Posted by: sweeneyblog | September 27, 2013

Friday Odds and Ends: Jail Hearing and Debate Dodgers

Hello Loyal Readers,

It is a finally Fall! Time to drag out the long sweaters and set your election countdown clocks to 38 days remaining. Oh, you don’t have an election countdown clock? Mine is digital!

Last night, I attended the Public Hearing on the New Jail. It was held in the Ferndale Council Chambers . . . and the house was packed. Almost every chair was taken and several people stood in the back and along the sides. Over 50 citizens attended (not counting staff and jail planners) and the testimony was gripping. Almost every single speaker asked for a facility of 521 beds and funding for mental health services.

The DLR Group meets with Jack Louws

The DLR Group meets with Jack Louws

The staff was very respectful, even when some of the testimony strayed off topic. County Executive Jack Louws and Ferndale Mayor Gary Jensen were both in attendance listening to the people’s concerns.  

The same could not be said of the jail planners. One member of the DLR group (the woman pictured left) stood off to the side and literally rolled her eyes or gave off heavy sighs at every other speaker. I kept thinking, “We are paying you $400,000 – the least you could do is pretend you are interested in the public’s input.”

But back to the issue at hand, the public response to this EIS was crystal clear: We do not need a facility of 649 beds and we need to fund programs that reduce our jail needs such as mental health court, juvenile justice and a court reminder call system. I hope the County Council and the Executive take this under consideration as we move forward with this project.

Ben Elenbaas

Ben Elenbaas dodges ANOTHER debate

In tragic news, the North Sound Media Alliance was forced to cancel their candidate debate because Ben Elenbaas, Kathy Kershner and Michelle Luke refused to participate. Bill Knutzen had originally considered attending but with his compatriots flaking out, I imagine he would have joined them. All of the liberal candidates agreed to debate. I’m left once again scratching my head.

The North Sound Media Alliance is a non-partisan organization with a wide spectrum of members, the debate was to be moderated by members of the League of Women Voters, it was to be held on neutral ground in the County Council chambers . . . and still the conservatives bailed.

They had no problem appearing before the Tea Party and the Building Industry Association, but appearing before the alternative media of Whatcom County? They took a pass. I’m disappointed that those who are running for public office feel they don’t need to discuss their views in public. This sort of closed door attitude is toxic to democracy and open process.

Next week, I should have another dive into who is financing our political candidates and an interview with a school board candidate. 



  1. What is it about “conservatives” that they can’t abide public scrutiny of their views? What complete disrespect they show to people they assume do not agree with them What COWARDICE! Just a bunch of Georgie-Porgies, running away from open debate.

  2. Its not cowardice. It’s a strategic decision to avoid any forum that contrasts environmentalism with the needs of capital. This results in less publicity. If the left in Bellingham doesn’t develop a counter strategy to right wing avoidance of debate; voter participation will remain lukewarm.

  3. I concur that refusal by the above-mentioned candidates to participate in these debates is a strategic move and so far it has been a tactical success. This is hardly surprising given the context in which it occurred.

    First of all, the ostensibly “conservative” candidates adhere to a largely rejectionist ideology and, in common with other such theorists, they do not appear to be troubled by incongruities of circumstance or fact. Witness the willful, costly and quixotic series of lawsuits against the state development plan. Therefore, they have no motive whatsoever to debate anyone since the platform, narrowly defined as to benefit a particular constituency at public expense, is probably indefensible against logical argument (not that I’ve seen one presented here in Whatcom County by either party).

    Second, there are no ramifications for candidates who refuse to participate. Given the strictures placed on stating positions on particular contentious issues (such as the coal terminal) by the county’s “legal consultant” and the complete adherence to this gag rule by all parties, there’s really nothing to debate: the whole thing is moot. Everyone tacitly recognizes who will do what on a given issue but we are asked to vote on “trust” or “character” rather than on accountable and reasoned thinking, open to public scrutiny.

    Finally, the local political scene is sufficiently polarized such that practically nobody will “switch sides”. So-called “undecided” voters may or may not be a significant constituency (nationally, they don’t appear to factor in as such) and they may or may not be swayed by advertising. I rather doubt they attend “debates”.

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