Edie Gilliss, political director for Washington Conservation Voters, says anyone is welcome to display one of the group’s “Another Family Voting Against Coal Trains” signs, even if they are supporting Kelli Linville for Bellingham mayor.
Gilliss provided that assurance in an email, after I forwarded the WCV a complaint from Vanessa Blackburn, Linville’s campaign manager.
(The WCV has endorsed incumbent Mayor Dan Pike, partly because of his opposition to SSA Marine’s Gateway Pacific Terminal project that would export coal to China–coal that would travel through Bellingham on trains.)
Here is Blackburn’s emailed complaint, sent to WCV and copied to me:
“I had a Washington Conservation Voters volunteer come to my door this weekend (a very nice person, by the way), and I thanked her for volunteering and for distributing literature for WCV candidates. When I asked if I could have an anti-coal sign, she said volunteers were told they could not put anti-coal signs in yards that have Kelli Linville signs. I was surprised and deeply saddened by this, since Kelli Linville is also anti-coal, this is something I also care about, and this is an issue that will be facing our community long after this current election is over. Although the volunteer said she knew Kelli was anti-coal, this was what all volunteers were told and she was sorry. Over the weekend, I received several emails from Kelli supporters who were told the same thing by WCV and they found this shocking, offensive and angering.
Can you please explain to me why WCV would have a policy that is divisive and alienates many anti-coal supporters in Bellingham instead of one that builds consensus around this critically important issue and includes the entire community?”
The WCV’s Gilliss responded to Blackburn with an emailed apology and an invitation to her and anyone else who wants to display the anti-coal train signs. Blackburn provided me with a copy of that email and her reply to Gilliss:
“Thank you for your prompt response, and yes, I would like to pick up two anti-coal signs: One for myself, and one for Kelli Linville.”
In a separate email dialog with me, Gilliss said:
“Washington Conservation Voters wants EVERY candidate and elected official in Whatcom County to oppose coal exports. I’m not sure how many yard signs we have left to distribute, but I encourage all voters to ask the question, “where do you stand on a new coal dock from Cherry Point?”
to every local candidate.
Our organization is supporting Mayor Dan Pike in the mayor’s race, because he has clearly and unequivocally opposed the coal export terminal. We encourage Kelli Linville to do the same. She hasn’t.”
My followup question to Gilliss:
“This is what Linville wrote in her op-ed on July 13:
“”I do not support exporting coal or any other non-renewable resource.
If the proposed SSA Marine terminal at Cherry Point is proven to be a sole-purpose coal pier then I absolutely oppose it. I support and will continue to work for a multi-purpose terminal that is mitigated for rail impacts through Bellingham and meets stringent environmental standards.
I will vigorously engage in the scoping and permitting process from beginning to end to ensure our interests are represented.”"
What issues do you have with that statement?”
“Broadly speaking, Mayor Pike has been a champion to make sure the community isn’t impacted by toxic coal dust, traffic, and noise from coal trains. He has been a leader in opposing the terminal, working hand in hand with community leaders, other mayors, and public health experts.
We oppose exporting coal through Cherry Point regardless of the other materials that may be exported from that terminal. For us, this is not an argument about percentages—it’s about leadership and unequivocal opposition.”
As reported earlier, Mayor Pike’s unequivocal opposition was not immediate.