Blaine residents will vote in November on name change to Blaine Harbor

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJune 10, 2014 

BLAINE - Voters will once again decide whether to change their city's name to Blaine Harbor.

A divided Blaine City Council decided Monday, June 9, to place a measure to change the town's name on the Nov. 4 ballot. The vote was 4-3, with council members Charlie Hawkins, Steve Lawrenson and Dennis Olason voting no.

It will mark the second time voters have been asked to change Blaine's name to Blaine Harbor.

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

It needs a simple majority of yes votes to pass.

City 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 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.

Cotner has said that businesses and residents supported the idea, and he collected signatures from them.

The proposal is facing opposition from a campaign led by Blaine residents Angie Dixon, owner of a photography business, and Rachel Hrutfiord.

They collected signatures from people who were against the idea.

Opponents said changing Blaine's name won't help with economic development or draw visitors because the city needs to offer more to get them to stop.

They said they were concerned that changing the city's name would change their small town's history and heritage. They said what's needed is promoting what their city does offer, such as the annual Old Fashioned Fourth of July Celebration that draws many visitors and being part of the Pacific Byway for migratory birds to draw birders.

On Monday, both sides implored the City Council to let the matter drop or put it on the ballot.

Some, including Hawkins, expressed concern that voters who live outside city limits won't be able to vote on the issue even though they have children in Blaine schools and see themselves as part of the community.

"It's not just us in the city. It's everyone around us. I'm a little befuddled by the fact that we're doing this," Hawkins said, prior to being one of three council members to vote against the idea of placing the name-change measure on the November ballot.

City Councilman Paul Greenough, who was one of four to put the measure before voters, acknowledged the matter was a "deeply emotional, divisive issue."

As such, the only way to give fair weight to the silent majority is to let them vote, he said.

In an interview, Dixon said she was disappointed by the council's decision although appreciative of support from the three City Council members who voted against putting the measure on the ballot.

Opponents will now switch to campaigning against the measure.

"We're not done," Dixon said. "This is only the beginning for us."

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

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