Posted by: sweeneyblog | February 15, 2015

Interviewing Mayor Kelli Linville

Mayor Kelli Linville

Mayor Kelli Linville

Last Tuesday, I sat down with Mayor Kelli Linville to discuss the pressing issues of the city. Linville is just finishing up her first term as mayor – a capstone to a long record of public service.

For several years, she was the state representative from the 42nd District, however the Tea Party wave in 2010 allowed newcomer (and rock-collecting enthusiast) Vincent Buys to oust Linville. Rather than simply return to her antique furniture business, Linville decided to run for Mayor of Bellingham barely edging past incumbent Dan Pike in a campaign that can at best be described as brutal.

Her administration has been marked by some dramatic movement on the Port, but also some sharp criticism over her struggles with the Roosevelt neighborhood, her support for Peacehealth’s $1.2 million tax exemption, and most recently, her proposed ordinances to address the homelessness in our downtown core.

Mayor Linville with her big board

Mayor Linville with her big board

Starting with this “street-sweeper” ordinance, Linville is quick to correct me that this is about “the homeless issue.” She said these two ordinances were developed by a community solutions work group, “that brought together non-likeminded  people to look at solutions that can be enacted quickly to address this problem.” This solutions work group included city staff, downtown business owners, mental health professionals and social service workers with the goal of creating a downtown that was safe and welcoming to all walks of life. The Cascadia Weekly did a great article this week summarizing all the city’s efforts to tackle homelessness in Bellingham.

“The real issue is the failure to respond,” Linville said. “When you or I get a ticket, we usually do something about it, but there is a certain group of people that don’t.” Last year, 376 citations were handed out downtown for drinking in public. Linville says that of those 376, 50-60 are chronic offenders. “There was no teeth in responding to ordinances . . . this would make sure that we can hold them accountable and give them an opportunity to hook them up with services.”

ferndale tank

Meanwhile the Ferndale Police bought a tank . . .

Linville ties it into police discretion. “Cops are able to use this, but they don’t have to. It just gives them another tool they can use.” In the wake of Ferguson, and more recently, Pasco, WA, police enforcement can be a hot button issue, but Linville sees our local police differently and took a rare swipe at City Councilmember Terry Bornemann.

“During the discussion (over the ordinances), Terry said that he doesn’t trust the police to use discretion. I’m a little saddened that he would say something that hurtful in public.”

Linville notes that she has complete confidence in the Bellingham police to do the right thing, noting the recent community and neighborhood policing efforts. “(The ordinance) was written broadly because not responding to law enforcement is not good, but I trust that they will only enforce this when they don’t respond.”

Noble intentions, but Linville readily admits that “the introduction of these (ordinances) was clumsy,” something for which she takes full responsibility. However, she is confident that these are the right solutions and will be supported by the council.

James St. Repairs

James St. Repairs

Moving right along, I asked about my current pet peeve, the closing of James Street. The project, which was started in August of 2014, was projected to be complete by November, yet here we are in mid February and it is still closed. Why is it closed, I ask. “I don’t know,” Linville sighs and I shoot her my best questioning eyebrow.

“Some of it was the weather, part of it is the public works director took his attention from the project to other issues.” Although she briefly reassures me that Public Works Director Ted Carlson is “wonderful” and that the street should be finished by the “end of February.”

I asked Linville point blank if she was running for reelection, she said yes without pause but asked that I sit on it till Friday (which I did) so she can send out an email to her supporters. “I feel really good about what we do. I have a good record and I’m proud of it.” She notes that I’m the first news person to ask her about reelection.

Circling back to the waterfront, Linville stresses that she is very happy with how it is going. “We have made more progress when I was mayor than any other mayor before.” She points to the signing of the plan in 2013 with the port as a big step forward but “everything takes longer than you think it will.” But she is crystal clear about the final goal. “We’ll get the clean up we’re asking for . . . we can’t give people access to contaminated soil. Nothing’s perfect but I can see the progress we are making.”

