Posted by: sweeneyblog | January 9, 2015

2015 Political Preview: All Politics is Local

If you like local politics, 2015 is your year to shine. After the broad strokes of 2014 (what were the issues last year? Malaise with a side of attack ads?), it is time to zero in on Washington State and Whatcom County. Before I dive in, I want to recognize the great work done over at Politics Whatcom who beat me to the punch on this article by four days.

Washington State: Although no state-level offices are up for election this year, the first four months of political coverage while be dominated by the legislature as they tackle two big issues: Jay Inslee’s climate change proposals and funding education.

Gov. Jay Inslee

Doug? Lunch-time’s over, you’ve got to get in here and vote

Inslee’s proposal made big headlines when it debuted soon after the election but here’s a pretty good breakdown of the pros. In short, it is Cap and Trade (where polluters purchase a limited number of carbon credits detailing how much polution they can emit – credits that can then be resold to other companies). It is a free market solution to environmental protection and will face criticism from both sides of the aisle.

Funding education will continue to be a challenge. The legislature has continued to fulfil its court-mandated responsibility to fully fund education and this obstinance (highlighted by Rep. Vincent Buys letter blasting the Supreme Court) has our legislators facing potential jail time.

I suspect many negotiators on both sides of the aisle were waiting to see if 2014 would return control of the State Senate to democratic hands, but the flying fickle finger of fate (yes, a Laugh-In reference in a millennial blog, deal with it) put that chamber firmly in Republican control. With both sides resigned to dealing with each other for another two years, they may be forced to work out some sort of long-term funding solution for our schools.

Whatcom County: Closer to home, we have a whole slew of County-wide incumbents up for reelection. County Executive Jack Louws is widely expected to run for reelection, as is County Treasurer Steve Oliver and County Auditor Debbie Adelstein. Less certain is County Sheriff Bill Elfo, who’s race may be overshadowed by the proposed $100 million Bond to pay for the new jail this year.

This outfit is actually his pajamas

This outfit is actually his pajamas

As for the County Council, Pete Kremen, Sam Crawford and Barbara Brenner are all up for reelection this year. With four progressive votes already secured in 2013, the spectre of coal conflict may lie dormant this year, but that does not mean it will be a quiet year.

Pete Kremen, mustache enthusiast, has threatened to retire from public office before but I suspect that he will renew his commitment to the council. His years of experience allow him to skip much of the background research required for the position, letting him roll out of bed Tuesday morning (springing forth Athena-like fully clad in a suit), wander into the county council chambers and immediately begin pontificating on whatever the subject he desires. Not a bad retirement gig, all things considered.

Sam Crawford, on the other hand, barely squeaked through in his last election, surviving by a mere 500 votes against a lackluster and underfunded opponent. If a popular opponent, say a recent candidate for office, were to come out of the woodwork and declare against Crawford, he may decide to pack up his bags and call it good – setting off a chain reaction of local conservative candidates looking to fill his shoes.

Barbara Brenner is the kiwi to our Whatcom County fruit salad – you’re not really sure how it got there, or why it keeps getting put in yet it is popular with the oddest people. I would be very surprised if she bows out or faces stiff opposition. Not that she shouldn’t, Brenner hasn’t run a strong campaign in years, but right now, I doubt anyone will take a run at her.

City of Bellingham: All signs point towards Mayor Kelli Linville running for reelection. After a narrowly defeating Dan Pike in 2011, Linville has had an interesting four years in office. She has a few successes under her belt, forward momentum on the waterfront development for instance, but she has also faced some public criticism for closed door negotiations (see Costco Expansion), fights with the Roosevelt neighborhood over drastic traffic changes, and most disappointingly to me, the mishandling of Public Access television which is now neither public nor providing access to the airwaves.

Mayor Kelli Linville

Mayor Kelli Linville

However, Linville benefits from a seemingly endless supply of goodwill from the community for her years in the public eye, her natural skills as a peacemaker and an (almost) complete dearth of credible opponents. Michael Lilliquist took umbrage recently at my repeated insinuations that he may run against Linville this year but he remains one of the only people in town expressing any sort of interest.

Moving down ballot, Jack Weiss is up for reelection and may decide to bow out after several years on the council, leaving the Ward 1 slot open. As mentioned earlier this week, Roxanne Murphy is considering running for the Ward 3 seat – moving from the At-Large position to challenge newly appointed councilman Dan Hammill – a maneuver that would unleash a free-for-all as the At-Large position opens up city-wide.

Port of Bellingham: Jim Jorgensen, long-time Port Commissioner for District 3, is widely expected to retire this year, leaving his seat open for election. Local developer (and unsuccessful Charter Review candidate) Ralph Black and labor leader (and unsuccessful Charter Review candidate) Chris Johnson. Black is being supported by Dan Robbins and Rob Fix . . . insert your own “The Fix is In” joke here.Rob contacted me to say he has not endorsed Black. I’m following up with my original source for clarification.

