Posted by: sweeneyblog | July 31, 2013

Conservative County Candidates Refuse to Participate in Forum on Growth

Despite the fact that (almost) all the progressive candidates showed up for the Tea Party forum in July, the conservative candidates refused to attend a forum hosted by RE Sources and Futurewise about zoning, growth issues and water quality.

Ben Elenbaas

Ben Elenbaas

The forum, which was scheduled for tomorrow, would have been a discussion about some of the most pressing issues facing the Whatcom County Council, yet the conservative candidates either refused (Ben Elenbaas and Bill Knutzen) or just blew it off (Kathy Kershner and Michelle Luke). There could not be a clearer comparison between the candidates.

The progressive candidates (Weimer, Mann, Buchanan and Browne) are willing to engage with people outside their comfort zone, answering questions hosted by somewhat hostile groups, while the conservative candidates refuse to appear without guaranteeing that the referee is on their side.

Is this the sort of behavior we want to encourage in our elected officials? Growth issues, zoning concerns and water quality are huge issues on the county level and would account for easily half the material they confront on the council. To duck the one forum that explicitly deals with these concerns is shockingly disappointing.

The forum has been cancelled as a result of the conservative candidate’s unwillingness to attend, leaving Whatcom County in the dark about their views on a whole range of issues.

The next opportunity to see the candidates will be the Building Industry Association candidate debate on Sept. 18th. The cost to attend this event is $15 a person, naturally the progressive AND conservative candidates have RSVP-ed already.



  1. Actually, I was pleased that they refused to attend..but only because the justification invoked by Knutzen was so overwhelmingly (and, I suppose unintentionally) revealing. I am referring to his citation of his Fifth Amendment “right to remain silent”, this in lieu of disclosing his political agenda which, he claims, will be “used against him”. This statement and the insights into his thought processes it provides is so strikingly ironic that it really cannot be adequately parodied.

  2. Clean drinking water is a vital issue to people in Bellingham. Do they plan to go the entire election season ignoring and avoiding their constituents?

  3. Check your facts Sweeney. Rud Browne missed the Tea Party forum as did Pinky. I’m sure they are hiding something:)

    • I agree, but Rud Browne missing the forum for a family wedding is different than the entire conservative slate deciding to blow off a forum. If every Democratic candidate for County Council decided to skip the Tea Party forum, I would write an equally scathing critique.

      • hmmmm no excuse for the Pinky absence? From what I hear wining and dining donors was much more important that talking to the folks. THAT is not ok. Deciding that you will not participate in a negative forum set up by folks who regularly sue, is just wise if you ask me. See once folks start suing all dialogue shuts down….that is the true shame. PS. I’ll be waiting for your blog post on why Pinky didn’t show. I dare you to write one;)

      • That’s because there is no excuse for Pinky’s absence, I was highly disappointed that she chose not to attend. My endorsements will reflect that.

    • Indeed. And perhaps you are privy to the hidden agenda. Instead of being coy, you might wish to share it with the readership rather than simply offering vaguely sinister insinuations.

      • what KAC said…

    • Pinky here, I’m curious if it occured to anyone to ask ME why I wasn’t at the Forum.

      These public forums are excellent for public discourse and it was very disappointing for me that I could not be in two places at once. I had made a previous commitment, months before and I honored it.

      We had multiple communications with the facilitators, looking for options. I inquired how I could represent myself without being there. Even if I could arrive later. They agreed I could have a statement read at the event. Then onsite refused to allow Iris to read it or talk to anyone. In-fact offered no explanation for my absence even though they knew why.

      Any other questions, want more details? or call me. Pinky

  4. Nice little commentary, nice couple of responses. It encouraged me to post this on my site:


  5. you would think that the R’s would admire a group that ‘regularly sue’ since the courts are the first place the right-wing goes when they don’t get their way…in fact their macro-strategy since the Reagan years has been to pack the federal courts with conservatives, which they have done successfully…more recently they filed w/the Supreme court to stop vote-counting in Florida (Bush V Gore), and since then, the same method to stop the Affordable Care Act and to continue the Defense of Marriage Act,and hundreds of smaller actions in between……they know that were these things decided popularly they would lose… On a funny note, I got called a “Communist” the other day by the guy who owns the Buy Gold & Silver business next to UPS on Meridian…I would have made a clever retort, but I was laughing so hard that all I could get out was, “Wow, I haven’t been called a communist since 1982, does anyone use that term anymore outside of political science and history classes?”

