Posted by: sweeneyblog | January 29, 2012

Bellingham No-Coal Group Kicks Off Efforts

This Thursday, Coal-Free Bellingham, kicked off their initiative effort to seize the legal authority to stop Coal shipments through their town. I attended, with my ever-lovely wife, their main event, although other commitments meant I couldn’t stay for the whole production. We attended mostly because we were curious but also to ensure that the effort was covered in some fashion, but the traditional media was there in force. So rather than duplicate the efforts of the Herald, or the Komo News affiliate, I will just share my general impressions and a few pictures.

A Packed House

Firstly, I was impressed by the size and scope of the crowd. That hall was packed (see pictures). I estimated over 140 people crammed in there and with more coming and going through out the event. I know opposition to the Gateway Pacific Terminal draws quite a bit of support, but I was impressed by the sheer turnout of people.

In a similar vein, I was surprised by the variety of people there. From where I was standing, I saw some die-hard conservatives, my favorite future Sheriff, some organizers from the Progressive Majority caucus, and most importantly, a ton of people I didn’t recognize. As the mayor’s race proved, this issue motivates a whole slew of people who would not otherwise be very politically involved. Speaking of the Mayor’s race, Dan Pike was there, politely listening and hobnobbing with the attendees.

Rick Dubrow warming up the crowd

The major thing that struck me was the professionalism of the presentation. The whole event was very smoothly run, from check-in where I received my press packet, to the small children selling buttons in the aisles, to the presentation kicked off by Rick Dubrow and Cindy Franklin.

I have been to clumsier candidate kickoffs. A great deal of thought and planning is going into this effort. There was video cameras and professional lighting to go with the presentation. In short, it was a well-oiled machine.

So what does this mean for Whatcom County? I think that hinges on whether the initiative’s legal strategy could work. It is deliberately not duplicating the efforts of other groups like RE-Sources, Futurewise, or the unsuccessful efforts of the local Washington Conservation Voters this last campaign cycle (see here for more details). Instead, they are fixing upon the point that the citizens of any municipality can reclaim their rights through direct democracy.

It makes me wonder how many in the room would say the same applies to the “No Cameras” initiative that was passed in Bellingham last year, but the courts ruled was not legally binding. It was another group that sought to use direct democracy to stop an effort by local municipalities to install something with which the people disagreed.

We here at the Political Junkie are curious to see how this effort unfolds over the year. I think at a minimum, it shows that the issue will still resonate with a core group of organizers, and will have an effect on the election to come.



  1. […] the people’s right to regulate commerce through the city, so they can block the coal trains. I covered their first public meeting here. They are not associated with Power Past Coal, so I asked Petryni for his opinion on […]

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