Posted by: sweeneyblog | September 9, 2014

Who Will Be Appointed to Lehman’s City Council Seat?

There are a great deal of rumors flying around about who will be appointed to fill out the remainder of Cathy Lehman’s term on the city council. The basics are this: the person is chosen by the city council in Dec/Jan, they will serve from January till the end of 2015. During this time, they will almost immediately have to start running for reelection, since that seat is up in November of 2015. The council must come to an agreement within 30 days or the mayor will get to make the appointment.

City Hall

City Hall

When I asked the council members what they are looking for in a candidate, most said variations on the same themes. “Independent thinker”, “ready from day one” and “willing to ask questions”. The council has grappled with how to best provide oversight for the strong mayor’s office – a fact of which the council members are very aware. However, most of the people I spoke with said that appointing a “caretaker” to the position, someone who would merely fill out the last year and not run for reelection, is very unlikely.

Gender is also brought up as a key factor. With the total number of women on the council dwindling down to two, many political movers and shakers I spoke with expressed an interest in appointing a qualified and capable woman to maintain some semblance of balance.

When it comes to naming names, the councilmembers themselves have been rather tight-lipped about who is interested, although most agreed that they would rather come to an agreement rather than have the decision default to Mayor Linville.

Working with my friend and fellow blogger John Servais of NWCitizen, I have compiled a list of some of the rumored candidates. I generally try to avoid rumors and speculation on this blog but because of the nature of this appointment, I believe this these smoky room discussion should be dragged into the light.

Without further ado, here are some of the people who we have heard mentioned as potential candidates for Lehman’s seat:

Bill Geyer
Larry Farr
Doug Starcher
Dan McShane
Alexandra Wiley
Rebecca Johnson
Arlene Feld
Jim Bjerke
Kate Blystone
Wendy Harris
Cerise Noah
Clayton Petree

Roxanne Murphy, currently the At Large Rep

Roxanne Murphy, currently the At Large Rep

Now some of you may be going, “Waitaminute Riley, those people don’t all live in the 3rd Ward!”. That’s because the most likely person to be appointed to Lehman’s seat in the 3rd Ward is . . . Roxanne Murphy, currently serving as the “At-Large” representative. Murphy actually lives in the 3rd ward and would be eager not to run for reelection every two years. This would allow the council to draw from a larger pool of potential applicants for the appointment.

If you feel comfortable adding to the list or crossing your own name off the list, feel free to comment below or send me an email here.

Servais here.  The above was written by Riley and he covered it well.  Over the past few weeks we have both reached out to political players to learn who is in the running.  The nature of political reporting is the sources are strictly the politicians and operatives who purposely give out false info in hopes of advancing their cause, as well as giving out true information but only to those who might futher the cause.  Political watching is not a verifiable process and we all need to take this information with a touch of skepticism.

We share a desire to inform the public so more citizens can participate in the process.  With this information. you can ask specific questions of your council reps and express your approval or concern about specific possible appointees.  More citizens can participate – and that is something the powerful local political operatives do not want as it weakens their power.  We run our websites to inform citizens and voters.

There may be other persons being considered.  If you hear of one, let one of us know and we will check it out.  This appointment is very important to city council decisions in 2015.  Over the next two years we will probably see at least 3 and probably 4 council seats change.  Our council is in a time of more quick changes than perhaps in the past several decades.  All six remaining council members have an obligation to listen to the hopes and concerns of any citizen on this issue of appointing a 7th council member.   This is a city wide issue, not just a 3rd Ward issue.  This is not just for the six council members to quietly form up a secret concensus and drop it on us on January 5.  And so Riley and I bring you this information.

Let us not be surprised on January 5.  This appointment will be someone who is supposed to represent all of us.  Share what you may know with us.



  1. I like your “suggestion” on how to game the process. This is the 5th estate at work. I hope the Council will at least consider it.

  2. Bill Geyer, Dan McShane, Wendy Harris ALL have conflicts of interest and should be removed as possibilities and replaced with TEA Party candidates to give “a little” to the Radical Left Wing City Council.

    • This not a Tea Party town, so forget that idea. Many of us are trying to save this area from corporate polluters. The Tea Party is not. However, we do need candidates who are open to all healthy ideas and can politely discuss the ideas and questions of anyone willing to ask. Emotional and personally attacking emails or blogs or twitters should be unacceptable.

