Letters for the week of October 21, 2020

Zoom and gloom

What’s more exciting than “Zooming” in to the Whatcom County Council’s meetings on a Tuesday night? If you were one of the scores of people who tuned in and commented, you certainly were not disappointed. It proved to be a shining example of democracy in action and—perhaps more importantly—how we the people are the ultimate defense against dark money meddling in small-town politics.
The subject on everyone’s mind going into this meeting was the proposed ordinance AB 2020-409 “Increasing Community Oversight and Transparency to Establish Fair Contract Negotiations.”
It sounds innocuous enough on its face. At least, that’s what Council member Tyler Byrd stated when he admitted he had given only a cursory glance at the proposed ordinance before submitting it along with Council members Kathy Kershner and Ben Elenbaas for approval.
After the nearly hour-long barrage of public comments speaking out against the proposal was so moving, I felt it necessary to highlight its importance.
In an enthusiastic expression of contrition, the lead sponsor, Byrd, after moving to have the proposal withdrawn, confessed that he had obtained the verbiage for the ordinance after “Googling it” from Spokane County.
“It sounded like a good thing,” Byrd back-pedaled, freely acknowledging he had not done any research as to the origins of the language or its intent. “Especially today, when everything’s just pulling us apart,” he continued, lamenting the ever-widening political divisions that hamper productive discussion.
Little did he know the verbiage he appropriated was copied directly from the playbook of the dubiously named Evergreen Freedom Foundation.
The boilerplate proposal, one of many tools in the arsenal of an organization whose stated purpose is to render public-sector unions powerless, has been shamelessly peddled around western states at the behest of such nefarious actors as the Koch Brothers and ALEC.
As part of their strategy to diminish, if not eliminate entirely, workers’ rights to organize and collectively bargain for fair wages and working conditions, they have shopped these proposals to any hapless city, county or state government official who will listen. When we talk about present-day politics being toxic, these are the guys that are poisoning the well.
Which brings me to my point about Byrd’s proposal, its hasty withdrawal and his subsequent comments: The divisions in our society cited in his remarks are seeded by the very organization that wrote his proposed ordinance. By borrowing their handiwork, he has, in effect, perpetuated these divisions he so bitterly bemoans.
The “aw shucks” role Byrd portrayed as the young guy that got into politics to unite people for a common cause fell flat, demonstrating naïveté more than innocence. His future political aspirations notwithstanding, he would be well-advised to do his homework before supporting today that which he will renounce tomorrow.
Perhaps next time he should actually do the work instead of leaving it to Google to decide what’s best for Whatcom County.

—Michael Lair, Bellingham

Vote the whole ballot

“Vote the whole ballot” has never been more urgent than this year. For Whatcom Superior Court Judge, Position 2, James Erb brings such positive energy and an admirable commitment to fairness and equal justice.
For public service requiring integrity, broad experience and in-depth knowledge of the law, James is ready to step into the shoes Judge Deborra Garrett is leaving.
So many of us join her in endorsing Erb. As you approach the end of your ballot, please mark James Erb for Superior Court Judge, Position 2.

—Cole Harvey, Bellingham

Support Ferndale’s schools

Please vote to approve the Ferndale school levy which will be on the Nov. 3 ballot.
This levy will help ensure that Ferndale schools will have money for student services such as smaller class sizes, special-ed classes, eight-period high school schedules allowing for more electives, advanced learning and technology for in-school and at-home learning, which is vital during the pandemic. The levy will also include funding for teachers, nurses, maintenance personnel and custodians.
The passage of this levy will also allow for Ferndale schools to provide extracurricular activities such as athletics, art, drama, band, choir and the wonderful musicals put on by the Ferndale High School’s amazingly talented students and their directors.
Three of our grandchildren have attended Ferndale schools. Their lives have been enriched by the education they have received.
If many of these programs are no longer available to students it will be a sad day for the community of Ferndale. We must approve these funds for the educational opportunities they bring to our children.
Providing the best education possible is vital to their success in life. It is also important for the community to have schools we can all be proud of. Please pass this levy for our schools, our children and our community.