With that, we wrap up the interview. This will, hopefully, be a recurring feature. So if there are some questions that you want answered, leave them in the comments below. In the meantime, I’ll go back to reading Sen. Doug Ericksen’s legislative proposals . . . blech.

Posted by: sweeneyblog | February 14, 2015

Rep. Kris Lytton’s 2015 Legislative Proposals

Last year was a frustrating year for many Democratic legislators, as the Republican-controlled Senate formed an almost impenetrable blockade against legislation from the House. That did not stop Rep. Kris Lytton (D-Anacortes) from bringing a fresh slew of bills to the table in 2015.

Rep. Kris Lytton

Rep. Kris Lytton

Lytton has recently ascended to Majority Floor Leader in the House, where she works with the Speaker of the House on scheduling votes for important legislation. She makes sure that they make it through the proper committees and out the door before key deadlines.

However these added responsibilities have not diminished her legislative output. As to be expected from the former School Board president, most of Lytton’s proposals involve Education. As always, click on the bill number to see the original text of the bill.

Sidenote: Last year, I made the mistake of referring to some of Lytton’s bills as “boring”. They are not, many of them tackle thorny issues and key fixes to our legislative code. That said, the issues are not always thrilling so I’ve added some exciting titles to help punch them up a bit.

Education

HB1950 - “Death to the Science Test for Graduation!” Obviously, that is not the official title for this bill but what it does is eliminate the science portion of the standardized testing requirement to graduate high school. Currently an End of Course biology test, based on the Common Core guidelines (AAGHH!!), is required for all high school students graduating in 2015 – this bill, requested by the State Board of Education, would remove that requirement.

Riley, I swear, if you call my bills "boring" again . . .

Riley, I swear, if you call my bills “boring” again . . .

When I graduated high school in 2004, schools were aggressively increasing the number of standardized tests required for graduation. By the time my younger brother graduated, he was required to pass a whole battery of test (called WASLs then) that took weeks out of the classroom and did little to enhance our understanding of the material.

Now we are seeing the pendulum swing back as the state struggles to find alternative methods for assessing learning. This bill is another skirmish in that ongoing struggle.

HB1743 – “Can’t I Just Take the GED with Paper and Pencil?” Last year, our community and technical colleges switched over to assessing the GED (now called the High School Equivalency or HSE) via computer. This bill would require an option that is low cost, does not require computer proficiency and still is appropriate for the people seeking a HSE diploma. This bill is listed as a “priority” for the Washington Education Association.

HB1345 - “No, ‘Juggling Goslings’ is not an appropriate training course for teachers.” Educators have to go through a chalkboard-ton of professional development courses. However, they do not always provide a great deal of benefit. This bill sets a statewide standards for what qualifies as training courses for teachers and principals and defines goals for that training. A prudent move.

Local Stuff

HB1868 - “County Road Funds Should Apply to Water Stuff in the San Juans”. This bill is remarkably straightforward. Co-sponsored by Rep. Jeff Morris (D-Mount Vernon), this bill would allow Counties that are made up of Islands (i.e. San Juan and Island Counties) to use their County Road funds for things like bridges, buoys, docks and the like, since most of their residents use those instead of roads to get around.

Rep. Kris Lytton

Reps. Morris and Lytton

HB1793 - “Let’s Get this Skagit River Basin Inflow Issue Worked Out.” Rural property owners in Skagit and the Department of Ecology have been crossing swords over the Inflow rules for the Skagit River Basin which restricts drilling wells. This bill would allow local municipalities to develop their own rules on alternative water sources (think Rain Barrels, Water Tanks, etc) for potable water that would give property owners a few more options.

“I’ve been working with the Skagit Public Utility District, the Swinomish Tribe, state agencies and others to come up with alternatives to wells,” Lytton said. “Some people want to fight the basin’s instream flow restrictions and the courts; I’d rather find solutions.”

