At this November election, voters in Whatcom County will make a decision on whether the Port of Bellingham Commission should expand from the current three commissioners to five commissioners.
The port commissioners have received public requests expressing the importance and need for additional commissioners for the past several years. In addition, at port commission meetings this spring, the commissioners heard significant public testimony in support of increasing the number of commissioners. As a result, this summer the commission adopted the resolution proposing to place this issue on the November ballot.
Our county's population has increased substantially since the port was established in 1920 by a vote of the people of Whatcom County. The commissioner's major responsibilities include setting port policy, determining the budget, and approving large leases, contracts and agreements for the port. The expanded growth of our county, addition of the G-P waterfront redevelopment, along with the complexities of today's community and other increased scope of duties warrants additional representation.
The port has significant economic development responsibilities throughout Whatcom County which include: Bellingham International Airport (the third-busiest in Washington next to Sea-Tac and Spokane), 2,064 marina slips, over 100 employees, a $25 million operating budget, $20 million range in capital costs, an asset value of $382 million and are now, along with the city of Bellingham, responsible for one of the largest waterfront redevelopment projects in the Northwest. In addition to these responsibilities, the board oversees existing harbors, terminals, parks and trails and industrial parks.
With five commissioners there can be a wider representation of our county citizens for ideas and community values. Broader public discussion of and more perspectives on the issues can contribute to better decisions.
Nearly all publicly elected government bodies using our tax dollars and making major decisions have at least five members and many have seven, including the county council, our city councils, school boards and the conservation district. It has been suggested that the cost of two more commissioners will be too much. Adding two commissioners will have a minimal cost of less than one-quarter of 1 percent of the port's annual capital and operating budget - a small price for more transparency, democracy and a more representative government.
Proposition No.1 to increase the number of port commissioners from three to five commissioners was requested by and is supported by many citizens in the county.
Join us in voting yes for this change on Nov. 6.
Harriet Spanel and Ken Hertz testified and requested the port commissioners place the question to increase the number of port commissioners on the ballot to be voted on by the people.
Spanel has lived in Bellingham since the late 1960s. She represented the 40th District in the Washington State Legislature for 22 years and was the prime sponsor of the legislation to allow port districts to increase their number of commissioners to five.
Hertz has live in Whatcom County since the 1960s. He was two-term mayor of Bellingham from 1976-1984 and the first appointed director of Whatcom County Parks system from 1965-1975.