—Linda Schonborn, Ferndale

The Sharon I know

Boy, was I surprised to turn on my local TV news channel a couple of days ago and see an attack ad on Sharon Shewmake, our current representative for the 42nd District in Olympia. Although she was pictured, this is not the Sharon Shewmake I know.
This ad claimed she supports Black Lives Matter (yes, she does). It also claims she supports defunding the police (no, she does not).
Shewmake is eminently qualified to represent the 42nd District in Olympia. She is a professor of economics at Western Washington University, holds a PhD in agricultural economics, and is the only economist currently serving in the Legislature. She is a tireless worker who delves into data with competence and enthusiasm. She is also an author, wife and mother. Frankly, I don’t know how she does it all.
The Sharon Shewmake I know works with others, listens and looks for practical solutions, making sure that nobody is left behind.
Every one of her bills has either had Republican co-sponsors, overwhelming bipartisan support or both. She isn’t afraid to take on tough topics, but when she does she works hard to reach out and reach across ideological divisions.
I invite voters to check out both candidates’ websites. You will not find unattractive pictures or name-calling of her opponent on Sharon’s website. Sadly, I cannot say the same of her opponent. Rather, you will find Sharon’s amazing record of achievement in only two short years in office, and many ideas and positive plans for the future.
Please vote early, and vote for Sharon Shewmake. The 42nd Legislative District deserves no less.

—Nancy K. Sheng, Bellingham

Retain Supreme Court appointments

It is critically important that all members of our community are represented at the highest levels of our justice system.
Fortunately, two highly qualified women of color have been appointed to the Washington State Supreme Court, and this November we have the opportunity to retain them.
Justices Raquel Montoya-Lewis and G. Helen Whitener bring diverse perspectives and fairness essential to the decisions made by our state’s highest court, and enhance Washington’s reputation for enlightened competence.
Be sure to vote to keep them there.

—Scott Josiah and Debbi Barnes-Josiah, Lummi Island

Sierra Club supports Grant

The almost 3,000 members of the Mt. Baker Group of the Sierra Club endorse Christine Grant for Whatcom County Public Utility District Commissioner.
Here’s why:
Our county PUD can be so much more than it is now. It is authorized to provide power, water and telecommunication utility services. Though it could provide services throughout the county, it currently has only one electricity customer (Phillips 66 at Cherry Point) and operates two water treatment plants. But it could build power networks based on renewable energy sources, as well as provide internet service.
More than a dozen other PUDs in Washington provide high-speed broadband that is faster and cheaper than ours. And we are paying the price for this gap. Many local students, businesses and people throughout the county lack reliable internet access (or any access at all).
Christine is totally on-board with maximizing PUD power to the people.
She says, “PUDs across the state are innovating to serve their communities through widespread access to affordable high-speed internet, cheaper and cleaner power, and innovative water management.” She also recognizes that “internet access is no longer a luxury; it is an essential utility.”
And Christine prioritizes organized labor. For instance, she is deeply committed to assuring that changing our PUD must also include a just transition for workers—specifically in the fossil fuel energy job sector.
The Northwest Washington Central Labor Council endorses her, which shows that she listens, does her homework, and is a bridge-builder.
Whatcom County needs someone on our PUD commission committed to making the PUD work for all of us in as many ways as possible. That is Christine Grant.
She is widely endorsed by nearly 150 elected officials, community members and business leaders in Whatcom County. Check out her website at The Mt. Baker Group encourages you to support her and give her your vote on Nov. 3.
It is time for bold vision and independent thinking. Our future will be better for having Christine on Whatcom County PUD. Vote Grant.

—Rick Eggerth, Chair,
Mt. Baker Group Sierra Club

In praise of Rick Larsen

As a relatively new resident of Bellingham, I am very impressed with how local government listens to their constituents: through task forces, neighborhood associations and open mics at council meetings.
One of the first officials I met was Congressman Rick Larsen at an open house with Bellingham’s mayor at the time. He explained his support for sustainable energy, but wanted something more concrete, detailed and realistic in our political environment. He was very aware that inequality in living standards was only increasing. He talked about supporting immigration reform, supporting DACA, and his position against the conditions in detention centers. He also explained he was sponsoring a bill to improve FAA supervision capabilities and how he supported Boeing employees during the 737 crisis.
Since then, I have met with Larsen’s congressional aide in Bellingham and learned he has welcomed Amnesty International Group 270 for as long as he has represented the 2nd District. Yes, the bills that he co-sponsors shows that he cares about human rights.
We need Rick Larsen’s experience to implement the detailed legislation we will need to repair the damage the pandemic has caused us—someone who cares about all of his constituents, someone who will watch out for Bellingham and other communities in Northwest Washington. That is why I urge you to vote for Rick Larsen as congressman for the 2nd District.
Oh, and please vote.

