BELLINGHAM - A measure to expand the Port of Bellingham commission to five members was going down to defeat in early voting, with 51 percent of Whatcom County voting no.
The countywide port district is now governed by three commissioners elected from the same three districts that choose County Council members. The port's Proposition 1 offered voters the option of carving the county into five port commission districts, with two new commissioners to be chosen at the polls in November 2013.
Citizen activists and port critics have advocated an expanded port commission for many years, but the idea got renewed momentum beginning in April 2012 when former Port Executive Director Charlie Sheldon was forced out of his job in a 2-1 commission vote. Jim Jorgensen joined Sheldon foe Scott Walker to make the move.
Citizens unhappy about Sheldon's firing began collecting signatures to get a port commission expansion measure on the ballot, but Jorgensen and the third commissioner, Mike McAuley, then agreed to forgo the signature process and put the expansion proposal before voters.
Port commissioners are paid about $18,000 per year.
The port has extensive Bellingham waterfront holdings that are home to a deep-water shipping terminal, as well as Squalicum Harbor, Fairhaven Shipyard, All-American Marine boat builders, smaller boat servicing businesses and the Bellingham Cold Storage and Bornstein Seafoods sites. The port also owns 137 acres of mostly idle industrial land once used by the Georgia-Pacific Corp. pulp and tissue mill.
The port district also owns and operates the rapidly growing Bellingham International Airport and the Blaine marina.