By: John Lesow (14)

Whatcom County Candidate’s Night Kicks Off in Point Roberts - Live !

The Point Roberts Registered Voter’s Association hosts Whatcom County’s first Formal Candidates Forum of the 2018 Election Season. 10 Candidates attend.

The Point Roberts Registered Voter’s Association hosts Whatcom County’s first Formal Candidates Forum of the 2018 Election Season. 10 Candidates attend.

• Topics: Whatcom County, Elections,

Point Roberts has a resident population of 1,300. About half are registered voters.

Despite it’s small size and remote location, Candidate’s Night has always drawn an enthusiastic crowd of incumbents and challengers willing to make the 100 mile round trip from Bellingham through two International border crossings to attend a Town Hall style meeting at the Point Roberts Community Center.

A complete video of the meeting is available on youtube here.

Attendees included:

42nd Legislative District State Senator - Partisan Office 4 Year term

- Doug Ericksen (Prefers Republican Party)

- Pinky Vargas (Prefers Democratic Party)

42nd Legislative District State Representative Position 1 - Partisan Office 2 Year Term

- Luanne Van Werven (Prefers Republican Party)

- Justin Boneau (Prefers Democratic Party)

42nd Legislative District State Representative Positon 2 Partisan Office 2-year term

- Sharon Shewmake (Prefers Democratic Party)

- Vincent Buys (Prefers Republican Party)

Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney Partisan Office 4 Year term

- James Erb (Prefers Democratic Party)

Whatcom County At-Large Position B Nonpartisan Office 1 year-unexpired term

- Carol Frazey

- Mike Peetoom

Public Utility District 1 - Nonpartisan Office 6 Year Term

- Atul Deshmane

Note: Deshmane’s comments are at the end of the video. The other candidate for PUD Commissioner is Paul D. Kenner

Following a three minute introductory speech by each candidate, the forum was opened to Q&A from audience members, which begins 30 minutes into the video.

For those weary readers, preoccupied last week with the 24/7 revenge politics and social media spleen-vetting of the Kavanaugh hearings, I suggest that a full viewing of the one hour Q&A would be a welcome antidote.

Informative, too. Many of the issues discussed have a lasting effect on the daily lives and fortunes of Whatcom County residents. Plus, they are delivered in the unscripted, spontaneous environment of an old fashioned Town Hall meeting.

Where else can you watch ordinary local folks—some of whom are your neighbors—discussing issues like, “Economic Terrorism”, Waterboarding, the Kinder Morgan/Transmountain pipeline, the recent Canadian/American Free Trade Agreement, Net Neutrality, 5 G Broadband, female genital mutilation, male circumcision, Public Disclosure Complaints, Censorship of Voter’s Pamphlet Statements by the County Auditor, native casinos on farm land, “Christian Values”, the nuances of the 1996 Telecommunications Act and their effect on local governance and health?

As well as the upsides and downsides of the Growth Management Act. It’s all there. Condensed into an hour of free viewing by anyone interested enough to become informed.

It’s no secret that most voters in the rural areas do not feel their interests are fairly represented by government that is concentrated in Bellingham. This has been a recurrent theme at County forums and will continue forever.

However, one recent example of County control over people’s lives and their tax dollars was brought forward in a column by Tim Johnson in the Cascadia Weekly on October 3.

Johnson’s article focused on the candidates for Whatcom County Prosecuting Attorney and the importance of addressing civil as well as criminal matters.

Criminal matters may get the attention, but it is the civil function of the Prosecuting Attorney in advising County Council that can truly affect the lives of citizens now and for years to come. Johnson’s examples of bad advice from the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office on civil matters included the Hirst Case, (water) and the Gateway Pacific Terminal (coal).

For an additional example that directly affected Point Roberts, I would add the example of County Planning Department’s 2015 approval of a Conditional Use Permit to build (5) 50,000 watt radio towers in Point Roberts. Construction of these towers would have had a devastating effect on the health and property values of the citizens of Point Roberts and across the border in Tsawwassen, B.C.