—Jan Dietzgen, Bellingham

Erb for judge

We have a clear choice this November for our local judge seats.
We encourage you to vote for James Erb, who has a wealth of experience in civil, family, labor, land use and open government law. He has worked and listened to many diverse groups and he understands some of the most critical issues our community is facing.
His experience in the many facets of law and with different groups has allowed James to be open to serving this community with a breadth of experience no other candidate can match. This, of course, is why he has been endorsed by present Superior Court judges, Washington State Supreme court judges and so many of our local officials.
Please Vote. Vote early. Vote for the most qualified and experienced judge who understands the depth and complexity of issues and consequences of our judicial sentences.

—George and Barbara Rofkar, Bellingham

Grant for PUD

Christine Grant is a bright spot in this election—she has the energy, skill and vision to serve the Whatcom County Public Utility District and move our county forward.
For example, living in east Whatcom County in this time of connecting online for many social and economic needs, I can speak for myself and neighbors in saying that we need high-speed broadband connectivity. Internet access is a necessity. Christine understands this and has seen innovations that are already in place in other areas of our state for affordable and widespread high-speed internet.
She has spent her career working with utilities and is currently teaching advanced energy policy at Western Washington University. Christine is the most qualified candidate and will bring depth and breadth to this position on the PUD.
I have heard Christine speak on several occasions and was impressed with her experience working with PUDs. I have learned that in addition to telecommunications services, PUDs can provide access to cleaner and cheaper power as well as innovative water management.
Christine’s history of securing $25 million in competitive grants for clean energy and energy jobs speaks loudly of her skills and effectiveness.
Whatcom County needs her in this changing time to bring a positive can-do spirit to our PUD. We live in a beautiful place that deserves the best possible stewardship.
Business leaders, more than 50 local elected officials and the many individuals who have endorsed Christine believe she has what it takes to take on challenges and dos so brilliantly and effectively for the good of all.
Please join me in voting for Christine Grant for Whatcom County PUD. You can educate yourself on this topic and learn more about her at

—Joan Airoldi, Everson

The essence of justice

When I think of the character traits I want in a judge, multiple adjectives come to mind. There are obvious ones, such as impartiality, fairness and a strong moral code, but also less obvious ones, such as empathy and a willingness to forgive.
I began researching who I would vote for in the Whatcom County elections for Superior Court Judge, and I was pleased to find that James Erb embodied all of these and more. This is best displayed through his work on behalf of the Nooksack Indian Tribe in a child dependency case. In this capacity, children that had been removed from their parents’ care due to substance abuse disorders were not permitted to transfer their guardianship to their grandparents. This was because one of them had a criminal record that dated back many years. Erb successfully advocated for an exception to the state’s policy rule, and the children were placed in their care. Without his efforts, a family could have been split up, instead, they stayed together.
Efforts like this one show Erb is a creative problem-solver with the strong moral code needed to judge citizens of Whatcom County. He demonstrated the empathy and willingness to forgive that any judge needs when it comes to dealing with returning citizens.
Judges need to be able to not only recognize when someone deserves punishment, but also when a person has successfully reformed. If you want a judge who is committed to the everyday people of Whatcom County, vote James Erb.

—Finn Calvert, Bellingham

McClure good for business

Today we must do more than trust our gut or respond to something seen on social media. We must vote with intelligence and heart. I have worked with Jeff McClure for more than 35 years in many capacities, both professionally and in serving organizations supporting our community.
Jeff is trustworthy, educated, caring and dedicated to the work of the Whatcom County Public Utility District. Since 2008, his work at the Whatcom County PUD has focused on seeking new opportunities and growing a more engaged public utility district.
Access to high-speed internet might not seem a high priority considering all the issues we face today. But, when a community lacks internet access, its economy can suffer as residents deal with limited educational and employment opportunities.
There are 13 PUDs in our state that provide wholesale broadband telecommunications. It is time for Whatcom County to be one of them.
Broadband will provide high-speed, high-capacity, reliable internet. Jeff has fully participated in laying the groundwork for better connectivity in Whatcom County.
He will get this done. Read about Jeff. Call him. Ask questions. If you do, I am convinced you will join me in voting for Jeff McClure for Whatcom County PUD position #1.
Thank you for voting.