  6. I was out of town when I read the first article about them all declining to show, and was stunned that Knutzen invoked Miranda. I suppose that means in the future, their response to any questions about growth management or the environment will be, “Property rights,” and then pleading the Fifth.

  7. You can’t really compare the Tea People forum with this one since serious questions were on tab here expecting serious answers,
    while lighthearted fun and frolic was the call at the Tea Panel.
    You can’t blame activists for your troubles when they’re in the audience and you can’t justify your ineffectiveness by pleading Biblical references or anecdotes about berry farms or scapegoating Lummis as non-residents or working from ‘the ground up’ so as not to be one of you.
    The Tea Party Forum was farce and theater with questions coming from supporters who really weren’t too interested in the answers,
    whilst this one was to be for real with actual facts and policy required.
    Candidate Knutzen criticized Rud Browne for skipping-out at that gathering and stated that he would ‘continue to show-up for everything’.
    Unless he doesn’t.

    • It is true that about 75% of the Tea Party forum questions had absolutely nothing to do with anything County Council actually controls or decides. A debate on land use and county policy is a much higher, thornier bar to clear.

      • Still and all,
        if what you believe has any validity,
        you should be able to support it factually or at least philosophically in front of anyone.
        If you can’t,
        you don’t belong in any campaign for public office.

      • of course their questions/answers had nothing to do with anything we can impact…that’s what being an ideologue means…and there’s nothing wrong with ideologues, you just don’t want them running anything…

  8. If the Tea Party was an organization that spearheaded lawsuits against the county frequently, I wonder if the progressive candidates would have hesitated to go? That aspect does make it a little bit apples and oranges… but at the end of the day, it was chickenhearted to not show. Elected people must come and answer to the people. Period.

    • Would a progressive candidate take personal offense at a Tea Party lawsuit against the county for noncompliance with state law?
      Hardly because,
      unlike the Tea Party and the Republicans at large,
      there’s nobody in the progressive community that would sanction such childishness or coddle the immature candidate with comfort over being one.

    • Probably depends a bit on the outcome of those lawsuits. The recent ones have not been kind to positions taken by KKLE, so they’re going to be pretty exposed on the merits of the discussion. Essentially their only argument at this point is continued anarchy, er, nullification.

      I do tend to think a more moderate council rolls with the punches a little easier than one that is ideologically extreme. In debates they’re a little more at ease with shrugging and saying, “We lost; we were wrong.”

  9. as a body politic we’re a joke…we take ourselves far too seriously, and we make a mockery of a very serious societal situation…it isn’t about this wetland, or that tax, or this personality ot that one; it isn’t about ‘tyranny’ or lefties or righties or any such thing… the proper response to most of what I observe is laughter, not cynicism, but laughter

  10. Since the event was cancelled and Mann, Browne, Weimer and Buchanan had the time, why didn’t they wonder over to the Fish and Wildlife Service presentation and input gathering event on Lake Whatcom Water quality?

    If I were a candidate (almost certainly never will be) I would have gone to the bloodletting planned by Futurewise and Resources but, I can certainly see why the candidates did not. If the purpose of the event had actually been to explore growth and environmental issues the two groups would have invited port candidates, county council candidates, city council candidates and mayoral candidates. The Cities and the Port have as much or more to do than the County does in addressing growth and environmental issues.

    Because most of those having influence over the growth and environment discussion were excluded by Futurewise and Resources it was clear the event was invalid as a serious examination of growth and environmental issues but would have provided great target practice. Most of the crabbing has been about the fact that the deer declined to position itself in front of the gunsight.