HB1631 - “Tribes, Treaties, Taxes and Trust Land.” This is another absurdly specific but very important bill. Currently, the Governor can enter into agreements with some tribes over the proceeds from our Fuel Taxes. This bill would extend that option to tribes that meet the following criteria:

a) currently have land places in a Government trust,
b) located west of the Cascade Mountains
c) have the county has between 118,000 and 225,000 residents

See what I mean about absurdly specific? I’m guessing some preliminary discussions have taken place and this is just making sure that they can go forward without running afoul of current state law. UPDATE: We’ve narrowed it down to the Samish Tribe. Good detective work team!

Other Oddities

HB1742 - “Making Lots of Strawberry Jam in my Kitchen.” This bill is a repeat from the last couple of years. It concerns the “Cottage Food” industry, which is a fancy way of saying people who make agricultural products in their home. Currently, you cannot make more than $15,000 of income this way without having a whole slew of requirements kick in (stricter health inspections, labeling requirements, etc).

Cider versus Wine? Hmmm . . .

Cider versus Wine? Hmmm . . .

This bill boosts that cap to $25,000 but removes the automatic increases it was enjoying and allows the Department of Agriculture to raise that limit without legislative approval through their rulemaking process. Don’t worry, there are only 76 people in Washington that qualify for this, but I’m guessing one of them lives in the 40th district.

HB1179 “Cider is not Wine.” Currently, alcoholic Cider producers are required to pay dues to the Washington Wine Association. This bill would remove that requirement, resulting in the wine commission losing around $25,000 a year. Will Cider producers take this newly-freed up cash and use it to send me free liquor? A blogger can only dream.

HR4606 – “Aren’t County Fairs Great?!” This was a House Resolution (aka “Strongly-Worded Letter”) recognizing the value and importance of our local fairs. It passed earlier in this session with a dunk-tank full of co-sponsors.

That’s all for now. As we move through this legislative session, I’ll let you know which bills survived and which ones died a quiet death in committee. Next up, a closer look at Sen. Doug Ericksen’s legislation and yes, it is just as horrifying as you might think.

Posted by: sweeneyblog | February 12, 2015

BREAKING: Mayor Kelli Linville to Run for Reelection

Mayor Kelli Linville

Mayor Kelli Linville

Okay, a slight abuse of the “Breaking News” headline but yes, it is official: Kelli Linville is running for her second term as Mayor of Bellingham. In an email to supporters, she cited some of her accomplishments during these last three years,

We worked with the Port to get a waterfront plan adopted. We’ve partnered with Whatcom County to resolve our 911 emergency management system, to establish a county-wide emergency coordination center, and to create with our councils a strategy to protect and clean Lake Whatcom.

Currently, no one else has declared or even expressed any interest in running for mayor. Although I have hassled Michael Lilliquist as a “suspected mayoral candidate” for sometime now, he has been pretty adamant at refusing to take the bait. If Linville wins, she will be the first mayor of Bellingham to win reelection in over a decade (since Mark Asmundson won his second reelection campaign in 2003).

I was able to interview Linville on Tuesday and as part of that interview, asked about her plans for reelection and some of the thorny issues she currently faces as mayor. Stay tuned for that interview on Saturday.

Hello Loyal Readers,

Time for those nefarious Odds and Ends to once again inform and amuse you. Just a reminder, if checking my blog is just too much work, you can always subscribe by clicking the subscribe button to your right. That way you get an alert every time I post.

Dan Hammill

Councilman Dan Hammill

First, I wrote a few weeks ago about the oncoming battle of the titans between newly appointed Bellingham City Councilman Dan Hammill and At Large Councilwoman Roxanne Murphy, suggesting that she is considering running in the 3rd Ward.

Some had speculated that Hammill might slide over to the At Large seat, but no, he has officially filed for the 3rd and appointed Jenn Mason as his campaign manager.

“I look forward to continuing to serve the citizens of Bellingham as your Ward 3 Representative,” said Hammill. “The neighborhoods that I represent are the heart of Bellingham – from Lakeway and Toledo Hill to the York neighborhood, downtown and Sunnyland. I’ve lived in this ward for more than 23 years and it’s an honor to work for them on the City Council.”