Charter Review Proposals: Finally, the Charter Review committee will meet and examine our County constitution. Already on the menu – switching county council races to District Only voting, a move that may benefit conservatives in the short term but could shut them out of County Government in the long-term. Any proposals put forth by the committee have to be approved by the voters this November.

That’s it for your electoral preview. If you find this material helpful, please share this post on social media or email around. We thrive on the sunshine of new subscribers.



  1. Cap and Tax is NOT “a free market solution to environmental protection”.

    • That’s exactly what C. Boyden Gray, a lawyer in the Reagan White House and, later, White House counsel under Bush-41, called it back in the 1980s – a strange alliance of free-market Republicans and renegade environmentalists. The problem in the 1980s was that American power plants were sending up vast clouds of sulfur dioxide, which was falling back to earth in the form of acid rain, damaging lakes, forests and buildings across eastern Canada and the United States. The idea represented a novel approach to cleaning up the world by working with human nature instead of against it.

    • It was wildly successful and sprouted an entire new industry with new jobs and new opportunities.
      But with SO2,
      government set the annual caps and tonnage allowances based on each polluter’s fuel consumption,
      and then let the differences in costs for reduction goals drive a private market for buying and selling unused allowances.
      The money went to those SO2 producers that could clean up the fastest and the cheapest
      and I don’t think any of that revenue was collected by the government as a tax.
      But I could be wrong.
      So if The Governor was serious about a carbon Cap and Trade,
      he’d simply forgo the new tax revenue
      and make industry copy a model that’s already been proven to work.

      • It is in effect a tax because the costs are passed to the consumer.

      • sorry Wayne, but that is a choice. Maybe the business could instead cut costs- grossly overpaid execuatives, cut money spent on lobbying government, no longer make donations to PACs.

      • Were you responding to my comment? “It is in effect a tax because the costs are passed to the consumer”.

        “Maybe the business could instead cut costs- grossly overpaid execuatives, cut money spent on lobbying government, no longer make donations to PACs”-who are you to dictate this?

      • yes, I thought it was more or less clear I was responding to your comment. Making a suggestion- and pointing out what I see as a logical fault, is not “dictating” anything- so chill. Whether any business chooses to pass any sort of costs to their consumer or clients is exactly that- a choice, determined by their understanding of their market. So, by cutting back on executive pay bloat, and political expenses, some businesses might be able to reduce other costs by making those choices. Thus, your “it must raise costs so is a tax” argument has diminished basis in reality.

      • Thank you Bernie for your irrelevant answer.

    • Lots of misinformation in the article and even in the Olympian of Dec. 20, 2014. Example: “The proposal is to tax firms by requiring them to buy permits or ‘allowances’ each year if they exceed the limit. The Department of Ecology composed a list of 130 operations that emitted enough greenhouse gases in 2012-13 to have been affected under a proposed law.”

      The scam behind cap and trade is to allow a certain level of pollution free, based on past emittance. This is likely to be set very high after the lobbyists have their say in committee, subcommittee and the hallways (and at the lunch table in Ericksen’s case!). In addition, the permits are likely to be priced far too cheaply.

      The best bet is still a carbon tax.

      • What Walter said. Anybody paying attention to what happened in Europe?

      • The cap has to be based upon something
        and present emission levels is the only fair way to begin – indexed like I said to actual energy consumption.
        The annual allowance is steadily and predictably reduced each year,
        which is a damn sight better than what we have now.
        There’s no scam anywhere to be found here,
        it’s actual progress through industry cooperation and that private
        marketplace for allowances.

      • There are several models for Cap and Trade programs but the SO2 one that worked so well had mandated emissions reductions
        but no set value to allowances.
        They were expensive to buy where the costs of compliance were high and cheaper where it wasn’t – the actual free market at work – driven by Clean Air Act standards
        that didn’t allow industry lobbyists to set or decide or avoid or mitigate or finagle anything.

  2. I think that Kremen will retire (or maybe run for cemetery commissioner in some remote part of rural Whatcom County.) And with Jim Jorgensen, you can’t just assume that he will retire because he was on the commission for a long time (but it would be great if he did…)

    Barbara Brenner may be challenged, but there is no way that the challenger will win. Personally, I would probably support Brenner; we need an unsteady, odd view on the council. Someone willing to argue with the view of the rest of the council

    Who’s Jack Weisz? Is he on the Bellingham City Council? You mentioned that name. Just a small correction.

    “Local developer (and unsuccessful Charter Review candidate) Ralph Black and labor leader (and unsuccessful Charter Review candidate) Chris Johnson.” You mentioned Ralph Black, but what about the other ones? And I don’t think that Black would win; he hardly even made any showing running for Charter Review Commission.

    Not that you thought or implied this, but the 2015 election won’t be impacted by district-only voting; it won’t be in effect yet, if it even passes. Just to point that out to the public. I will check and make sure I mentioned that on my blog.

    • Thank you for the catch on Jack.

      Ralph Black and Chris Johnson are the only two locals I’ve heard connected to the port race.

      You are right, district-only voting will not be implemented this year, merely voted on.

      Jorgensen is retiring this year, Kremen is not. Ive heard pretty solid answers on both.