    • How odd that you might view an informational open house candidate discussion as a ‘bloodletting’.
      Presumably the blood would be spilled by those without a leg to stand on but wouldn’t that be their own doing?
      In a conservative world where we’re all responsible for ourselves,
      why scapegoat either the sponsors or the intent of the forum when candidates fail to appear and provide answers?
      You can’t invite too many participants to any type of serious discussion because then none of them has sufficient time to explain anything.
      You’ll just get another Tea Cozy without meaning but maybe that’s your intent.

    • without expressly taking sides between davedoran and jack, as a professional writer, I can’t remember when I read better in a provincial setting…at least not since my days in Texas (6th generation I am…yeah, I know) where Whatcom County, perhaps unfairly, was a model for the stereotype with which my knuckle-dragging fellow Texans succeeded in making the national discussion about god, gays, and guns. Y’all are great, and both talented…please continue:-)

      • I’m with you, Mr. Petree’s writing is lively and entertaining and he gets his point across in a very articulate way I can never quite understand.
        But at least he’s willing to converse which is the mark of any true gentleperson who uses words to any measured effect.

  11. So have two forums…

    I wonder if you noticed the irony of your calling the event “an informational open house” that everyone should have gone to while at the same time Kathy K is being raked over the coals for attending an open house, information gathering event regarding Lake Whatcom (yes, the pun was intended). Even more fun, Kathy went to the event regarding Lake Whatcom and Lisa comes unglued because no one is paying attention to our drinking water source… hummmmmm.

    • The ‘open house’ is the audience part – plenty of room, no cover charge, no political affiliation required, nobody taking names or saving seats.
      The ‘informational’ is the candidate part – pertinent questions regarding past and future policies with lots of time for specifics.
      Four council seats and eight hopefuls with somewhat different ideas about the place and how to arrange it and every candidate should have gone.
      One venue, one forum, one time, one major topic, no excuses.
      True irony might be excusing Kershner’s absence at the event while berating the rest of the invitees for not following her out the door.

  12. huh?

    • A fitting tribute to your philosophy.

  13. Ben Elenbaas wasn’t present because he had some important private matters. So I ask you take that picture down and be a little bit more respectful. I believe 100% in freedom of speech as long as you are respectful and tasteful.

    • Oh I Do have to say good job at the city council meeting
      on marijane

      • Thank you.

    • If he had a personal matter to take care of (like Michelle Luke did) I would be more lenient, but he told the Bellingham Herald it was because he objected to the Futurewise hosting the forum.

      “Mann’s opponent, Ben Elenbaas, who owns and operates a farm near Lynden, said he won’t participate in the forum because of the tactics used by its organizers to further their causes.
      Futurewise has filed sweeping challenges to the county’s rules for rural land use. Elenbaas, as a planning commissioner, helped shape those rules, which Futurewise says have been too permissive toward commercial interests and not sufficient for limiting sprawl.”

      That’s what I took issue with. If you can’t make it, that’s one thing, but choosing to dodge a forum because you politically disagree with a few of the hosts is disappointing.

  14. stand by your piece…if it had been a political cartoon it would have been funny; had it been a democrat like, say, the president w/a Hitler mustache or a bone in his nose, it would have been offensive and ridiculous; as it is it’s a photo with a benign statement which anyone with the stuff to be an elected official would have shrugged-off…It’s a ‘grow-up’ moment for the candidate and his supporters. It’s politics, not Montessori School.

  15. […] do you think about the conservative candidates this year dodging the debates? ”I did not turn up to the Tea Party forum because I was committed to a wedding – at […]

  16. […] this debate. Personally, I’m just pleased to see Elenbaas showing up for a debate, after his repeated debate dodging. Mann highlights his votes to defend the WIC program in 2010 – “those are the kind of […]

  17. […] facilities throughout the county, damaging our farmlands and financially benefiting Elenbaas. He repeatedly refused to debate in neutral forums and dodged multiple events. Vote […]

  18. […] Elenbaas, former candidate for County Council, lost to Ken Mann last year. Also, related to Jason […]

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