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Letters for the week of May 22, 2019

Primary options

The four candidates for Whatcom County executive and for Bellingham mayor will be narrowed to two in the Aug. 6 primary, who then go on to the general election on Nov. 5. The election procedure (primary then general) and vote tabulation (winner-take-all) are required by state law. Although alternatives to familiar practice often arouse healthy skepticism, considering different approaches can be useful either to reconfirm confidence in current practice or as the first step for improvement.
The County Executive and Bellingham Mayor races are good examples of the kind of elections where ranked-choice voting (RCV) is appropriate: more than two candidates vying for a single position. Under RCV voters have the option—if they wish—to rank candidates acceptable to them. The candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and that candidate’s voters have their second choices redistributed to the remaining candidates. The process repeats until a single winner emerges—or two in a top-two primary.
In multi-candidate elections winners often get less than majority support. RCV all but ensures the winner is acceptable to a majority.
It is not difficult to recall national elections where candidates with little chance of winning have split the vote (the spoiler effect). If minor party candidates had not been on the ballot in several midwestern states (2016 presidential election) or in Florida (2000), or if those states had used RCV, the outcomes might well have been different and have better reflected the collective will of voters.
With RCV, no voter need worry that voting their first choice might help a candidate unacceptable to them—second choices may be decisive. 
In the recent legislative session, Local Options Bill (HB 1722), which would have permitted localities to try RCV, was co-sponsored by 27 state representatives— Jeff Morris in the 40th and Sharon Shewmake in the 42nd districts among them. It did not pass but will surely be reintroduced next year. In the meantime considering whether RCV might be an improvement and evaluating its current use elsewhere would be worthwhile.
For more see: http://www.fairvotewa.org

—John Whitmer, Bellingham

May is elder law month

Did you know that May is National Elder Law Month? If your answer is “no,” you are not alone.
We are fortunate in Whatcom County that a number of attorneys offer expert elder law services. As our population’s longevity moves upward, it has become an increasingly popular field, covering estate planning, trusts, wills, care arrangements, social security and retirement benefits, protection against elder abuse (physical, emotional and financial), and advance care planning for healthcare options—interventions people might choose, or not choose, if they could no longer communicate themselves.
That said, it is incumbent upon all of us—including those who practice elder law—to promote the notion that advance directives aren’t just for older adults.
Unexpected end-of-life situations can happen at any age, so it’s important for all adults to prepare these documents. By planning ahead, you can get the medical care you want, avoid unnecessary suffering and relieve caregivers of decision-making burdens during moments of crisis or grief. Completing an advance directive reduces confusion or disagreement about the choices you would want people to make on your behalf.
May is National Elder Law Month. This may be a good time for you to start the important process of documenting your healthcare wishes, with your attorney, your doctor, your family, your friends.

—Micki Jackson, Bellingham

Sounds of freedom

Several weeks ago I was in the car-ferry line in Coupeville. For the full 45 minutes while I waited two Growler jets circled the lagoon, the blast so strong that most of us closed our windows.
“What the hell? What’s going on?” were repeated by visitors to the area, unfamiliar with the U.S. Navy’s new training privileges inflicted on the citizens of Whidbey Island and soon the Olympic Mountains.
An estimated 112,100 Growler takeoffs and landings will occur annually, with 88,000 at the Ault Field base on North Whidbey and 24,100 at OLF Coupeville, which is at the southern end of the island across Admiralty Inlet from Port Townsend.
Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer declined recommendations from the Federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to continue to measure jet noise on historic properties on Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve—RIP to the valiant effort of many groups and individual citizens.
The nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association filed a lawsuit against the Navy, but don’t hold your breath waiting for any relief.
All I could think about was what it must be like now to live on the either end of the island and have the “sounds of freedom” day in and day out. And, no less so the wildlife that inhabits Whidbey and the unsuspecting creatures who are about to be surprised when the Growlers—as many as 5,000 sorties per year—begin their harassing flights over the Olympic Mountains.

—Barbara Clarke, Bellingham

Wrong for so many reasons

Trump’s plans to overhaul immigration policies to discourage family unification and only accept “highly skilled” people is wrong for so many reasons.
The idea of changing the policies to encourage immigration of highly skilled people is racist and classist. It does not take into consideration the reality of the industries that use immigrant labor. Overwhelmingly, the demand for immigrant labor is to do the “jobs that Americans don’t want to do”—primarily agriculture and cleaning work. The workers do not need to have special skills for that.
The new policies will make it impossible for the industries that depend on immigrant labor to function.
In addition, “cherry-picking” the best and brightest from other countries will serve to destabilize the world economy and increase the need for desperate immigration. The people who have special skills should help their countries develop and grow, making them viable places to live. Their countries invested in their education, after all.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds it insulting to hear that we must recruit from abroad people with advanced skills. Is this a veiled threat to cut our education system even further?
A better plan is to stop the “brain drain” from developing countries and promote local capacity building.
Bottom line, we need to invest in our own education system to develop the skills needed for future prosperity and respect other countries who have done that for their citizens by not siphoning away their skilled human resources.
Finally, the proposal is patently un-American. Our country was largely built by immigrants—poor people leaving difficult situations to make a better life for themselves and their families here. In doing so, they built, we built, a better life for us all and made this country strong. We have a commitment to family values, honesty and hard work, and that makes the new immigration policies that discourage family unification extremely distasteful. It is against everything that we stand for.
We all do better when we all do better.
The president’s proposed plan will benefit the few at the expense of a great majority worldwide. It will increase the pressure to immigrate and it will hurt local industry. It does not reflect who we are as a nation.
I hope you will see through this ugly plan and help me oppose it.

—Susan Kroll, Bellingham

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