Tag: City Council
In an unusual move, Mayor Kelli Linville has endorsed the candidacy of Pinky Vargas for the Fourth Ward City Council seat in the 2013 election.
Vargas is seeking the seat being vacated by Stan Snapp. The other announced candidate in that race is Clayton Petree.
Vargas announced the Linville endorsement in a press release.
“I am proud to endorse Pinky Vargas for the open City Council position in Ward Four,” Linville said in the press release. ” Pinky has the demonstrated ability to work with business owners to help them save energy with an attentive eye to their bottom line. We need more of that perspective building consensus and spurring action on City Council.”
I was trying to think of other examples of a sitting mayor endorsing City Council candidates in Bellingham. Searching my mental files and Herald archives, I could not come up with any. If you have examples, please note them in the comments section.
Snapp has already endorsed Vargas. She also has endorsements from council members Cathy Lehman and Gene Knutson and former Whatcom Democrats chair and 42nd Legislative District candidate Natalie McClendon.
Vargas said her campaign’s formal kickoff will be Tuesday, May 14 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention on Bay Street downtown. Everyone is invited.
Vargas is an efficiency outreach manager for Puget Sound Energy.
Additional information on Pinky Vargas and her campaign is available at www.votepinkyvargas, on Facebook, or by contacting the campaign directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or (360)224-4313
By John Stark
The Bellingham City Council has scheduled a public hearing for tonight (Monday, Oct. 22) on the proposed waterfront land swap with the Port of Bellingham.
Here’s the information included on the council’s public agenda. Besides the hearing at the 7 p.m. regular council session, the council has also scheduled a 2:10 p.m. committee discussion.
Port of Bellingham commissioners approved the deal last week.
Communitywise Bellingham and Whatcom Docs are seeking private grant funding for an independent study of potential health impacts from the Gateway Pacific Terminal coal shipping pier proposed for Cherry Point.
At Monday’s City Council meeting, council member Michael Lilliquist will ask his colleagues to consider drafting a letter of support for the grant application being prepared by the two groups.
Here’s a link to the City Council’s agenda packet item that explains what’s going on. The City Council is scheduled to discuss the matter in committee at 1:40 p.m. Monday, Sept. 9, in chambers at City Hall, 210 Lottie St.
Backers of the initiative to ban coal shipments through Bellingham are not ready to give up. They say they have filed an appeal of Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Charles Snyder’s injunction to bar their measure from the November ballot.
Here’s the full text of the announcement from Coal-Free Bellingham:
Whatcom County Superior Court ruled on Friday, August 3, 2012, that a duly qualified citizen initiative will not appear on the November ballot. The Court’s decision to grant the request by the City of Bellingham and BNSF Railway Company to remove the initiative from the ballot was made on the grounds that the proposed initiative exceeded the powers that the City could assert against the railroad corporation and others. The Court then proceeded to dismiss the SLAPP suit (strategic lawsuit against public participation) which Coal-Free Bellingham, the sponsors of the initiative, had filed against the City. Known as the Bellingham Community Bill of Rights, the initiative would ask voters to secure residents’ rights to self-government and a clean environment, along with prohibiting coal trains from passing through Bellingham. Nearly 10,000 people signed the petition to get the initiative on the ballot.
Coal-Free Bellingham today appealed the decision to the State Court of Appeals, asking that a decision be made prior to August 28 – the last day on which the County Auditor can make decisions about what to put on the November ballot.
“The people’s State constitutional right to direct legislation lost out last Friday”, said Terry Garrett, volunteer organizer for Coal-Free Bellingham. “Appealing Friday’s decision is both about defending the 100-year-old right to initiative and about making sure the people of Bellingham get the chance to vote on reprogramming government to be about people and the environment, instead of supporting corporate exploitation.”
Morgan McCartor, volunteer member of the Coal-Free Bellingham Campaign Committee, agreed. “Unlike California,” McCartor said, “Washington law says that we check for legal issues with an initiative after the people have had a chance to vote. Without this right, we lose an important means for letting the legal system know how it needs to adjust. Because this is so key, we’re going to keep working so people really understand what got decided here. In addition to appealing, Coal-Free Bellingham’s response to having the initiative knocked off the ballot is that we are going double our office space.”
Suzanne Ravet has been talking with people outside Bellingham about the possibility of a similar initiative effort next year for Whatcom County. “At the Court hearing last Friday, I counted at least 30 and possibly more like 50 plus folks there with Prop 2 buttons on (or just folks I know have worked on the Prop 2 campaign). The saddest part to me is how our elected officials – and the Court — think that the average citizens aren’t smart enough to know what we are doing. It’s really insulting.”
