Mr. Cranky’s Election Reflections
Wednesday, November 22, 2017
The 2017 local election is behind us and the results are a mixed bag, but we are definitely doing better than the other Washington where a mentally unstable 5-year old is running things. Let’s see how things worked out here in Whatcom County.
Bellingham City Council. There were only two contested races for city council. The sixth ward wasn’t much of a contest, however, since incumbent Michael Lilliquist’s opponent didn’t campaign. Actually, there wasn’t much of a contest in the at-large race either, where incumbent Roxanne Murphy was easily reelected with 80 percent of the vote. Her opponent, Eric Bostrom, a temperamental street preacher known for his gay and Muslim bashing, can now return to his familiar sidewalk venue. While Eric’s campaign was merely a passing sideshow, it is, nevertheless, disturbing that 4,731 Bellingham residents actually voted for him.
Whatcom County Council. Council districts were redrawn for this election, so the incumbents weren’t running for the districts they were currently serving. In the at-large race, political novice Mary Kay Robinson carefully avoided taking specific stands on issues, preferring to run instead on a bouncy personality, bright smile and glitzy campaign materials financed in part by $100,000 from a realtors PAC. None of this was successful in unseating Barry Buchanan, a knowledgeable and focused councilman. It’s reassuring these days to occasionally see substance triumph over style.
Speaking of avoiding the issues, this brings us to Tyler Byrd, who won the third district. Byrd refused to weigh in on controversial issues, insisting that this would just create more polarization and all he wanted to do was bring everyone together in a big, happy Whatcom County family that would get beyond political labels and work together harmoniously, blah, blah, blah. After listening to Byrd dodge issues and evade questions at a City Club forum, one observer commented, “He seems like a young Doug Ericksen.” While I would never say anything that horrible about anybody, I would still recommend keeping an eye on this guy when he gets into office.
In the second district another political newcomer, Amy Glasser, gave it her all but still lost by a large margin to incumbent Todd Donovan. Note to Amy: You ran a high-energy, enthusiastic campaign but next time do more homework on the fine points of the issues. Note to Todd: You do a great job on the council, but stay out of the Facebook wars. They do not bring out your best side.
A first district victory was a cakewalk for incumbent Rud Browne. One does, however, have to admire his opponent Phil Morgan, a Tea-Party-style conservative, for hazarding a run in a hyper-liberal district. While I’m certainly not attracted to Phil’s politics, I loved his crusty-yet-courteous shtick, and the devil-may-care temerity of a guy who will run in South Bellingham with the Trump-tinged campaign slogan “Make Whatcom County Great Again.”
Port of Bellingham. Dan Robbins lost his spot on the port commission to Michael Shepard. Robbins has been a reasonably competent port commissioner, but you’re unlikely to ever see his name coupled with the word “visionary.” Shepard is more attuned to the big picture and to environmental issues. He’s a good choice.
Ken Bell won the other port seat, edging out Barry Wenger in one of the tighter races. Bell is a capable and intelligent fellow, albeit a bit too smooth for comfort at times. He sometimes appears to view the waterfront more as a commodity than a community resource. If he does indeed have propensities in this direction, they will likely be offset by the other two port commissioners, Michael Shepard and Bobby Briscoe.
The Jail Tax. Once again folks voted down a jail tax proposal, with almost 60 percent of the voters nixing it. Proposition 2017-6 was a lightly tweaked version of the same plan that was rejected in 2015. The proposed jail was too big, was cost- ineffective, and the funding mechanism was a gateway to fiscal disaster. All that said, the existing jail is still a crumbling, medieval disgrace and the problem needs to be fixed. Note to those who will draft a new proposal: Start with a clean sheet of paper this time.
A final observation. There are 138,688 registered voters in Whatcom County and more than 75,000 of you didn’t vote. This is our county, folks, and local issues matter. You don’t have to go any farther than your mailbox to cast your ballot. If you opt out because you can’t be bothered, then please keep all future political complaints to yourself.