(Those unfamiliar with this debacle can familiarize themselves by reviewing one of my earlier articles, “Point Roberts vs. the FCC: Modern David and Goliath” published in NW Citizen on October 22, 2014.) It is inconceivable that the County Planning Department would have approved the Conditional Use permit for these Radio Towers without first consulting the Prosecuting Attorney for an opinion. Particularly when it was clear that the well-funded tower proponents were ready to go to court and sue the County if their permit was denied.

As Tim Johnson’s article points out, it is the job of the County Prosecutor to keep the County from being sued.

It is true that the Whatcom County Council, after being apprised of the facts, did not support the construction of the towers in Point Roberts. It is also true the County Prosecuting Attorney’s office was not interested in underwriting any of the legal costs incurred in fighting the towers battle to it’s successful conclusion in Skagit County Superior Court. I know. I made the request personally and was turned down.

Contrast this to Council’s bad decision to fund the legal expenses of the Seattle law firm hired to defend the County’s non-compliance with the Growth Management Act and the Hirst case. Cases the County eventually lost anyway. Cases the County stubbornly refused to settle, even though they were afforded the opportunity several times.

By contrast, the legal costs of fighting the Point Roberts Radio towers, which amounted to over $250,000 U.S, were paid from citizen contributions on both sides of the border. This took three years of time and effort by the citizens of Point Roberts and Delta to raise money and public awareness.

Small wonder many citizens of rural communities, like Point Roberts, don’t think the County is looking out for their interests.

Richard Nixon once observed that many voters don’t appreciate the intelligence of their elected representatives. I agree, but being smart is no substitute for common sense, which in the Gateway, Hirst and Point Roberts Tower cases, was sorely lacking.

In today’s polarized political climate, fueled by internet rage, being a jerk is fashionable. You see it everywhere. Common sense and civility have left the room, at least temporarily.

Refreshingly, there was not one candidate at the Point Roberts forum that could be faulted for their commitment, sincerity and desire to serve the public.

At least that was my take-away.

Judge for yourself:


Note: Following the Town Hall, candidates were given written copies of questions that were not addressed in the Q and A. I indicated that they could respond by October 8 if they wished their responses to be included in this article.

I have received two:

Carol Frazey - Whatcom County Council at Large
Regarding the question: Will you pledge to actively oppose any renewed efforts to build radio towers in Point Roberts that exceed present height restrictions as set forth in the Point Roberts Subarea Plan?

A: “I will actively oppose proposals for any radio towers in Point Roberts above the current height restrictions. Adhering to the current height limit will eliminate the possibility of taller, high powered towers that will not benefit the residents of Point Roberts” (edited for length)

(Mike Peetoom, Candidate for County Council at Large, stated that he is in favor of height restrictions in Point Roberts during the oral Q and A.)

Sharon Shewmake - 42nd Legislative District Position 2
Regarding the question: Do you support the reduction of tariffs on American dairy products per the Canadian/American Trade Agreement announced on Monday?

A: “As an economist I support lowering trade barriers so yes”.

Regarding the question: Do you support the construction of native casinos on agricultural land in Whatcom County, eg; the Northwood Casino in Lynden?

A: “Tribes are sovereign nations, and we are lucky to have them as partners. If they want to open casinos on lands they own and maintain then they should be able to do so”.

About John Lesow

Closed Account • Member since Mar 21, 2008

Wynne Lee

Oct 08, 2018

Who recorded the video? Great idea to put it on youtube with link here.  I’m doing my best to keep sharing stuff like this, as too many voters are still clueless about issues and candidates.


Sam Crawford

Oct 09, 2018

Thanks John for posting the video, and for your commentary here.

“Refreshingly, there was not one candidate at the Point Roberts forum that could be faulted for their commitment, sincerity and desire to serve the public.

At least that was my take-away.”


John Lesow

Oct 20, 2018

to Wynne Lee and other interested voters…see 

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