Politics & Government

Election Views: Charter commission candidates Eli Mackiewicz, Thomas Stuen and Alie Walker

District 1: Eli Mackiewicz

With nearly 20 candidates for Charter Review Commission to select from, voters in District 1 face a complicated task in choosing the best candidates for these important positions. So, I am addressing this letter directly to you, the voter.

Those versed in political campaigns urge me to win your vote by convincing you that I “share your values.” They would have me fill these column inches with buzzwords meant to convey, in a nuanced manner, that I fall on one side of the political divide or the other. I choose not to follow that path, likely at my own electoral peril, because I refuse to believe that voters are so flippant in their decisions.

The role of Charter Review Commissioners, despite efforts to suggest otherwise, is to make unbiased and well-reasoned decisions on proposed changes to our charter, not to carry the banner of political parties. I am running for this position to represent the citizens of Whatcom County who want a moderate voice on this commission. Changes to the charter appear on your ballot, requiring you to spend your valuable time studying the effect of the change prior to casting your vote. I hope to serve on the commission to prevent unnecessary and unreasonable changes. This is especially important when those changes are designed to further divide our community into right vs. left, urban vs. rural, us vs. them contests. I believe that you shouldn’t be asked to use your vote to referee partisan squabbles between political parties, so my primary goal as a commissioner would be to keep those debates where they belong, in the court of public opinion and not on your next ballot.

Are there changes to our charter which are needed? Maybe, but I won’t commit either way as a candidate. This is because I believe Charter Review Commissioners should be focused on the “review” task, not on changes they are already convinced should be made. My mind is not made up on any issue. My intention would be to view each change through the lens of what works best for the citizens of Whatcom County (not just politicians), and make sound, reasonable, decisions.

If my view of this commission seems fair to you, and you’re willing to support someone who won’t play political games or speak in buzzwords, I would appreciate your vote. Please email me your questions or comments at eli4crc@gmail.com. Thank you.

District 1: Thomas Stuen

If the Whatcom County Charter is broken, I will help fix it. However, the charter currently structures the business of the county generally well, so I am running to protect what we have from unnecessary change and from unintended results. I would bring to the commission 40 years of experience in the analysis of statutory language and in the discovery of unintended consequences. The County Council will face important issues over the next decade, including protection of the Lake Whatcom watershed, limiting the impact of the coal and oil trains, dealing with the county’s water shortage, and growth in general. However, these and other issues should not be settled by the charter. Rather, the charter is our county constitution which defines the structure of our local government.

My law practice started in Bellingham in 1983, following eight years as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice. I currently limit my practice to estate planning, probate and family law. The sewer system on the Lummi Reservation was funded by EPA as a result of litigation against the State of Washington which I prepared for the U.S. government. More about my practice can be found on my website: stuenlaw.com.

I served 20 years on the Bellingham Civil Service Commission. I am a past officer and treasurer of Whatcom County’s volunteer lawyer program. My wife Karen and I have raised four boys in Bellingham. I led the 2004 Bellingham School levy campaign and was in charge of signs for two more school levy elections. Karen was active in PTA for 16 years, and nearly that long in Cub Scouts. I have had an advisory role with the Bellingham Child Care and Learning Center for 20 years and Karen has been a board member. Karen is currently on the boards of the Interfaith Coalition of Whatcom County, and of the Bellingham Sister Cities Association. We attend Christ the Servant Lutheran Church. While my boys were in school I coached 36 youth soccer teams.

My law degree was earned at Stanford University in 1974 following two years in the Peace Corps in Ghana, West Africa, where I taught in a rural high school. My undergraduate degree is a bachelor of science in mathematics from Pacific Lutheran University.

District 1: Alie Walker

Our county government is built on a strong foundation of community service and citizen involvement. Every 10 years a group of Whatcom County citizens is elected by their peers to review our county charter. I am running for one of the 15 positions available on charter review because I believe in maintaining the principles of good governance that we have achieved in this county.

Whatcom County is an exceptional place to raise a family, build a business and enjoy living among breathtaking natural resources. My husband and I chose to do all these things, raising our two boys in a home in the woods, and starting his construction and home inspection business. I regard service to this community as a core value, having volunteered and worked for organizations that build local self-reliance and protect our environment. Serving as a Charter Review Commissioner is a natural extension of this service.

If elected, I would welcome the chance to analyze our current charter. I would work collaboratively to consider common sense changes to the charter that represent the interests of the common good. The charter defines the structure of our government, and that structure has served our county well. Changes should be thoughtful and representative of the spirit of our county. I am concerned that certain candidates are less interested in the benefit and needs of Whatcom County as a whole, and wish to use charter review as a platform to serve special interests.

I would not waste the council’s time pushing issues that the people of Whatcom County have clearly voiced an opinion about. For instance, the previous Charter Review Commission suggested that we move to district-only voting, only to have the citizens of Whatcom County quickly revert back to countywide voting when given the chance to vote on the issue.

I would welcome your vote and the opportunity to work with my fellow members to ensure our charter maintains the principles of good governance we have in place. I want to establish a balanced and thoughtful approach in this review process. Any changes suggested by the commission should protect those assets vital to Whatcom County: our environment, our strong local economy and our family-focused community.