      • And what is wrong with “district only voting”, the is representative government. Why do we need carpetbaggers making our decisions for us?

      • I think everyone in Whatcom deserves a say in who sits on our County Council. The decisions they make affect all of us. For instance, their land use decisions has a huge impact on the Nooksack, which runs through all three districts.

      • You are entitled to your opinion. They are represented by their district council members. This stops BOTH Progressive and Conservative council members voting against the wishes of those in areas where the council member doesn’t live.

        The Progressive goal is to regionalize everything so a small group of activists can take control and ignore the vast majority of citizens. Look at the vast regional school systems and regional governments in many parts of the country where the the citizens have lost their voice in local matters. it is just another form of BIG GOVERNMENT.

      • The WHOLE COUNCIL gets do decide on issues facing Whatcom County. Those decisions affect all of us. Whatcom County is a generally progressive place. With district-only voting, the council would always be controlled by extreme conservatives. In 2013, Ben Elenbaas and Michelle Luke would have won. That would CLEARLY be against the wishes of most people in Whatcom County.

        Besides, district-only voting is partly an attempt to replace certain council members.

      • “Whatcom County is generally progressive”-not if you remove the People’s Republic of Bellingham (a fish rots from the head down) from the equation.

      • Bellingham exists, too. It’s part of Whatcom County. Just stating the facts.

  3. Cap and trade is a sham. What we need is a straight carbon tax. Here is a very good video.

    As usual the Dems (including Inslee and Linville) are revealing their true colors – and it is not blue or even purple. It is not even commie pinko or full-fledged red. They are just closet Repooplicans – washed out, colorless and full o’ nonsense. Here is a good song for all you supposedly “liberal” types out there.

    From the intro:
    “In every American community there are various shades of political opinion. The shadiest of these is the liberal.”

    This is why my second book is dedicated to Phil Ochs.

    • Correct it is a sham. And a carbon tax is another sham just like the liquor and cigarette tax. All these taxes hurt the lower income people. The rich will continue to buy because they can afford too. This is proof that the liberal Elite is only for themselves and not the less fortunate.

      • Hey – who ya’ callin’ a liberal elite there bunky? Fer chrissake, even the liberals hate me because I point out that their electric cars have a higher carbon footprint than my motorcycle and my partner’s 12-year-old Honda Accord. They also don’t like it when I point out that the food they buy from the co-op has just as high a carbon footprint as the food they buy from Haggens.

        Seriously, Wayne, anyone with any sense knows that the poor will be impacted by a carbon tax. This is not new. That is why we need to pillage the bank accounts of the rich through taxes. Remember “bomb ’em back to the Stone Age?” How about “tax BP back to the Stone Age?” [I like it!]

  4. Thanks for your constructive comments Walter [sarc].

    • Wayne, as I said before, get your own blog and stop trolling on Riley’s.

      • And you should mind your own business. I have every much a right as you to post on this blog.

      • Mary has every right to tell you to knock it off just as you have a right to post.

        That said, I’m going to let you, Mary, in on a secret – every time Wayne posts a comment on my blog, it tells Google, Bing and every search engine crawling the web that my blog is the most relevant source of information on any given topic. Wayne’s comments push my blog to the front page of search results when people are looking for “Doug Ericksen”, “Vincent Buys” “Bellingham Politics” – a whole range of terms. Every click of his keyboard helps my blog become more visible. But ssshhh, don’t tell him, he may stop helping me.

      • And that applies to everyone else Riley.

        If I had known you were hurting for money Walter and I would have ponied up and sent you some. Now that you have figured out how to scam the system we won’t have to. Thanks for the good news.

  5. No mention of the 5th ward seat that is up this year… Sometimes the most interesting story is the one not yet written 😉

    • Couldn’t get that one confirmed. I’ve got a follow up coming soon.

  6. There is forward momentum on the Bellingham waterfront development? Really?

    • Or at least the appearance of forward momentum compared with her predecessor.

      • Riley, you say that like it is a good thing. Given the poor planning, the problems with process, kowtowing to the port on every demand, providing excessive and unnecessary developer subsidies, refusing to listen to public concerns, failing to secure Lummi concurrence where federal permits will be needed, and the crappy cleanup plans, not everyone considers that a plus for Linville. And as time goes by, the extent of these problems will be revealed. No planning is better than bad planning. You and I need to talk if you think what she did is an improvement over her predecessor. Because you can thank Linville for the street grid, the failure to better protect historic structures, the sale of public tidelands, and for the development agreement that gives up public rights under SEPA and vests developers to current, inadequate environmental standards, without any provisions for an updated review or revision.

  7. […] 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 […]

  8. […] in the 2013 elections. Retiring councilman Pete Kremen also voted for Sidhu while Barbara Brenner, continuing her Kiwi-ish trends, voted for Jim […]

  9. […] for County Council this year. Mutchler declined to, “eat the Kiwi” referencing my suddenly-popular description of Brenner but was flattered just the same. Instead, he is turning his eyes to the Mayor’s […]

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