Filing for office is coming up from May 12th to May 16th and among the offices to file for this time is the Charter Review Commission.

The Charter Review Commission was created by the freeholders who crafted Whatcom County’s Home Rule Charter in 1978. Here are the  Charter Provisions.

Fifteen  people will be elected five from each Council District by their districts to review the provisions of the Charter and discuss any upgrades or modernization that may more clearly define what our County Government should be to the citizens of Whatcom County  in the 21st Century. On a majority vote by the Commission any such items would be placed on the ballot for the citizen’s vote in November 2015.

Now is the time to think about what might be discussed and what a more representative local government might look like. The main issue coming to the surface at this time is District Only Voting. Which allows voters to elect their own representatives to the Council instead of other districts dictating who their representatives will be.

Even the local Democratic Party’s seems to agree that changing to district only voting for a council representative might be OK because they believe the County is trending Democratic. But it is really not a matter of partisan debate as it is a debate on how Whatcom County Citizens wish their representatives elected. The people should have a choice in how these representatives are elected in  2015 and the Charter Review process can give them a voice.

For some the current trend is troubling… In the 9 Council races where District Only Voting would have applied between 2001 and 2005 only 2 (22%) were not elected by their district.   Since the 2007 election (the only election with district only voting)… there have been 9 elections in which District Only Voting would have applied. Five of those council positions or 56% (both liberal and conservative) were not elected by the district they represent.

In the last election in November it was obvious at the end of the day that the Democratic Party’s California financed Washington DC politics prevailed only in council District 1 dominated by the City of Bellingham. And even though there was a  two to one spending margin by the progressive Democrats throughout the County  their candidates lost in District 2 and District 3; none the less they will serve as those district’s representatives on the Council.  Would this be anymore correct if it was Conservatives elected in this fashion?  You decide.

No matter how you feel about District Only Voting check out these pro and con argument and if you are interested… get involved in local campaigns, its a great opportunity for all of us to have an effect on local government.

Statement for: published in 2005 when District Only Voting passed by over 60%:

Since the Home Rule Charter was adopted in the mid-70s, our county has continued to diversify and develop into unique neighborhoods and communities. ‘Vote by District’ will insure that all voices in our community are represented on the County Council.

Vote by District will:

•Provide representation for issues and concerns unique to individual districts.

•Insure no voter is disenfranchised due to geographical constraints.

•Enhance the voters’ access to their elected representatives.

•Make it less onerous to campaign for local elected office.

•Insure all viewpoints are addressed and considered.

If ‘Vote by District’ is approved, every voter will always participate in the election of their council representatives.

‘Vote by District’ voting in Whatcom County will result in elected officials being closer to the people they are elected to represent—and this is a fundamental element of democracy.

Statement prepared by:

Charlie Crabtree, Charter Review Commissioner, District 3

 

Statement Against: published in 2005 when District Only Voting passed by over 60%:

District-Only voting has the potential for taking away our right to democratically elect our representatives. It limits one’s right of representation. For example, voters elect Whatcom County Council members every two years. There is one person from each district, plus the at-large candidate. Therefore, every two years, we have the opportunity to vote for at least three persons, or four, when the at-large position is up for election. We get to vote for each of those who will best represent Whatcom County.

Under District-Only voting, I would be limited to voting for only one of those candidates, the one in my district plus the one who is running at-large. Therefore, in each election I would have no say at all in two of the candidates who will be elected to the council, yet, the actions of the entire council affect me and the entire County. Therefore, no matter where you live in Whatcom County you would have no vote at all for four (majority) members of the council.

Also, if a councilperson is elected from his/her district only, then his/her primary interest will be with that district. That is why we changed from the three commissioner form of government.

Statement prepared by:

Mick Moynihan, Charter Review Commissioner, District 1
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Long time observer of State and Local Politics. Charlie was born and raised in Whatcom County Washington. Served in the US Air Force in the 70's and served for 12 years on the Meridian School Board (north of Bellingham Washington) and a stint on the County Charter Review Commission. Retired except for Blogging and enjoying life.

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