Opinion

Time for action on schools, continuing Greenways; but let’s wait on EMS

It’s been a frustrating presidential election year, and you’re not alone if you are dismayed at the way government sometimes doesn’t work. But, let’s not take that frustration out on the system and refuse to cast a ballot. Even if you don’t like your choices, vote with gratitude that we have the right to do so.

Local candidates and initiatives on the ballot will affect us all here in Whatcom County. Here are our recommendations on Tuesday’s election:

Whatcom County

EMS tax: The property tax, which would be $88.50 a year on a house valued at $300,000, would last six years. It needs 60 percent to pass.

We join tax supporters and opponents in gratitude that Whatcom County enjoys above average emergency services from professional and volunteer firefighters. But this tax plan has too many unknowns.

The county’s EMS Funding Work Group report is full of instances where there is no data. And the service numbers don’t add up for us. The report shows utilization numbers in the low average for years to come. The report also suggests a new bureaucracy is necessary. It says governance is “generally murky.” Do we need another administrator, or do we need those already in place to work together despite old grievances?

EMS funding needs further study. Costs are going up, federal reimbursements are going down, the population is increasing. The report is full of suggestions that need action. Once there are real numbers that support a need, this should come for another vote. But for now, we suggest a no vote on Whatcom County Proposition No. 2016-1, the Regular Property Tax Levy for Emergency Medical Services.

Bellingham

School bus levy: The levy would last two years and homeowners whose houses are valued at $300,000 would pay about $54 a year for the levy’s first year. It needs a majority to pass.

While we are concerned better planning would be a better way to replace aging buses, we agree the district needs more buses to accomplish its goals for a better education for all students. Better safety and efficiency are a bonus. We support Bellingham School District 501 Proposition No. 2016-1.

Greenways IV levy: The levy is for seven years with homeowners of a $300,000 house paying about $150 annually. It needs a majority to pass.

Parks and trails are more than an amenity in Bellingham. They’re key to our healthy lifestyle. They are a legacy worth protecting. The portion of money collected that will go to maintenance and operations grows from 10 percent to 25 percent, but, with the success of past purchases, it seems necessary to maintain the wonderful open spaces we enjoy. We urge you to vote yes on Proposition No. 2016-1 and support Greenways IV.

U.S. legislative

The 1st Congressional District includes most of Whatcom County except Bellingham, Sudden Valley and areas to the southwest. It also includes most of eastern Skagit and Snohomish counties and part of King County. The 2nd Congressional District includes parts of Bellingham, Sudden Valley, San Juan County, Island County and portions of Skagit and Snohomish counties.

District 1: U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Medina, has served her district well. She understands the impact immigration reform has on farm labor. She has tangible projects, such as affordable textbooks, for helping higher education. She supports action on climate change. Challenger Robert Sutherland, R-Granite Falls, has never held elected office and says scientists should be looking at humidity rather than global warming. DelBene is our choice for U.S. representative for the 1st Congressional District.

District 2: U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, continues to be a strong representative of his district. His stances on health care, climate change and immigration match ours. He understands how Congress works and has plans for legislation, such as his STEM apprenticeships for the jobs of the future, that are good for the country. Challenger Marc Hennemann, R-Camano Island, wants to increase defense spending, cut regulations on businesses and resolve the budget deadlock. Larsen is our choice for U.S. representative for the 2nd Congressional District.

State Legislature

The 40th District includes south Bellingham, southwest Whatcom County, San Juan County and part of Skagit County. The 42nd District includes all of Whatcom County except south Bellingham and the southwest corner of the county.

District 40: Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, is a man on a mission to fund public schools. We agree that’s critical work. He’s not afraid of the “T” word and says it’s time to reform our state’s regressive tax structure. We also agree with his stances on social equality and the need to fight climate change. He’s been in the Legislature long enough to know how to create programs that advance his agenda, such as starting the fight for pay equality by reviewing state salaries. Challenger Daniel Miller, R-Friday Harbor, is focused on health care, but doesn’t have any proposals to improve it. He’s sure money is available to fund schools, if the Legislature would only dig deep. He’s worried about junk science in the global warming debate and worried that government restrictions will hurt businesses. He’s unhappy schools are teaching children about transgendered people. Ranker is our choice for state senator for the 40th District.

District 42: Rep. Luanne Van Werven, R-Lynden, faces challenger Sharlaine LaClair, D-Bellingham, for Position 1. Rep. Vincent Buys, R-Lynden, faces challenger Tracy Atwood, D-Bellingham, for Position 2.

Van Werven has spent a lot of her time in the Legislature working on farm water rights but says rules are in the way. She says the Legislature has made progress on education funding but that more money has to be matched to reforms. We don’t see that she has accomplished much. Her opponent, who has the support of many Democratic legislators, is ready to fully fund schools. LaClair also supports incremental minimum wage increases, working with business on climate change and supporting agriculture to work on water quality issues. LaClair is our choice for state representative for the 42nd District, Position 1.

Buys has ideas about addressing climate change that are different from those of the Democrats, but he understands it must be addressed. He is concerned farmers need assistance to deal with the “use it or lose it” provisions of western water law. He’s still looking for local money for schools, but has become a veteran legislator used to working with those he doesn’t always agree with. Challenger Atwood doesn’t have the credentials for a seat in the Legislature. We liked his stances on school funding, equality and mental health funding, but he was short on specifics necessary to be an effective legislator. Buys is our choice for state representative for the 42nd District, Position 2.

Time to vote

You have until 8 p.m. Tuesday to turn in your ballots at drop boxes in Whatcom County. If you’re sending your ballot by mail, it must be postmarked by Tuesday. Don’t forget it needs 68 cents of postage because it’s heavier than usual.

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