Those elected to public office Nov. 5 will make important decisions for Whatcom County's future: land use that complies with the state's Growth Management Act, protects neighborhoods and allows for growth; allocation of water rights and the provision of clean drinking water; industrial development - including, perhaps, a coal port and busier airport; the redevelopment of Bellingham's waterfront; a new county jail; and building a post-recession economy.
We are fortunate to have such passionate citizens willing to step up and serve our county, cities and districts. Our elected officials have to make smart decisions that will anger some, be it closing a small school or allowing airport growth, for the good of all.
Your ballot features a host of candidates. We had the opportunity to listen to candidates for several of the major offices.
We are concerned when candidates want to revisit issues long decided, but understand that conditions may change and warrant review. While we don't agree with everything any candidate said, we expect that those we endorse will listen, investigate and learn about the many issues facing Whatcom County. We want elected officials who are smart, work well with others and bring expertise to the discussion.
Whatcom County Council
The candidates for the supposedly nonpartisan Whatcom County offices have organized themselves into slates with very different visions for a prosperous and livable community. While we are cautious to endorse a slate, we are concerned that incumbents Kathy Kershner and Bill Knutzen, along with challengers Michelle Luke and Ben Elenbaas, want government to "get out of the way" at a time when more is required.
Particularly troubling is Kershner's dismissal of the state's Growth Management Act. A quest for local control of growth becomes inertia, rather than moving forward as the law decrees. We've seen enough of that kind of politics played on the national stage this year. Whatcom County doesn't exist in a bubble; our decisions must obey the law and take into account our impact on the greater world.
Rud Browne for the at-large seat. Browne's track record of success in business and a wide range of community service will make him an asset on the council. He's a smart man with a no-nonsense attitude, ready to get things done.
Barry Buchanan for District 1, Position A. Buchanan brings city council experience to the decisions about Lake Whatcom and land use and the need to control sprawl.
Incumbent Ken Mann for District 2, Position A. Mann is fiscally cautious and understands the need to bring jobs to Whatcom County, while also dedicated to protecting the environment.
Incumbent Carl Weimer for District 3, Position A. Weimer has proven time and again his commitment to the environment. His experience is critical as the council makes important decisions with long-term impact on complicated issues.
Port of Bellingham
Dan Robbins for District 1. Robbins seems to offer a balanced approach to change at the port. His small-business experience will keep the focus on job creation. He's not wedded to earlier port plans, but knows what they are. He understands the balance needed between the environment and economics.
Mike McAuley for District 2. McAuley shook things up when first elected, and has proven to do the work necessary to understand the complex work of the port. We like his vision of the commission as the facilitator for commerce and industrial development.
City of Bellingham
Clayton Petree for Ward 4. Petree lacks community connections, but brings a solid understanding of the issues. His election would add needed diversity of thought to the council.
Roxanne Murphy, for at-large. Murphy keeps our primary "reasonable progressive" endorsement. She understands the need for economic development and her experience with public-private partnerships will be valuable as the city grows.
Bellingham School District
We continue to find incumbent Steven Smith the best choice for director, Position 4. Smith embraces the district's strategic plan to involve families in education, and provide early childhood education and social services where needed to ensure that all children are able to learn.
We support the Bellingham School District general obligation bond. The community must support its investment in education infrastructure, updating where possible and building for the future.
If you'd like to see what we saw at the election forums so ably put on by the League of Women Voters of Bellingham/Whatcom County, check Bellingham's BTV Channel 10. The telecasts are also available on-demand on the city's website.
Don't forget, ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 5. Or you can drop off your ballot at any of these locations: Blaine Library, 610 Third St., Blaine; Ferndale City Hall, 2095 Main St., Ferndale; Whatcom County Courthouse south parking lot, 201 Grand Ave., Bellingham; Deming Library, 5044 Mount Baker Highway; Lynden Library, 216 Fourth St., Lynden; WWU Bookstore, 501 High St., Bellingham; Everson WECU, 106 E Main St., Everson; and Meridian Middle School, 861 Ten Mile Road.
Reach JULIE SHIRLEY at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2261.