      I hope some of the potential candidates reply to this site so we can know them.

      How about asking Dan Pike to take over till the end of the year? His entries on Coal Stop are most impressive and his name would be back in the pool for the eventual mayor’s race.

      • I forgot this is The People’s Republic of Bellingham.

        Dan Pike of “traffic camera” fame?


    Bill Geyer, Dan McShane, Wendy Harris ALL have conflicts of interest and should be removed as possibilities and replaced with TEA Party candidates to give “a little” BALANCE to the Radical Left Wing City Council.

    • A conflict of interest means a person would gain financially by decisions. It’s really hard to see how Wendy (or my husband, for that matter) would see financial gain.

      Having an opinion that differs from yours isn’t a conflict of interest.

      • Bill Geyer ‎is an executive consultant in property design and development, business finance. CONFLICT

        Dan McShane is an engineering geologist with Stratum Group, a geology and environmental consulting company based in Bellingham, Washington. CONFLICT

        Wendy Harris: Land grab lawyer, Futurewise, and others.

      • kickbacks, Lisa, I am in for the kickbacks. I intend to use my elected status Vegas style. What is the point of filling wetlands, destroying habitat, killing wildlife, cutting down trees, and increasing impervious surface unless you are getting rich? Destroying our future to allow developers to get rich is dumb. I am running on a corruption and greed platform, because finally, city policies will make sense. I suggest that developers start getting their checkbook out.

      • Oh, yeah, one more point for my platform… F_ _k the Lake.

  4. The perfect candidate is Jean Melious.

    • Perfect for what?

      • Perfect for clear fact based policy analysis.

      • All I see by her election is the furthering of AGENDA 21.

  5. I think the council needs a conscience and Wendy Harris would provide by far the strongest voice for the broadest constituency presently endangered by council actions – our environment and all the voices never heard that depend on its protection.
    She may not ever win an election but the year that she served would open some eyes wide that are currently squeezed shut with self-interest.

    • Dave, you are absolutely right. Wendy is a lawyer. She would bring a legal perspective to a Council that has lacked one since the departure of Seth Fleetwood.

      Moreover, her presence on the City Council would put the City Attorney on notice that his function of providing cover for questionable decisions by Councilmembers would immediately become more scrutinized and difficult. The same would be true with Wendy on the County Council, but first things first.

      How many of the potential candidates listed attend City and County Council meetings on a regular basis? How many attend and Live Blog
      these meetings so that we can follow the way the public’s business is being conducted without having to sit through these meetings ourselves?

      And finally, how many have the will to challenge our politicians when they run roughshod over City, County and State rules and regulations?

      Wendy is an Independent in every sense of the word. Her record as a citizen journalist and civic conscience is admirable. Unparalleled, in fact.

      • Wasn’t Seth a lawyer too? How did that work out?

      • Well if others had voted with him….we wouldn’t have had to pay in order to *not* install the red light cameras…..

  6. My prediction is not on your list: Jim Bjerke.

  7. Based on council discussions yesterday, this decision will be made before their organizational meeting on Jan 5 so the appointee can have a chance to apply to a committee assignment of choice. Just FYI.

  8. The theory that there’s some advantage to having secret machinations and putting out false info around a public appointment is just silly.

    It’s hard to be more local than the Bellingham City Council. If people want to run for office they should talk to other people about running for office. If someone would like to see good, thoughtful people hold local office then reach out and ask them to run. Help them on their campaigns. Help them prep for a run by working to get them up to speed on issues. Yes, it’s as straightforward as it sounds. And most importantly, if you think you might want to run, then work on other people’s campaigns so that you have an understanding of how a campaign works. You’ll learn about issues and you’ll gain invaluable information about how to run an effective campaign. (HINT: it’s not about the yard signs…!) If you believe people and not corporations should own their government, then donate to campaigns so that you reduce the impact of big money in elections.

    I feel strongly that more of us should step forward and take responsibility for our government by encouraging good people to run for office, particularly women and people of color. There’s plenty of data showing that while men might wake up and think ‘Hey! I’m amazing and I should absolutely run for office!” very few women have that thought. Most women – regardless of how well-qualified they are – tend to think others are more qualified. If we want gender balance (51% would be a reasonable balance) on local elected bodies, we need to reach out to women and ask them to run. Multiple times. Ask then ask again.

