Politics & Government

Election Views: Charter commission candidates Todd Donovan, Cliff Langley, John Munson

District 1: Todd Donovan

It’s time to review our county charter, and I’d be honored to serve on the review commission. I value open, transparent government and public input. I will protect our drinking water, our vibrant communities and our natural environment.

I will work with other commissioners to ensure that all ideas are given a fair hearing, and I bring experience from over 20 years living in Whatcom County, with service on boards and commissions from my Columbia neighborhood to the county level. I’m endorsed by Whatcom Democrats, and by over 100 community leaders, business owners, neighbors, and friends (donovancharter.org).

Our charter defines the structure of county government. As a home rule county, state and federal law grants us power to decide how our government functions. This review is an opportunity for public input: What’s working? What isn’t? The charter sets the number of County Council positions, the type of chief executive, and it defines which officials are appointed or elected, like sheriff and medical examiner. It also sets the scope of initiative and referendum powers, and the ways we conduct elections.

I think our charter works fairly well as it is, and that this is a time to discuss how it might work better.

Our charter defines the process of governing; it’s not about outcomes and it can’t create new rights. Some candidates propose charter amendments to restrict corporate power and ad a local bill of rights (for people and invertebrates). Others want to redefine property rights to eviscerate common sense functions of local government, like zoning. Candidates who promise to use the charter to assign rights are not being straightforward.

The U.S. and Washington constitutions protect our rights — Whatcom is a community, not a separatist republic where we would have different rights than people in Garfield County or King County. We can do important things with our charter, but we can’t undo the U.S. Constitution or the Supreme Court.

I oppose the coal terminal and I’m appalled by the expansion of corporate personhood. Yet it would be disingenuous to propose that our charter could end these by regulating rights. We need commissioners who recognize this, who also have the experience, ability and realism to ensure that the charter contains effective and legal means for the Whatcom County Council to retain regulatory authority over Gateway Pacific Terminal and related matters.

District 2: Cliff Langley

I have had the joy and pleasure to live in Whatcom County almost continually since 1970. I moved away three times but each time returned after a year. I love our climate, our geography and the people that live here. I am running for a position on the Charter Review Commission because I have some core beliefs that I believe I share with a large number of the people living here, and I want to represent those people as the charter is reviewed and changes are recommended.

Our nation was founded by people that sought and fought to be free. Free to worship, free to speak their mind, free to live without fear of their government and free to keep and defend their property from those who wanted to unfairly and or unjustly appropriate it without just compensation.

In a document with which we should all be familiar our founders said: “We hold these truths to be self evident. That all men are created equal,” and have certain unalienable rights, and they designed a government to protect those rights and freedoms. They created a government of, by and for the people, all of the people, not just those with certain specific beliefs or interests.

I believe that the government on all levels has and continues to overstep its intended function and as much as I am able, I want to put a check on that intrusion.

There was a great deal upon which our founders did not agree, but they were able to find some common ground upon which they were able to agree. They put it into writing and gave us a constitution which created the greatest and most prosperous nation the world has ever seen.

The world has seen many forms of government and had many rulers that tried to create a utopia. There has never been a success and I do not believe that in this world there will be a perfect or near perfect society. I believe that we need to learn from history and strive to maintain the concepts that have given our nation success.

I believe that President Lincoln was right when he said, “”But we have forgotten God. and we have vainly imagined in the deceitfulness of our own hearts that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.”

If you agree, I ask for your vote.

District 3: John Munson

I am running for the Charter Review Commission because the charter needs to be reexamined by the citizens of the community to make sure it addresses the present needs of Whatcom County residents. The population of the county in 1960 was 70,317 people and in 2013 it topped 206,000 people.

The Charter Review Commission can benefit from a having a member who has seen the county change and has contacts with a wide range of people. Born in Bellingham in the 1940s, I’ve lived and worked in the county most of my adult life. I retired from the Longshoreman’s Union after working for 41 years on the waterfront in Bellingham and other Puget Sound ports.

I have been politically active and volunteered on the campaign to establish a minimum wage that was tied to the cost of living. My community experience includes informing people about the advantages of a single-payer healthcare system and recently participated in a forum about Social Security at Whatcom Community College. I’m a former member of the Bellingham Food Bank board and am presently a member of the Ferndale Food Bank board.

We need to revisit the charter to see if it meets the needs of our expanding population. As our population increases, the charter needs to find a balance between protecting the environment and creating an environment that fosters the creation of living-wage jobs in the county. As I’ve campaigned these are the concerns that the people in District 3 (north of Bellingham and west of the Guide Meridian, including Ferndale, Blaine, Birch Bay and Point Roberts) have expressed to me. People want their children to be able to live and work in Whatcom County.

As a member of the Charter Review Commission, I can do a good job of articulating the concerns of District 3. It would be a privilege to serve on the commission. Please vote for me, John Munson, in the Nov. 4 general election.