Mason, a capable organizer in her own right with a long history of work for DVSAS and other worthwhile organizations also happens to be married to the outgoing chair of the Whatcom Democrats, Mike Estes. In other words, Hammill is bringing the big guns to the table.

Nick Kunkel - he's the one on the left

Nick Kunkel – he’s the one on the left

Meanwhile former legislative candidate, and frequent commenter on this blog, Nick Kunkel is planning to run in the 5th district against incumbent Terry Bornemann.

Kunkel, a libertarian, got squeezed out in the primary between Satpal Sidhu and Luanne Van Werven last year. Bornemann has not indicated if he is going to run for reelection or not – I’ve heard mixed reports.

The Move to Amend Whatcom group, an organization aimed at undoing the damage of the Citizen’s United decision, is bringing a big name speaker to town. From their announcement,

“Please join us February 19th as we host David Cobb, a fiery speaker and National Projects Director of Democracy Unlimited, to give his talk “Creating Democracy & Challenging Corporate Rule.” Part history lesson and part heart-felt call to action, David will tell the story of the American creation myth and the Constitution as it pertains to Corporate Personhood and illegitimate but legal corporate constitutional rights. “
The event will be held Thursday, February 19th, at 7 p.m. at the Bellingham Elks Club on Samish Way.
Michael Lilliquist standing on a sidewalk

Michael Lilliquist standing on a sidewalk

Finally, City Councilman Michael Lilliquist shared his thoughts on the controversial ordinance Linville is proposing that would forbid sitting on our streets and sidewalks.

Via his facebook page, he said the current laws against, “public intoxication, drinking in public, littering, public urination, blocking sidewalks” aren’t working. He thinks there needs to be a focus on more effective enforcement.

“I think focusing on homelessness is a bit off the point when it comes to these two proposed changes to the law. The problems that are being reported to the city do not have to do with homeless people in general, or even street people in general. This is about a small but persistent number of individuals. Homeless people benefit from help and opportunities. I think we’re talking about a different crew in these cases.”
Naturally, this issue will continue to draw strong critiques from both sides. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. With all the wind, it should be a crazy evening tonight, stay safe out there.
Posted by: sweeneyblog | February 5, 2015

Rep. Vincent Buys 2015 Legislative Proposals

Rep. Vincent Buys

Rep. Vincent Buys

Rep. Vincent Buys, fresh from his reelection in 2014, is back in Olympia with a whole slew of new legislative proposals. In the past, Buys faced criticism (yes on this very blog) for his underachievement – he has only passed four bills in four years – but last year his proposals eschewed the red meat conservative ideas of his seatmate Rep. Jason Overstreet and instead centered around small fixes in farming law.

Much of state lawmaking is about tackling these sorts of small-scale updates, and this year Buys has proposed a similar slate of fixes.

I’ve broken them into four categories; Agriculture, Independent Contractors, Local Stuff and Huh?! As always, click on the bill number to read the actual details of the bill if my summary isn’t detailed enough for your tastes.

Agriculture

HB1268 - Hemp Seed for Animal Feed. This bill is actually a repeat from last year where it got some traction but didn’t make it all the way through both houses before the cutoff. It has drawn bipartisan support (including co-sponsorship from Rep. Kris Lytton of the 40th) and allows hemp seeds to be used in animal feed.

Rep. Vincent Buys

Rep. Vincent Buys

HB1267 - Addressing Water Rights with Micro-irrigation. This bill would create a new, temporary process for certain water users who have transitioned to a more efficient irrigation technology to change their place of water use with the Department of Ecology.

I have to admit, water rights are not my area of expertise but by reading the non-partisan staff report, this seems pretty mundane. It specifically targets those farmers switching to micro-irrigation systems and creates a process for them to adjust their water rights without changing their place in line.

HB1270 – Let’s Greenlight Three New Salmon Hatcheries. The first sentence really covers it. This bill directs the Department of Fish and Wildlife to approve three non-profit qualified organizations to hatch more salmon and reduce the amount of fishing in hatchery impact areas.