    Recruiting good people to run is everybody’s job in this community. There’s no mysterious force afoot, it’s just inertia. How do we counter that and have the local government we want? Volunteer. Donate. Work on issues you care about. Then run.

    • Here here.

    • That is incredibly well put Lisa, thank you.
      While reading many of the comments above, I felt a weight in the pit of my stomach grow with each negative thought and closed door presented. If people hope for more effective government we must grow trust in our leaders and in the system itself. We should be opening possibilities for the future and demonstrating to prospective leaders that we are eager to engage them by sharing the issues that are important to us and to our community. We should hold them accountable, by always expecting transparency and inclusion. Most importantly, we should encourage everyone to take part in shaping the conversation. I am proud of our council for looking for someone who is ready to step up and share their own story and genuinely value the multiplicity of beliefs and backgrounds in our community.

      • Agreed! Heartily.

      • Thanks Iris – I agree.

        We all need to be part of an active conversation about who will run our city over the next decade. I was disappointed that one of the two men who wrote the initial post suggested: ‘let one of us know and we will check it out’… Perhaps the writer isn’t aware, but having men filter names for the rest of us is not how we encourage diverse participation.

        We can do better.

        People considering whether or not to run should know that there’s no hard-trodden path. Each person approaches this in a different way and even if you’re not going to run you can step up and impact the outcome.

        Think about people you know: who’s well informed and a potential leader? Talk to her (or him) directly about running for office. And if you think YOU might be interested, talk about it first with your friends and family, then neighbors and beyond. Call up people you think can help you. Get started! Even if you’re not successful this time, it’s still worth pursuing. Sometimes it takes more than a try or two to succeed and in the meanwhile, you learn a lot about yourself and about local government. There are fewer downsides than you might think.

        For myself, I’d like to see a broad conversation take place about the qualities we’re all looking for in a councilperson. Perhaps that can be an upcoming post?

      • I wrote this article not to limit or filter people from being interested in this position, but rather to encourage people’s interest in the position and jump start the discussion.

    • Run a campaign without effective graphics and watch while voters miss all your important issues.

  9. Well said Lisa, Replacing Cathy will be tough. The council will be discussing a process on September 22nd. The sooner we get this done the better for whoever is appointed and the whole council. I am glad this is being covered.

    • Thanks Gene,
      I’m a little confused about the process. It’s my understanding that council cannot appoint a replacement until Cathy steps down and that she plans to step down in December. Are you suggesting a decision in advance of that?

      • We will be looking at the process on Sept 22nd, It would be good to be able to select somebody and not swear them until Jan of
        next year that would give the person a chance to watch our budget process and get up to speed on issues that are before
        us. I don’t know if that is possible I hope it is. It would be no
        different than a person winning an election and not getting sworn in until the new year.

  10. A malodorous trial balloon rises from City Council.

    I am a Bellingham Democrat who voted for each of the current members of Bellingham City Council. Each of them is a serious and well-prepared representative.

    However, I find it a tad malodorous that Council is currently on track to appoint the At Large incumbent to fill the soon-to-be-vacant seat of Kathy Lehman, effective on Kathy’s resignation. This is an obvious artifice to move an incumbent from a tough election that occurs every two years, into an easier election that occurs only every four years.

    The use of incumbent-generated appointments should be held to a bare minimum, and should never be used to help an incumbent’s -any incumbent’s -political career. The interim appointment of a replacement for an ill or deceased council member is obviously good and necessary, and so is the replacement for a departing council member like Kathy, who is moving to an important job statewide, where I wish her the best success.

    But it stops there. For Council to go further, to tinker with politics in this appointment, is to indulge in incumbency-assurance engineering, which diminishes the role of the voters. Council should not exploit this necessary interim appointment to also slide an incumbent horizontally from one seat to another, in this case from At Large to Ward 3. The voters “bought” the candidacy of Roxanne Murphy for the At Large position. She “sold” her candidacy to the voters as At Large. The voters did not buy onto her running for Ward 3, and nor did she seek it.

    If any At Large incumbent wants a different position in Council, then that incumbent has every right to run for it at the next election, but without the benefit of interim incumbency in that new position via appointment. Let the voters decide!

