to buy buildings and compete with private developers.

Mike aids these and other regressive port policies by also not even being aware of what is happening around him. Mike promised in his first campaign to get to the bottom of the toxic pollution on our waterfront - and he has abysmally failed in that. He promised to seriously look at using the treatment lagoon to aid our light manufacturing businesses - and has turned a blind eye to that. He is not good for his word.

Friends who raised the issue of airport noise now have promises from Mike - but he has ignored them for the last three years. They are naive to think he might do anything for them in the next four years. We gave him a chance and he proved himself not up to the job. He is unable to handle the complexities of being a port commissioner. We can all give him credit for being a decent guy and fighting against the absurd firing of Charlie Sheldon, the former port executive director. But soon after that, he allowed himself to be guided by the port's attorney, Frank Chmelick, and Port Commissioner Scott Walker. End of hope. The coal port is not an issue in this campaign as the county council makes that decision, not the Port. Ken Bell has my vote.

Renata is also very well qualified and I think she and Ken Bell would bring great change to the port. Dan Robbins, while qualified and with good ideas, has two things going against him. He seems unable to listen to and understand what others are saying, and will be a continuation of our tone deaf commission. Second, he has exaggerated his business record. Renata is better qualified when it comes to business and finance. And Renata has shown a great ability to listen and learn from what we have said. She gets it. Renata has my vote.

I will be posting next on the other campaigns.

About John Servais

Writer • 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

Tara Nelson

Oct 24, 2013

You misspelled Mike’s name. It’s McAuley, with a capital A, not “McCauley.” In journalism school, we had it pounded into our heads misspelling of someone’s name—especially a public official—is the number one offense of credibility. Also the easiest to avoid.


Tip Johnson

Oct 24, 2013

The incumbent has not insisted on clean-up instead of cover-up (capping).  Bell is experienced with environmental remediation and thinks capping just delays the inevitable, increasing costs.

The incumbent has not insisted that the surplus water supply and treatment capacity G-P left behind be used to recruit living wage jobs.  Instead, he stands by silently while it is scheduled for destruction.  Bell supports a working waterfront.

The incumbent hasn’t had the backbone to stand up to the fraudulent environmental review that conceals the true costs of the Port’s proposed marina.  Bell has a spine - and a central nervous system.

The incumbent goes along with the Port’s plan to privatize and sell our newly consolidated public waterfront.  Bell wants to keep the property in public ownership.

The incumbent goes along with the Port’s focus on real estate development.  Bell has experience working at ports and, like ousted director Charlie Sheldon, thinks our Port should instead focus on Port activities.

The incumbent offered to shepherd a citizen initiative to expand the port commission onto the ballot.  He got that done, then stood uselessly by while the commission illegally reversed their adoption of the measure.  Then he picked up their torch, spouting the Port attorney’s legal nonsense while the measure was torn in half, turned inside out and stomped into an unrecognizable, unappealing form that not one original supporter would lift a finger to champion.  It still failed by only 250 votes county-wide.  Thanks, Mike.  I don’t think Port staffers are going to push Ken Bell around.

Is the incumbent’s record so outstanding that it should be rewarded with reelection?  Or should we try someone new?  That’s the only effect voters ever get to have.  Exercise it! 

I hope I spelled incumbent correctly.  I wouldn’t want it to undermine my credibility!


John Servais

Oct 24, 2013

Why thank you Tara.  Our readers should know that you are Mike’s campaign manager.  Typo has been corrected.  And I tip my hat to you for exuding the maximum bile in your comment.  I take pleasure in noting you had no substantial criticisms of my article.


Delaine Clizbe

Oct 24, 2013

Tip and John, thank you!  I really did laugh out loud at your responses!


Wendy Harris

Oct 28, 2013

John and Tip, either you have just lost your whole damn mind, or you do not know Ken Bell very well. If you had attended his Planning Commission meetings, at least the ones he showed up for anyhow, you would have seen his hostility and disrespect for members of the public who did not share the property rights extremist views of the PC.  Ken has participated in the most regressive PC Whatcom County has known, and was involved in some of the very worst proposals sent forward…. remember the slaughterhouse rezone? How are you opposing reelection for those who supported this rezone, except for Ken, who you are are promoting for commissioner?

Ken is not an environmentalist.  When has he ever shown concern for wildlife or habitat impacts of development? He does not support water quality if it interferes with the full exercise of one’s property rights. He derailed efforts by the Silver Beach Neighborhood Association to impose standards for Lake stewardship actions, and he did so in a underhanded way.

I think your “anyone but Mike” mentality may come back to bit you


Alex McLean

Oct 28, 2013

ANYONE who is endorsed by Scott Walker, including Ken Bell, is only going to help metastasize the cancer that Walker so thoroughly infected the Port with.

I’m with Wendy on this one: you guys are nuts for gambling one man’s imperfect work, under severely handicapped circumstances, against the wager of a relatively unknown entity who, again, is endorsed by the ONE PERSON who has most thoroughly poisoned this community’s vision for a functional waterfront.



Tip Johnson

Oct 28, 2013

Ken Bell on the Port will not have an outlet for property rights extremism, but will have ample opportunity to share his business acumen.

Wendy and Alex, it’s not that I don;t agree that Ken Bell is a risk, it’s just that Mike is too much of a sure thing.

It is very hard for voters to pick out and promote candidates.  Parties and organizations do that. We can vote for them or not.  But we can have an effect on who gets unelected, by objecting when promises aren’t kept, when initiative is lacking or when they just outright screw citizen priorities.

So Mike does not earn my support this election.  Ken Bell does. And if Bell fails to work for the public’s interest, I’ll be working against him next time around.


Alex McLean

Oct 29, 2013

I don’t doubt that you and John know more about the Port of Bellingham than I could hope to forget.

I know nothing about the airport, for example, except to recall that they are generally noisy places and, generally, people who live next to them know a bit about that noise when they decide to buy.

What I like about Mike, and why I value his re-election, is that the dude knows about green building. He astonished me by speaking fluently about the benefits of green roofs and, when generously offering his time to expand on his vision for adaptive re-use of buildings on the waterfront, he seemed totally at odds with the rest of the Port’s vision to simply scrape the land bare and insert Squalicum Harbor East. I strongly doubt that he has any interest in pursuing either the marina proposal or in plugging GP’s water source—the latter of which may not even be a Port decision—and think he knows very well that a working waterfront with real jobs, rather than a service-sector property bank, is the more desirable goal.

Your guy starts at zero and can either awkwardly fill a power vacuum—to do potentially boring or stupid things—or he can flail around as he bashes against the same hurdles that McAuley has dealt with for these past four years. I’ll defer to your judgement that he hasn’t been as perfect a recruit as you hoped, but I feel more strongly than you that the first term of experience in this elected position actually adds value to a learning curve, and therefore to the candidate as well, which is arcing in the right direction.

Facebook Google LinkedIn Print Reddit Twitter