Letters for the week of July 01, 2020

Defund Police

Our predominantly white population considers Bellingham progressive, but this assumption needs to be tested by taking a serious look at defunding our police department.
There is no logical reason for someone with a badge, a gun, a baton and a Taser to be the first responder for problems of homelessness, mental illness and drug or alcohol addiction. These situations should be handled by mental health professionals and social service providers.
Like communities across the country, we have militarized our response to poverty-related problems. After all, our police do not prevent crime, they only respond to it. Our tax dollars should be directed to addressing the root causes of problems that we now ask our police to handle. And, studies have shown it’s cost-effective to divert these “criminals” from the so-called justice system.
Our police department receives one-third of the City’s general fund and social service providers get zero. The police budget has grown by 26 percent since 2015 while the total city budget has grown by only 17 percent. We are moving in the wrong direction. While the police budget is more than $34 million, social services get less than $400,000 from the City—and this is all passthrough money from the federal government.
It’s time to reverse these priorities.

—Duane Jager, Bellingham

Reconfirm well-qualified judges

Our primary ballots will arrive soon, and every race is really important.
Some voters may not be familiar with the judicial candidates. Three of them were appointed by Governor Inslee to fill vacant positions in 2020—Raquel Montoya-Lewis and G. Helen Whitener for the Washington Supreme Court, and David Freeman for the Whatcom County Superior Court. All three must now stand for retention in the upcoming elections, and all three should be retained.
Judicial appointments by the governor are made after a thorough vetting process that includes evaluations by state, county and minority bar associations, sitting judges, and community leaders. The governor’s general counsel reviews every application and conducts an initial round of interviews. Finalists are personally interviewed by the governor. As the governor’s website states, “the selection of experienced, independent and well-qualified lawyers to join the bench is vital to maintaining not only an efficient judicial system, but also a healthy democracy and vital economy.”
We voters can have confidence that these three judges have been evaluated for their education and training, work history, standing within the legal profession and commitment to the fair and impartial administration of justice in Washington.
Retaining them in their current judicial positions serves the best interests of our community and our state.

—Judy Bush, Lummi Island

Protect the integrity of elections

You may never have heard of Gael Tarleton, but she’s one of the best candidates on the ballot you’ll be receiving soon. Currently a state Representative who served as House Majority Floor Leader, Tarleton is running to become Washington Secretary of State—the person who safeguards our elections.
Tarleton is an ardent promoter of vote by mail. Note that the Republican incumbent has to date failed to defend the state’s successful vote-by-mail system against the president’s attacks, even at a time when it would be the safest option.
Tarleton is also passionate about election security and has extensive experience in the private, academic and government sectors. She knows our voting systems are under threat and she knows the measures to take. And she is committed to actively expanding voter education and participation as the pillars of democracy they are.
Her endorsements—too many to list— include our own 40th and 42nd Legislative District Democrats and Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Washington Conservation Voters named her “Legislator of the Year” in 2018. The Washington State Labor Council, National Women’s Political Caucus of Washington, and many more support Tarleton. Check out her website at
If you want an experienced, energetic, articulate defender of our elections and our democracy, and a strong believer in the importance of voter participation, Tarleton is your candidate— for the primary and general elections. She is certainly mine.

—Myra Ramos, Lummi Island

Empower your values

Are you tired of state representatives who reject environmental protections, deny the reality of climate change, and would take away a woman’s right to choose?
In the upcoming election, we have a chance to fix that.
Elect Democratic challenger Alicia Rule as our representative for the 42nd Legislative District position one, and re-elect Sharon Shewmake for 42nd LD position two. Let’s send this dynamic duo to the State House of Representatives to work on our behalf.
During her first term in the state legislature, Sharon Shewmake has already made her mark as an outstanding representative, promoting bills to make childcare more affordable, supporting dairy farmers, transportation improvements, and the creation of energy and resource efficiencies that protect our climate while saving taxpayer dollars.
Democrat Alicia Rule prioritizes affordable housing and homelessness, the creation of new living-wage jobs in our changing economy, a healthy environment and protecting a woman’s right to choose.
Both women are mothers to young children and understand the issues facing families in our community.
As our representatives, they will wonderfully complement each other, Sharon as an economist, and Alicia as a smallbusiness owner, social worker and therapist. They can be counted on to work in a bipartisan way to represent all Washington citizens.
When my ballot arrives, I will be voting for these two excellent candidates and I urge you to do so as well.

—Meredith Moench, Lummi Island

James Erb for judge

I find three compelling reasons to vote for James Erb in his race for Whatcom County Superior Court Judge: his breadth of experience; his widespread community support; and his commitment to criminal justice reform.
James has a wide range of legal experience in criminal, family, and civil law. He has worked as a prosecutor for both state and tribal governments. Most recently he has practiced civil law as an assistant city attorney for Bellingham. With this background he will be able to adjudicate all the kinds of cases that come before our Superior Court from day one on the bench.
James’ endorsements include Washington Supreme Court and Appellate judges, state legislators, Tribal Nation leaders, numerous local Whatcom County, Bellingham, Blaine, and Ferndale elected officials, and a host of community members who know and support James. James has clearly developed such broad approval by demonstrating his love of the law and his desire to serve our community.
Finally, and most important, James believes strongly in the need for reform of our criminal justice structure, of which the judicial system is a critical part. Providing fair and impartial justice to all segments of society will require vision and commitment from our elected leaders, including our judges.
We can count on James Erb for that vision and I ask you to join me in supporting his campaign.

—Elizabeth Kilanowski, Lummi Island

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