    Roxanne should serve out her term as At Large, and then (if she wants to) in 2015 run for Ward 3 or whichever ward she then resides in, or At Large if she wishes.

    Whenever possible: Let the voters decide.

    Abe Jacobson
    Bellingham, WA

  11. Lisa McShane wrote, “I’d like to see a broad conversation take place about the qualities we’re all looking for in a councilperson.” I agree.

    Based on my fairly extensive direct experience with Council, I would say that courage is the most important quality needed at this time. We need councilmembers who understand they represent the citizens of Bellingham, not the city corporation, and who have the fortitude to hold their own when staff attempts to pressure them to toe the line.

    Who is not tired of electing councilmembers who promise to represent the people who elect them only to conform to the political machine.

    Of the potential candidates listed, Wendy Harris certainly has the most courage. She’d be a great councilperson who would truly represent the citizens of Bellingham.

  12. Wendy Harris certainly has courage and if I lived in Bellingham I would support her. Getting legislation passed is an issue that requires a great deal more that courage. If there is leadership in the council that will build the teamwork to accomplish the councils goals an outspoken watchdog would be beneficial. That role can also be accomplished by one or more citizens outside the council.

    • Correctomundo Bob. That is where the 5th estate comes in. We need more and more people willing to step up to the plate and hold elected officials (and even appointed ones!) accountable.

      • I agree.

      • I think you actually meant Fifth Column.

  13. Run Lisa run.

    • Paint, Lisa, paint.

  14. I think we are all missing a bigger picture here. Why are we all looking for a candidate that is good community watch dog? Bob is correct that this is a role for the public. So what is going on here? The real issue needs to be discussed more openly.

    The Linville administration is a failure. The mayor has attempted to consolidate power at every turn and the city council has willingly accommodated her. She has made a mockery of public process with back room deals and has used the media to issue propaganda. She has imposed development on an unwilling public, saddled us with traffic, poor planning, and a sloppy, ill conceived waterfront plan. She has paid lip service to the environment while filling in wetlands and destroying habitat. Is there anyone left who really takes her at her word anymore?

    This is not a problem that can be fixed by a new member on a council of 7. Be the change. Be the courage. Be the watch dog. We, the public, must all stand up to the Linville administration and the rubber-stamping council. It is time to focus more attention on recruiting a good candidate for mayor because the abuses of this administration keep getting worse. My name is Wendy Harris.

  15. Here, here Wendy. The TEA Party welcomes you home.


  16. And I, Wayne, welcome you and the Tea Party into the loving embrace of Agenda 21. Which environmental regulations should we prioritize for enactment? And lately, I have been questioning the entire notion of “owning” land, when we are really just stewards. Make sure this is on the next Tea Party agenda for discussion. See you there, comrade.

    • ^ I cannot tell you how much I appreciate what just happened above.

    • We don’t need environmental regulations, only common sense and personal responsibility “questioning the entire notion of owning land”-maybe you are living in the wrong country comrade Wendy. Private property is basic to liberty and Freedom. Would prefer to rent your home, your car (or bicycle) and everything else you now own?

      There is NOTHING “loving” about AGENDA 21.

  17. Repeating here what I wrote in NW Citizen.

    The problem is that most of the people on that list, and most of the sitting council members all have the same mid-set with respect to growth and development. There is not one person, other than perhaps Wendy, who we could characterize as a “no-growth,” or “slow-growth” advocate. Yet a substantial number of Bellingham residents hold to the view that no or slow population growth and development should be our goals, and that there are ways to discourage population growth and help preserve our environment and historic neighborhoods from the ravages of the profit motivated developers.

    These pro-development politicians can be found in both the “progressive” and “conservative” ends of the spectrum. It is easy to spot them. They use tired old tropes such as:

    Infill and increasing density in Bellingham will preserve county farmland.
    People move to rural areas because they want a rural lifestyle, and will continue to do so. The only way to preserve farmland is to zone certain areas for farmland. And what do we mean by farmland? Shall we only encourage corporate farming and large acreage farms? What about smaller family efforts? What about neighborhood and single lot gardens? The distinction between city and country is not so clear—part of what makes Bellingham unique, and part of what we should be preserving. The county is a continuum. Should we up-zone Joe’s Garden acreage to provide more housing—after all, that area is close to the university, and certainly more appropriate for apartments, the developers would argue.

