Politics & Government

Election Views: Charter commission candidates Orphalee Smith, Judd Morse and Nick Evans

District 1: Orphalee Smith

I am a candidate for the Charter Review Commission, District 1, and am requesting your support.

In my opinion the charter is basically a well-crafted document with provisions describing the roles of both the legislative and executive branches of the county. I believe it should remain a basic document in order for it to be the guide for the next 10 years. None of us really knows what the future holds for Whatcom County; thus, the charter must be written with enough flexibility to provide guidance to elected officials, administrators and the citizens.

Commission members must be vigilant in their responsibilities in reviewing the charter to prevent the insertion of language which could be challenged by either the state or the federal government because of their personal views. The charter must continue to be a guiding document.

I have served on the commission in both 1985 and 1995. Working individuals with varied and strong opinions was a stimulating and educational experience. I would like to serve again in 2015.

I have been involved in the Bellingham business community since 1973 and have had my own CPA practice since 1981. My practice focuses on individuals, small businesses and not-for-profit organizations. I have supported my profession by serving on the Washington State Board of Accountancy and in various capacities with the Washington Society of CPAs.

My community involvement has been varied, having served on boards focusing on education, health care, homeless concerns and women’s issues. I have also been active in Rotary at the local and district levels as well as a member of Soroptimist.

I believe my diverse experience qualifies me to serve as a member of the Charter Review Commission from District 1 and I ask for your support.

District 2: Judd Morse

If you’re reading this, you probably already have a good idea of what the Charter Review Commission is and does. But for those of you who don’t, here’s a quick review:

Every decade a commission is formed; over the course of a year, said commission reviews, reaffirms and sometimes modifies the charter. The end result is (hopefully) an updated and refreshed document that will serve as the keystone of county government over the next 10 years.

While not exactly exciting or glamorous work, the commission plays a crucial role in shaping our local political landscape. It’s absolutely a long game here; those who shape the charter through the commission are those who create the field of play for county politics over the next decade.

Obviously there are already rumblings about what’s going to be on the chopping block, and what’s going to be fought for. For me, priority one is protecting every voting member of the county’s right to vote in all county council races. County council members hold tremendous legislative powers; their election to the office should be at the will of everyone in the county, not just a designated geographical region. I firmly believe that the best way to have a governing body that truly represents its entire constituency is to have the entire constituency voting on all aspects of the governing body.

But keeping what works is only half of the job. The other side is making changes where things don’t work, like non-partisan elections. Partisanship is a dirty word in politics, and rightfully so. Probably the only thing worse than a highly partisan election is a highly partisan election masquerading as a non-partisan election. Remember all those big yellow scary signs a few years ago, with the vague warnings about land-grabs, etc.? Those were a result of hyper-partisan, non-partisan campaign tactics. Removing the non-partisan veil on county council elections will clear the water, allowing voters a better look at candidate’s political platforms.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. I’d personally love, among other things, to explore the possibility of a second legislative branch that works in tandem with the existing body, much like the House and Senate do on state and federal levels. It’s probably crazy, but what the hell. This is our chance to affect lasting change on our prime governing document. We shouldn’t waste it.

Elect me and I won’t.

District 3: Nick Evans

I’m Nick Evans and I would be honored to have your vote for the Charter Review Commission. I’m the fourth generation of my family to call Whatcom County home and I think our little corner of the world is the most beautiful place on the planet. If elected, I intend to do everything in my power to protect our county for my kids and yours. I strongly believe that it is my duty and responsibility to leave for our children a county that is better off than the one we inherited from our parents and that is why I want to serve you on the commission.

Our charter’s preamble states “the power and duty to govern and protect this region is inherent in its people” and calls for a county government that “advances justice, inspires confidence and fosters responsibility.” If elected, I plan to use these powerful statements as a basis for any and all decisions I make when considering charter amendments to recommend to the voters.

One idea that has received attention lately is returning our County Council elections to “district only” voting. We are the only county in the state that has an entire County Council that is elected “at-large.” I believe that the voters of Whatcom County should get the opportunity to decide if they would like to keep it this way, or change it so that each district gets to elect their own representatives. There are valid arguments on both sides of this debate. People in favor of district-only voting tend to think it is not fair that people outside of their district get to vote for who will represent the people of their district. People against this idea argue that if council members are only elected by their district they will only care about issues that affect their district directly and ignore other areas of the county.

I intend to listen to both sides of this argument and weigh public input before making an ultimate decision. However, the charter states “the power and duty to govern is inherent in the people”, so I tend to think voters should at the very least have an opportunity to have their voice heard on this very important issue. When you cast your ballot on Nov. 4, please consider voting Nick Evans in the 3rd District so that we can have reasonable leadership on the Charter Review Commission.