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Referendum Certified

Next move up to City Council

Posted - Tuesday, Feb 24, 1998

On Monday, February 23, County Auditor Shirley Forslof certified that a sufficient number of Bellingham citizens - 1,391 - had signed the petition to require an election on the issue. It is up to the City Council as to when the election will be held.

The auditor only had to count about 2/3s of the signatures to reach the needed number. The petitions were collected over a two week period - a very short time for citizens demanding a referendum. This shows strong community support for overturning the City Council's actions last December.

Now - what will the council do? They actually can rescind the ordinance themselves - and end the need for a vote of the people. Last December they overrode the Mayor's veto by a 6 to 1 vote - with only Louise Bjornson dissenting. Now Leslie Richardson and Barbara Ryan are on the council - and are thought to be open to rescinding it. If just one of the old guard of the guys switches over then a majority of 4 will be able to rescind it. We certainly urge the council to take this action. It should be obvious by now that the people are not pleased - and that the people are willing to act.

Or the council can simply schedule the referendum for an election date. Open dates are April 28, May 19, September 15 and November 3. Tip Johnson, the originator of the petition, says that any date will suit him. He is ready for the next step in his campaign to save Hoag's Pond for public access.

There is always the tactic of a council of about 5 years ago. When a petition was certified for a referendum to overturn the Arts Center, the council decided to just ignore the people and not schedule the election. In the next council election, much of the council was voted out of office. We think the guys on this council remember this.

There is no question that a referendum on this issue will be a divisive process for our community. The actions of the Council last December were irresponsible - and the guys knew it. But they were justifiably mad at the city departments that had given them bad advice - Planning, Public Works and - worst of all - Parks. So they ignored the public good and gave away city land to a city employee - and took away public access to a beautiful pond in Fairhaven. In being mad at the departments they hurt the citizens of Bellingham.

Tip Johnson did the right thing in starting a referendum. Now it is the council's turn to do the right thing - rescind the ordinance. We urge them to do this.

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Home Contents Info Correspondents ©1998 NWCitizen.com