HB1269 – Continuing the Dairy Inspection Program Assessment. That’s right, this bill, co-sponsored with freshly minted legislator Rep. Van Werven, delays the assessment of our dairy producer inspection program. Keep gathering info, dairy inspectors!

HB1338 – Concerning the Diversion of certain Municipal Waters. Ominous title but this bill is relatively simple. And a bad idea. It would allow someone to discharge a bunch of waste water into the Nooksack (yes, specifically the Nooksack) and then withdraw the same amount downstream for crop irrigation purposes. So rather than treating the waste water, let’s just toss it in the river and grab some downstream. What could possibly go wrong there?

Independent Contractor

After Buys career as a flight attendant but before he became a legislator, Buys was an independent contractor. Although he no longer has an active business license as a contractor, he has proposed a series of bills relating to how contractors operate. If you think HVAC systems are fascinating, read on!

Rep. Vincent Buys

Rep. Vincent Buys

HB1608 – Concerning the Replacement of like-in-kind Household Appliances. Did you know there are specific sorts of electricians who handle HVAC systems? This bill would create a certification/licensing process for them. Boring but practical.

HB1291 – Credentialing Requirements for the installation of Residential Fire Protection Sprinkler Systems. This bill has a few fixes for licensing sprinkler system installers. It extends the licensing requirement to the people who design the systems and limits the ability of municipalities to require licenses for systems (centralizing the requirements in state law, rather than different municipalities).

HB1289 - Modifying the Procedure for Changing the Washington state Energy Code. This bill is right out of the ALEC playbook – it makes it more difficult to change our building requirements. Specifically, changes may be only made if  “. . . they maintain and promote a competitive business climate based on an evaluation of economic, technical, and process factors.” It directs the state to reduce the number of changes made to the code and “evaluate impacts of adopting the Code on small businesses and reduce the costs imposed on small businesses.”

HB1575 - Regulating Retainage Bonds on Public Contracts. This would require a 5% retainage bond on all public contracts. What’s a retainage bond? Basically, it is part of a contractor’s payment that is held in reserve and distributed if the project is completed on time and to specifications. Not a terrible idea actually, but the legislation is pretty broad.

HB1754 – Requiring Disclosure of Subcontractors on large Public Projects. Basically this bill requires the main contractor on public projects over $1 million dollars to list the subcontractor who handles the siding and exterior coverings of the walls (i.e. the “building envelope”) as part of the description before the bid is approved.

Local Stuff

HB1266 – Creating a Task Force to examine Irrigation District Elections. This bill, as it states in the title, creates a local task force to examine the process and technology involved in irrigation district elections. Looking around, I couldn’t find any examples of irrigation district elections that raised any eyebrows (or even any interest . . . at all). Is this a solution in search of a problem or is there some situation I missed?

HB1381 – Extends tax credits for the Aluminum Smelters. Basically, every state legislator with an aluminum smelter in their district (including Rep. Kris Lytton and Rep. Jeff Morris) is sponsoring this bill to extend their tax credits until 2022 for a cost of $15.5 million dollars.

Huh?!

Alright, admit it. You skipped right to this section didn’t you? If you enjoyed this write-up, feel free to toss a few dollars in the tip jar to keep this site running strong. Okay, back to the legislative write-up.

So dreamy . . .

So dreamy . . .

HB1272 – Criminalizing Sexting. This bill would create criminal charges for the wrongful distribution of intimate pictures. This was a bill Buys had been working on last year that didn’t make the cut. It has drawn a few co-sponsors but has not gone very far.

Buys refers to this as “revenge porn,” where former romantic partners share images garnered during the relationship, but I worry about the overly broad language and youthful idiots.

Now that everyone has a camera attached to an email account in their pocket, this law could be applied to quite a few situations. This issue definitely needs to be addressed, I’m just not sure this is the right way to go about it. In the meantime, I’ll share my favorite beefcake picture of Rep. Vincent Buys on the right.

 HB1271 – Increasing Rock Collecting opportunities on State Lands. When reading through bad legislation, they usually fall into three categories: really boring, overly specific and completely weird. This bill falls right in the center of that Venn diagram. It would allow overeager rock gatherers to purchase a permit to collect rocks on state land as an add-on to their Discover Pass.

