Tuesday, November 5, 2013

November 2013 Local Candidates and Issues

On my local ballot this election, there are four positions up for grabs on the Whatcom County Council, two positions with the Port of Bellingham, two positions on the Bellingham City Council, and one position on the School Board. There is also a school levy.

County Council
I try not to be a single-issue voter, but county politics has become completely engulfed by the Gateway Pacific Terminal issue. In a nutshell, the GPT would become a port for coal shipments. The coal would be shipped here on trains, then out through the GPT to the rest of the world. Environmental activists oppose it because it's coal; unions support it because it means good jobs. Liberals have been walking a balancing act, trying to keep the support of both the environmental lobby and the unions; conservatives support the GPT for the same reason the unions do.

My position is that there are standard environmental reviews in place for projects like this already. Those reviews should be allowed to run their course without undue political influence one way or the other. In this case, it's the environmentalists who are arguing for special exemptions to prevent the GPT, so my position casts me with the unions and the conservatives.

In the current election, that means I am voting for Kathy Kershner, Ben Elenbaas, Michelle Luke and Bill Knutzen for County Council. All four of these candidates have been endorsed by both the county Republican and Libertarian parties. Sealing the deal: the opponents of these four candidates have run campaigns demonizing them as "Tea Party endorsed" (when the local Tea Party makes a point to not endorse any candidates) while playing up their own endorsements by Planned Parenthood and the Democrats.

Port of Bellingham
I am voting for Renata B. Kowalczyk over Dan Robbins for Port Commissioner. While the Democrats have endorsed Kowalczyk and the Republicans have endorsed Robbins, both oppose the Blue-Green Coalition's call for a "living wage zone" at the Port. Both support industrial development at the Port. But based on the limited statements I can find from both candidates, Kowalczyk seems to have a more in-depth understanding of what the Port Commissioner has to do and the issues the Port faces.

In the other Port Commissioner race, I am voting for Ken Bell over Mike McAuley. Bell supports the GPT. He also has experience in the private sector cleaning up hazardous waste sites, which is exactly what the Port needs to do with the waterfront.

Bellingham City Council
In my ward, I am voting for Clayton Petree over Pinky Vargas. Petree has the experience needed for council, while after announcing her run, Vargas had to rely on one of the city's most reliably liberal blog writers to give her what he called a "crash course" on the important issues. Petree also opposed the fireworks ban, and I believe can be counted on to oppose the random little bans that the current city council loves so much.

For the Council-At-Large position, my preferred candidate from the primary did not make it to the general. Of the two remaining candidates, both are pretty bad, but Roxanne Murphy is not as bad as Bob Burr.
Bellingham School District 501
Of the three candidates in the primary for the school board, the one I did not consider due to a lack of information lost. In the primary, I voted for Steven Smith over John H. Blethen. Now that those two are running in the general election, I will again vote for Steven Smith.

The school district is also putting forward a levy this election. That levy, Proposition 2013-1 would allow the district to borrow $160 million to be used for "construction." Much of that will be going towards nicer administrative buildings, including $5 million for artificial grass. The district still owes $59 million from the $67 million bond that was passed in 2007. The new bond amounts to $2000 for every man, woman and child in Bellingham, not counting interest charges. To pay it back, the levy would raise the property tax we pay for schools by an astonishing 54%, with promises to cut it back to just a 32% raise in six years (if you believe that). I say the people of Bellingham should keep their own money, and the school district can let the natural grass grow instead of borrowing money to install artificial grass. I am voting NO on Proposition 2013-1.

County Council: Kathy Kershner, Ben Elenbaas, Michelle Luke, Bill Knutzen
Port Commissioners: Renata B. Kowalczyk, Ken Bell
City Council: Clayton Petree, Roxanne Murphy
School Board: Steven Smith
School Levy: NO

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