Bellingham, county: legislative lobbying partnership still fruitful


With all the variables in play during a legislative session, it's hard to measure the effectiveness of a single lobbying firm. Leaders in two of the three local governments that partnered to hire McBride Public Affairs said the arrangement worked well in its second year.

While several items on the priority list drawn up by Bellingham, Whatcom County and the Port of Bellingham remained unfinished in the 2014 session, some goals were met.

The legislature passed a statewide aquatic invasive species control program, to prevent harmful mussels and other animal and plant species from entering Washington's waterways. Bellingham officials were confident this legislation would yield state support for the invasive-species program now in place at Lake Whatcom.

"It has been made very clear to us there will be funds available on a competitive basis," City Council member Michael Lilliquist said. "Given the fact that Bellingham is way ahead of any other community in the state on this issue, we feel confident we'll be able to secure a large portion of the funds that are available."

No money came through this year for cleanup of Bellingham's waterfront, as was hoped, but Mayor Kelli Linville said she was pleased the toxics cleanup fund wasn't raided to cover other state costs.

"I think there was a very strong lobbying effort from our lobbyist and our port associates to maintain the funding and not use it for another purpose," Linville said. "To my mind that was a positive thing that came out of the session."

County Executive Jack Louws noted in an email to The Bellingham Herald that nothing was gained after the state failed to pass a comprehensive transportation budget or revive a dormant account for public works projects. On the positive side, funding for a new Whatcom Superior Court judge was kept in the current budget. All of these were on the lobbying firm's priority list.

"Our second-year partnership with McBride Public Affairs LLC has proven to be an effective and resourceful use of funding," Louws wrote.

Rob Fix, executive director of the port, declined to comment for this story.

The city, the county and the port each pay $2,500 per month year round for McBride's work. It's an open question whether the firm's services will be sought in 2015.

Reach Ralph Schwartz at 360-715-2289 or Read his Politics blog at or get updates on Twitter at @bhampolitics.

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