Politics Blog

Whatcom council candidates stake out priorities

The four candidates on the District 1 primary ballot for Whatcom County Council — Bruce Ayers, Todd Donovan, Theresa Sygitowicz and Emily Weaver — were given a chance to break away from the specific issues sent to them in The Bellingham Herald’s candidate questionnaire and state their own priorities. They also were asked to come clean on how many County Council meetings they have attended — often a reliable indicator of how qualified they are for the job.

Ballots are due back to the county elections office on Aug. 4. The office reports 6,786 ballots returned as of 3 p.m. Thursday, July 23, out of 102,288 (6.6 percent turnout with 12 more days to vote).

Q:

What would you strive to accomplish over four years on the council, so that at the end of the term you could point to those things and say, “I helped get this done?”

A:

Emily Weaver

Our Future in in the balance we work towards. You can accomplish a lot in four years. I appreciate the question because it gave me a time to reflect on my service before to the county (she was a County Council member 1988-91).

We laid the groundwork for our future then and we build on that going forward:

Clean water and an updated growth plan that has our citizens support

Support for companies that locate here and farmland that will fit our future needs

A suitable jail being built. Contracts in place with the city of Bellingham, tribes and small cities.

An open government that supports our staff and county workers

Friendly service and information to our constituents

Enhanced public health and safety to all of Whatcom County

Support for seniors and WTA and people that are not doing so well in our community

Repairing the county courthouse to ensure the safety of employees

Improving the relationships with other governments and developing plans of action

Relationships with our legislators to support our provision of services

Setting an example for the future leaders that makes them eager to participate in governance

Having some fun and getting to know more county residents and hearing and sharing what is really important to them in our council debates and policies.

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Todd Donovan

Planning the new 8000-acre park at Lake Whatcom so that there is access for everyone, with minimal impact on the lake’s water quality. This is a gem that can be part our world-class network of parks and trails.

Building a new jail with the right mix of treatment, diversion, and detention capacity.

Finishing a comprehensive plan update that gets us where we want to be 20 years from now, with new job and housing growth in our urban growth areas.

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Bruce Ayers

First and foremost we must build a new replacement jail. The Justice Department, numerous consultants and a host of committees all identified compelling life-safety issues at the main jail and highlighted the need to move quickly to replace it. We have a moral, ethical and legal obligation to provide a jail that is safe for both those incarcerated and for those who are work within the facility. This problem is not new and has persisted for decades. Continuing to ignore this long-standing issue increases risks to public safety and exposes taxpayers to liability. My first priority would be to ensure that the jail is replaced. My goal would be to fund and construct the replacement jail within my first term in office.

I would also prioritize the safety of our community and reduce future jail needs by ensuring that law enforcement is adequately staffed to prevent crime. This would include providing an integrated approach and partnership with mental health and substance abuse service providers to divert, where appropriate, those with mental health and substance abuse issues from the criminal justice to the behavioral health system.

We must also plan for the needs and wants of our community, while keeping Whatcom County a great place to live. We must work together to insure we are good stewards of our land, support jobs and economic vitality. With constructive leadership, respect for each other and a willingness to work together for the future of shared community, Whatcom County will continue to be great!

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Theresa Sygitowicz

To have an open and transparent local government in Whatcom County. To end “closed-door” meetings between the county council and special interest groups.

To have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state of Washington. We need family-wage jobs in Whatcom County.

For us to have both a new jail and mental health centers.

To have an economic-friendly community that encourages new business growth and expansion.

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Q:

How many county council meetings have you attended, or how frequently do you attend them?

A:

Emily Weaver

Four years full time, and in the last 20-plus years numerous times every year as well as attending city council meetings on a regular basis. You cannot work together without paying attention to other jurisdictions including Port meetings.

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Todd Donovan

In the 1990s, occasionally. During the previous comprehensive plan update, regularly. Over the past 6 months on occasion, as my time has been dominated by the Charter Review Commission.

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Bruce Ayers

Over the past 25 years I have attended numerous (too many to count) County Council meetings. I have testified on several occasions and submitted written materials. At times, on behalf of my clients, and more often on issues of public policy currently in front of the Council. Over the past five years, as chair of the Public Safety Now committee, I attended many council meetings and committee meetings concerning the new replacement jail including planning, site selection, reports, studies and updates.

In addition, I view council and committee meetings on public access television. I stay abreast of community issues and policy before the Council and carefully review the Council agenda and supporting materials on a regular basis.

As a past City Council member I am very familiar with tasks, duties and responsibilities of the office I am seeking.

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Theresa Sygitowicz

I have attended county council meetings on a regular basis for over the past 10 years. I probably attended between 40-60 percent every year. I also attend the council committee meetings during the day. I encourage public attendance at all meetings.

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This concludes the weeklong Q&A with the four County Council candidates.

The other blog entries concerned the new jail, district-only voting, rural development and planning for growth.

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