Blaine council candidates discuss biggest challenge for city

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJuly 19, 2013 

2013 elections

THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

BLAINE - Three candidates are vying for a Ward 2 seat on the Blaine City Council in the Aug. 6 primary.

Incumbent Charlie Hawkins is facing challengers David Gallion and Brian Thomasson.

The top two vote-getters advance to the Nov. 5 general election.

Hawkins, a 67-year-old bus driver for Blaine School District, is seeking his third term. Brian Thomasson, a 27-year-old real estate broker, and David Gallion, a 62-year-old retired automotive technician, also are vying for the position.

The number of candidates doesn't seem to be a reflection of Hawkins' tenure.

Thomasson said he's running because "I believe I have something valuable to offer my city and community."

Gallion said he wanted to "improve Blaine overall."

"My feeling is that I would do a better job than Charlie Hawkins or the other candidate running, or I wouldn't be running," he added.

For his part, Hawkins said, "I am running because I have a desire to continue to serve the people of Blaine and better our community. I believe that I have, and I will continue, to represent all the citizens of Blaine."

Candidates also addressed other issues facing Blaine through a questionnaire from The Bellingham Herald and a follow-up interview. Their comments were excerpted from those two sources.

Gallion, who is chairman of the Blaine Planning Commission, didn't answer the questionnaire.

What do you think is one of the biggest challenges facing Blaine and how would you address it on the council?

Hawkins: "The biggest challenge facing Blaine is growth. The city is preparing for expansion into east Blaine, and we need to continue to focus our energy on infrastructure improvements like roads, sewer and electrical access. The other aspect of growth that is important to the city is continuing the job growth the city has seen the last few years.

"The reopening of the Semiahmoo Resort and all the new businesses that have opened up will be great for the local economy. The City Council needs to continue to make Blaine an attractive location for new business and expansion."

(Semiahmoo Resort shut down in December 2012, eliminating close to 300 jobs. New owners bought the hotel for $19.5 million in a deal announced in June, which included the resort's two golf courses that have remained open. The new owners said they will open the hotel Aug. 15.)

Thomasson: "One of the biggest challenges that I see in Blaine is finding a way to transform it from a place that people drive by to a place that people stop in. We have a beautiful city with a whole lot to offer. Being on the border of Canada and having two major border crossings means there are people driving past Blaine all the time.

"Right now, Blaine has many run-down, empty commercial spaces in downtown and other areas that are ready to be developed. There is so much potential here, and my hope is that on City Council we would be able to find a way to capitalize on our current resources and continue the revitalization process of Blaine, creating a town where people will stop, visit, shop and enjoy the beauty of this fine city."

Gallion: He said he didn't have an opinion. "I'm going to try to focus on things that are one thing at a time. I don't really know what the biggest challenge Blaine has at this time."

He said Blaine has many challenges, and he will prioritize them if elected to the City Council. He said he'll have more information and specifics for the general election.

What are your views on the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal given that if it is fully built, it is expected to produce about $824,000 annually in taxes for Blaine schools?

Thomasson: "I am in favor of the Gateway Pacific Terminal. I have not conducted an in-depth study of the plan and all the different effects it might have, but from what I have seen it would benefit the city of Blaine. It would produce steady jobs in the area and as stated in the question, it would produce tax dollars for our schools. I am in favor of development and creating more opportunities in and around the city of Blaine."

Hawkins: "My position on the Blaine City Council will have no effect on the outcome of the planned Gateway Pacific Terminal project. Until I know the full scope the environmental impact the terminal will have, I am reserving judgment. The money generated would be great for the Blaine School District, but is it worth the cost? We don't know yet."

What is your vision for Gateway Business Park, the former Blaine Airport site? What kind of businesses would you like to see there?

Hawkins: "I would like to see the former airport property used by small manufacturing companies, cross-border businesses, and any other business that would be beneficial for the city of Blaine. The city has created an environment for future businesses by improving access, with new roads, and infrastructure improvements."

Thomasson: "The Gateway Business Park is ideally set up for industrial and manufacturing use. It is a perfect location for truck access whether they are headed north or south. This use would probably create more local jobs than other uses would. Although, I certainly would not be opposed to some sort of retail use."

BALLOTS OUT

The Whatcom County Auditor's Office mailed ballots Friday, July 19, to registered voters in Bellingham, the Bellingham School District and Blaine Ward 2 for primary races.

The Auditor's Office is mailing a four-page voter's pamphlet with only primary candidates that can be viewed online at whatcomcounty.us/auditor.

Voters who should get a primary ballot but don't by July 26 should contact the Election Division at 360-676-6742.

Residents who haven't voted in the state before can still register for the primary but must do so by Monday, July 29, in person at the Auditor's Office, Suite 103 of the county courthouse, 311 Grand Ave., Bellingham.

MORE CANDIDATE ANSWERS

To see answers to more questions from these candidates plus their biographical information, go to our interactive Voter Guide. Information from candidates in the other local primary races - Bellingham and Blaine City Council seats - also can be found there.

Reach Kie Relyea at 360-715-2234 or kie.relyea@bellinghamherald.com.

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