—Teri Treat, Bellingham

Get PUD working again

I’m writing to endorse Christine Grant for Whatcom County Public Utility District #1.
Whatcom County is a beautiful place to live, filled with bountiful natural resources and vibrant human resources as well. For many years now, those resources have been undermanaged and underutilized; their wonderful potential at the very least, unrealized; and at the worst, squandered.
Grant understands that potential.
With Whatcom PUD #1, literally the first in the state, there is the expectation the district would continue its early leadership role in providing and expanding county water, power and utility services. It seems even more critical now, as interest and participation is growing in both conservation and the use of technology to aid in the preservation and future utilization of our amazing, yet all- too-finite resources.
Even as our PUD has missed these opportunities, various corporate behemoths stand more than ready to use (and in many cases, abuse) those resources that make our county such a wonderful place to live and work. Several of these corporate raiders have been here for some time already, and have proven abundantly in some cases that they are not the best of neighbors. Companies like these are a large part of the reason that the denizens of Whatcom County need a strong, vibrant, forward-thinking PUD—to both protect the citizens of the county and manage our resources responsibly for all of us.
As an industry consultant, Christine has the skills to see and help realize the potential here. As a mother of the third generation of Grants to call Whatcom home, she has the will, the love and the understanding of what’s at stake for all of us as a driving force.
We all love this place, but we must also acknowledge that there are extant issues involving water, power and, increasingly, utilities (like internet and TV—is anybody truly happy with available offerings in the county?). Even now we are coming into the annual “power-outage season,” when wind and storms create dark days ( and for some, even dark weeks). Like many counties, we pay dearly for utility monopolies but scarcely, if ever, reap any just rewards.
We need someone who can find or create solutions.
Additionally, we all know that clean, fresh water, while a concern everywhere, is doubly a concern here. This is largely due to our dependence on lakes and aquifers in a time of climate change to serve the water needs of local industry and farms as well as our families.
All of these things and more are the reasons that my family will be casting our votes for Grant for a spot on Whatcom PUD #1. Christine has the skills to bring our PUD into the 21st century, keep local industry behaving like good neighbors and prevent the raiding of our natural resources. She knows and loves our County as much as we do, and will be the people’s champion, protecting Whatcom County resources and determining the best balance between conservation and use of those resources for the benefit of our families, our businesses and our tax base.
If you share this vision for Whatcom County’s future, I hope you’ll join us in voting for Christine Grant for Whatcom County PUD #1.

—Nevada S. Huaute, Bellingham

Keep the courts independent

As we roll through election season, many forget that it is essential to vote locally. One example of this is for a Superior Court Judge within our own county. We have options, but only one candidate that is willing to stand up for access to abortion. While this position’s candidates do not belong to any one party, if Whatcom County wants to have a judge who will truly support choice regardless of identity, we have to sift through the candidates to see where they stand.
As a resident and voter in this community, I will be voting for James Erb to be my Superior Court Judge because I want to know my neighbors, friends and classmates have access to the reproductive health care they need. I want to know that all residents in my community have the ability to make decisions for themselves as fully autonomous beings.
Erb is endorsed by the Whatcom Democrats and 42nd LD Democrats, as well as the Young Democrats of WWU; while his counterpart is endorsed by more conservative groups, including the Whatcom Republicans, who have pro-life statements as part of their platform.
With Roe v. Wade on the line, with a majority conservative Supreme Court, voting in officials who will challenge those wanting to oppress people with my anatomy is more important than ever.

—Ari Winter, Bellingham

Improve democracy

A race I usually don’t pay much attention to has caught and sustained my interest this campaign season.
Gael Tarleton is running for Secretary of State against the incumbent. Every time I listen to Gael speak, I’m more impressed with her. She has a longstanding background in national security. She is passionate about protecting the security of our elections and each person’s vote. She has specific plans to overcome any barriers that potential voters experience to increase the numbers of people who participate in our elections. She has a long-standing relationship with the Legislature so she knows how to work with that body to pass legislation that will enhance voting in Washington.
Tarleton is an indefatigable worker. I know that she will find whatever needs to be done to keep our elections safe, secure, and fair for all citizens.
Trust is paramount in our elections. I know that Gael will earn your trust so that you will know your vote is safe. Vote Gael Tarleton for Secretary of State.

—Lucy Morse, Ferndale

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