From the bill, “Rock collecting is a hobby enjoyed by entire families and is an educational experience for school children that can separate them from electronic screens and create a lifetime bond with the outdoors and with nature.”

Yes, our educational system is chronically underfunded, climate change is a growing challenge, and our retail marijuana system needs some refinement, but thank goodness we have Rep. Buys working on the vital rock collecting issue.

That is it for all the bills that Buys has been a primary sponsor of this year.  He has been involved in the “Ag-gag” bill which I am covering separately over the weekend. Also, stay tuned for Rep. Kris Lytton’s bills on cider making.

Charlie Crabtree, chair of the Whatcom Republicans, sent out a rather unusual call to action to his email followers today over the Whatcom Conservation District election.

Joy Monjure

Joy Monjure

Background: Former Everson City Councilwoman, legislative candidate, farming enthusiast and my favorite person from last year, Joy Monjure, has decided to run for a supervisor position of the Whatcom Conservation District.

This public entity (the district, not Monjure) provides information and resources to landowners on best ways to conserve water, and use their land responsibly.

The supervisor position is publicly elected through a strange process where you request a ballot first and then vote. You have to request one by Feb 9th – you can do so by clicking here.

Previously, this position was held by Republican party office Larry Helm. Now Joy Monjure is stepping up to lend her twenty years of experience with farming and land use to the position.

Naturally, this terrifies Crabtree, who sent out this email. Note: all spelling and grammar errors are his, not mine.

ALL VOTERS IN WHATCOM COUNTY ARE ELIGIBLE.
A Special Election not run by the Auditor, is happening in Whatcom County, you will NOT get a ballot unless you request one.

Larry Helm is running to be re-elected as Whatcom Conservation District supervisor. He was first elected in 2012 and has served one 3 year term. The other person who’s filed for this position ran against Rep. Vincent Buys as a democrat last year, Joy Monjure.

Unverified Reports have come to the Fourth Corner that door belling is going on in downtown Bellingham for Larry Helm’s opponent. Whether the doorbelling is paid by Tom Steyer interest as in last year’s elections we don’t know.

RUN FOR THE HILLS! Tom Steyer may be involved!

This is my favorite picture of Charlie Crabtree

This is my favorite picture of Charlie Crabtree

This isn’t the first time Crabtree has completely missed the mark. Two years ago, he blamed an editorial in the Herald on John Stark, who was a reporter and has nothing to do with the editorial section.

Similarly, after the county council drubbing his party received in 2013, he complained that Ken Mann and Carl Weimer weren’t really elected to their positions because their districts didn’t vote for them nearly as much as the 1st district did – apparently unclear how “at-large” voting works.

I politely recommend that Mr. Crabtree take several deep breaths, perhaps into a paper bag if that will help. For everyone else who reads this blog, please go ahead and request a ballot so that you may vote for the talented and resourceful Joy Monjure.

Hello Loyal Readers,

Time for another Friday Odds and Ends, all the news that is fit to print, but not big enough to justify its own post. No time to waste, let’s dive right in!

Bertha

Bertha

Sen. Doug Ericksen, flush from his victory over Seth Fleetwood, proposed a rather odd piece of legislation. He, along with Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane), proposed killing Bertha. What is Bertha? The giant drill that was burrowing a tunnel to replace the Seattle Viaduct. Currently, it is stuck and Seattle has been working to unstick it for the last couple of months. So Ericksen and Baumgartner decided to swoop in and propose burying it where it lies and abandoning the project.

Why would Ericksen want to meddle with a project in Seattle? It is a huge infrastructure investment in the same community that sent several thousand dollars to fund Seth Fleetwood. What better way to showcase his disdain than shutting down their project.

So what’s Baumgartner’s excuse? He’s running for state-wide office in 2016 and will need a higher profile – what better way to endear himself to the rest of the state than thumbing his nose at Seattle. The Governor’s office has already gone on record opposing the bill and the Republican head of the transportation committee has indicated he does not support it.