    Infill will help protect the environment:
    Infill means more hard concrete, asphalt and roof surfaces, which results in more pollution run-off into our already compromised bay. By discouraging growth and retaining our single family neighborhoods we help reduce run-off. Most home owners in single family areas plant extensive gardens and yards, thus helping to absorb run-off.

    Increasing development will help with unemployment:
    The number of total jobs will increase, but the percentage of unemployment is not necessarily connected to population growth or development. Increased population will bring more traffic, more need to provide city services, but unemployment rates are tied to other economic forces and realities. In fact, as our population increases, the number of unemployed, homeless, and impoverished will likewise increase.

    We should elect people who will work to preserve those things which make Bellingham livable and unique—council members who will work to preserve the historic neighborhoods and the semi-rural and verdant aspects of our city, not politicians who think that we should encourage growth. Why should Bellingham aspire to be like larger cities? Who benefits from growth and large scale development? Follow the money.

    One name that should have been on that list is Patrick Mckee, a tireless advocate for preserving neighborhood quality of life and character. We could support him or Wendy, certainly.

  18. Excellent points, Mike. I agree that managing the city’s future growth and development is one of the most important functions that Councilmembers serve. It’s unfortunate that so many of the goals and policies of the city’s comprehensive plan are routinely ignored.

    I indicated previously that courage is the most important quality needed in a councilperson at this time. We do not have a single member of council who has the courage to require that new development pay its own way for both infrastructure and services. Instead, elected officials continue the policy of using tax receipts to subsidize the externalities of population growth. That is, those of us who neither choose – nor benefit from – population growth are forced to pay for a significant portion of the costs associated with accommodating that growth.

    State law allows cities and counties to recover the costs of building new roads and new schools and purchasing additional fire protection equipment and parkland and facilities, but Bellingham’s elected officials have refused to recover more than 30-35% of the actual costs. Instead, existing residents foot the bill for the remaining 65-70%.

    Additionally, state law does not allow cities and counties to recover the costs of building new libraries, jails, museums or other government facilities needed to accommodate the larger population. Existing residents subsidize the entire cost of these facilities.

    Finally, there are many costs associated with growth that cannot be reimbursed. Unmitigated traffic, air and water pollution, destruction of wetlands, development on erosion-prone slopes should all factor into the equation… but they don’t.

    Instead, the city continues its Ponzi scheme of using the initial growth revenues to offset the unrecovered costs of previous growth.

    How long could a company stay in business by continuing to sell its goods for less than its cost?

    How long are residents willing to subsidize the cost of growth they neither want nor profit from?

    When will a Councilmember have the courage to require that new development pay its own way?

    • Larry, regarding your statement, “Finally, there are many costs associated with growth that cannot be reimbursed. Unmitigated traffic, air and water pollution, destruction of wetlands, development on erosion-prone slopes should all factor into the equation… but they don’t.”

      SEPA would be the mechanism to address those impacts and determine appropriate mitigations, but the threshold determinations are pro forma. Just once I’d like to hear a council member say the words, “What do you MEAN they will mitigate the impacts? The impacts weren’t even identified.”

      The only chance of that is … Wendy Harris.

  19. A better question is how long will residents be able to survive Linville’s aggressive infill policies and staff’s poor planning. Infill increases stormwater run-off, which carries or encourages mold, bacteria, and exposes use to all the uphill chemicals and pesticides used by neighbors, as well as carcinogenic smoke fumes from recreational bonfires and heating, and gas exhausts from increased traffic. Better plan to be strong and healthy, or rich, to make it in this town. I am neither, which is why I was forced to sell my home and became an infill refugee. If I must be the proverbial canary in a coal mine, then I plan on singing as loud as I can. I hope the voters are listening.

    • Keep singing Wendy. Your voice is beautiful!

  20. […] Comment. Ever.” to Wendy Harris who managed to make me spew my coffee all over my laptop. In my recent post about filling the remainder of Cathy Lehman’s term, Harris offered her own satirical platform […]

    • You need to get a grip and maybe cut back on the coffee. They have a caffeine 12 step program available.

      • Dude… you’re just not funny.

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