Blaine voters could decide in November whether to change city's name to Blaine Harbor

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 14, 2014 

blaine harbor

The historic Plover foot passenger ferry sails from Blaine Harbor to Semiahmoo during the summer months. Behind the ferry is Mount Baker.

ANDY BRONSON — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

BLAINE - The City Council is moving toward letting voters decide in November whether to change their town's name to Blaine Harbor.

The City Council voted 5-1 Monday, May 12, to pave the way for doing so, with Charlie Hawkins voting no and Harry Robinson absent.

"People I talk to have been here for a long time and they're not particularly enthused about changing the name," Hawkins said. "They don't see any reason why. I think council would be kind of shoving it down their throats a little bit."

He said the effort should be led by citizens through the initiative process.

If the council decides at its next meeting to put the measure before voters in the November election, it will mark the second time they've been asked to change Blaine's name to Blaine Harbor.

In 2000, voters defeated the idea 57 percent to 43 percent.

Councilman Clark Cotner, who also is head of the city's Economic Development Advisory Committee, has been leading the most recent effort to change Blaine's name. The matter went before the council after the advisory committee voted unanimously to recommend the name change.

Cotner argued that adding the word "harbor" would attract visitors from Canada who now bypass the border town, highlight Blaine's seaside beauty, and help boost economic development by attracting businesses.

"Blaine doesn't say you're on the water. But you say Blaine Harbor, that tells a story," Cotner said in an interview. "It just makes sense. The businesspeople, they're all for it."

Cotner has been gathering signatures from people who support the idea and said he has collected about 300 so far.

"I've met very little resistance to this name change," he said during the council meeting.

At its Monday meeting, the council could have voted to put the measure on the ballot but took another tact introduced by Councilman Paul Greenough.

Greenough said the signatures gathered by Cotner should be turned over to City Manager Dave Wilbrecht and treated as an indicator that residents are asking the council to put the measure on the ballot.

"This is an emotional issue. In this case, I really want the city residents to be proposing it rather than the council dictating to the city what will happen," he explained in an interview.

Greenough said he's heard from people who oppose the idea because they want to keep the existing name and don't believe that adding "harbor" will help with tourism or economic development.

"Businessmen just have much more tangible reasons for choosing a place to locate," he said.

People also have told Greenough that if Blaine's name is going to be changed, it should be to Drayton Harbor because cities with "harbor" in their name reflect the body of water they're on.

"The name of the body out there is Drayton Harbor," he said.

The City Council has until August to ask the Whatcom County Auditor to place the measure on the November ballot.

An anti-name change petition has been started at thepetitionsite.com and had 58 signatures as of the afternoon of Wednesday, May 14.

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

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