Kelli Linville at Occupy Bellingham

Kelli Linville at Occupy Bellingham

Meanwhile, Mayor Kelli Linville has proposed a rather controversial ordinance that would grant the Police wide authority to ticket or arrest anyone who is sitting or lying down on our sidewalks in the downtown and Fairhaven areas of our city. Naturally, this drew some outrage from civil libertarians, poverty advocates and people who are waiting for the bus and want to sit down. Definitely a far cry from Linville’s original support of the Occupy Bellingham.

The text of the ordinance focuses on pedestrian safety (tripping over people sitting on the sidewalk), but it is pretty clear that this is aimed squarely at the addressing the appearance of homelessness in our community. Definitely a far cry from Linville’s original support of the Occupy Bellingham movement. Expect this issue to grow as it makes its way through the council and into election season.

Finally, a quick clarification from a previous article about Sam Crawford’s retirement. In describing the 2009 appointment saga with Ward Nelson, Pete Kremen, Sam Crawford and Rud Browne, I wrote a rather clumsy sentence that implied that Rud Browne proposed an ordinance to acquit Nelson after the fact . Browne was on the ethics committee that acquitted Nelson but it was Crawford who proposed the ordinance to legitimize the entire scuzzy business. Sorry for the confusion. You can get all the details here.

That’s all for now. I had an article about Rep. Vincent Buys (R-Lynden) legislative proposals but it got delayed because I’m confirming a few policy details. Should go live tomorrow.

Posted by: sweeneyblog | January 29, 2015

Sidhu and Kershner to Apply for Crawford’s Seat

I was all geared up to write an article about Kathy Kershner and Satpal Sidhu’s applications to the County Council, and Ralph Schwartz with the Bellingham Herald beat me to it. Bravo, Ralph! So first go read that, and then consider this a supplemental for all those interested in the insider baseball of this situation.

Make no mistake, the decision will come down to Kershner and Sidhu. There will be a few more that throw their hat in the ring but at the end of the day, these are the heavy weights.

Kershner brings four years of experience on the council but was rejected by the voters in 2013. Central to that election were some pretty brutal votes she cast her first year. She was elected in part by the Tea Party and her early votes to slash domestic violence prevention and funding for the food bank came back to haunt her.

Sidhu brings an impressive resume (Dean of Bellingham Technical College, business owner (The Spice Hut) and investor, Electrical Engineer) and his conservative Democratic perspective served him well in his run in the 42nd legislative district against Van Werven where he outpaced the other two Democrats last year but he did not prevail.

To get the nomination, each candidate has to get four votes or three votes and Jack Louws’ blessing. Here’s why each one may get the nod:

Kathy Kershner and bird

Kathy Kershner and bird

Kathy Kershner will get the seat because . . . Pete Kremen likes her. The Almighty Mustache endorsed her in 2013 over the Democrat in that race (Barry Buchanan) and has been a consistent supporter.

Kershner also has a close working relationship with Ken Mann – when she sat on the council, she was frequently able to pull him over for votes.However, the ugly county council election in 2013 put them in opposite tribes which may have cooled their relationship.

If Kershner manages to pull Mann, Kremen and Brenner, they will deadlock the council which will allow Jack Louws to appoint Kershner.

Satpal Sidhu

Satpal Sidhu

Satpal Sidhu will get the seat because . . . the council is facing some large infrastructure and economic development projects (The New Jail, the Slater Road development, etc) and his engineering experience could be a vital to providing meaningful oversight.

Furthermore, Sidhu would be a big step forward in terms of diversity for a community that has had a difficult and racist history towards the Sikhs. With Rud Browne looking for another business-minded thinker on the council and Barry Buchanan looking to block his former opponent from sitting next to him on the council, it may be a simple manner to convince Carl Weimer and Ken Mann to support Sidhu.

Is it in the bag for one candidate or the other? Of course not. The council will deliberate and take their time. No matter how the appointment turns out, I imagine the final struggle will be at the ballot box this year since whoever gets appointed would immediately have to run for election.

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