“Community-rights ordinances like this one are the only way a town or county can fight back against the corporate license to ‘develop’ nature without acknowledging the costs of doing that,” said Phil Damon, veteran member of the Living Democracy group. “Our City (with their partner in the injunction, BNSF) has chosen to prevent its citizens from exercising their right to just such an initiative. No surprise from the railroad, but from the City Council? That’s a big ouch.” Living Democracy is a think tank and educational non-profit. Both Living Democracy and Coal-Free Bellingham were formed last year by citizens concerned by the lack of democracy in American society and by the gathering ecological holocaust.
Passing the Bellingham Community Bill of Rights in November would establish a local Bill of Rights, recognizing the fundamental right to clean air and water, to local self-government, the rights of ecosystems to exist and flourish, and it would prohibit the transportation of coal within City of Bellingham, among other provisions.
End press release
The Bellingham City Council has dropped a proposal for a November advisory vote on the Gateway Pacific Terminal project.
During a brief committee discussion of the proposal at a Monday, Aug. 6 committee session, council member Jack Weiss said it would be better if Bellingham residents focused their energies on studying the many issues surrounding the project, to prepare themselves for participation in the upcoming “scoping process” expected to begin this fall.
The scoping process is the first step in evaluating Gateway Pacific’s environmental and economic impacts. That process is designed to determine what specific issues should be studied as regulatory agencies decide whether to grant permits for the construction of the massive coal-shipping pier at Cherry Point, south of the BP refinery.
Weiss had been one of those who had pushed for the advisory vote.
Original blog post from Monday morning:
The advisory vote proposal is the last of four items on the agenda of a committee discussion scheduled to begin at 1:20 p.m. Monday, Aug. 6 in chambers at City Hall, 210 Lottie St.
After their last discussion of a possible advisory vote on July 23, the council voted 5-2 to direct city staff to prepare ballot language for council review at the Aug. 6 meeting., with council members Terry Bornemann and Cathy Lehman expressing skepticism about the value of such a vote. Both noted that City Council has no direct role to play in the decision on whether SSA Marine will be allowed to build its Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point. That will be up to Whatcom County and state and federal agencies.
The council has already voted unanimously to urge those agencies to consider the potential negative impacts of increased rail traffic through Bellingham as they make their decision.
The citizen initiative to outlaw coal transport through Bellingham pits one level of government against another, and therefore uses the wrong tactics to protect environment and quality of life, Bellingham City Council member Michael Lilliquist writes.
Lilliquist and other council members have gotten a lot of feedback from constituents who are upset about the council’s June 18 vote to authorize a lawsuit asking Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Steve Mura to keep the initiative off the November ballot.
Lilliquist has shared a copy of an email message he has sent to some constituents to explain his own decision to join the rest of the council in authorizing the lawsuit.
Here is a key excerpt:
“Every city is not and cannot be sovereign and independent. To believe otherwise would be to undermine the very idea of the rule of common law, common justice, and common purpose. It would undermine the ‘we’ in We the People. It would become each community for themselves; our way or the highway. Local rejection of federal authority has a long, sordid past, known sometimes as ‘nullification’ and put into service by racist southerners attempting to oppress and discriminate under the cloak of local democracy. Hyper-local democracy is a dangerous and potentially corrupting tool; you don’t want to use a tool that you would not allow others to use. The enlightened arc of history has been to expand our boundaries of shared community and values, not narrow it down city by city. The rule of law should not be thrown out so quickly. The ends do not justify the means.”
Lilliquist also notes that he and other council members are considering putting non-binding advisory votes on the ballot to give voters a chance to express themselves on coal trains and the larger issue of Gateway Pacific Terminal.
He also notes that he is a graduate of the “Democracy School” sponsored by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, which ought to insulate him against the charge that he isn’t enlightened enough to understand the initiative’s lofty principles. CELDF is the organization that helped inspire the local initiative effort.
Here is the full text of Lilliquist’s statement:
“Thanks for your thoughtful letter and the good questions you raise in it. It’s difficult for me to know where to start in replying to your email and the many similar email letters the City Council has received taking issue with our decision to seek judicial review of the legality and validity of Prop. 2, known as the Community Bill of Rights. It’s not as simple as you may have been led to believe. Given the flaws in the initiative, I unhappily felt we had no better choice. Although the decision to seek review was unanimous, the words and ideas that follow are my own, and may or may not be shared by other Council members.
The GPT coal train/shipping terminal is certainly one of the most important and emotional issues for Bellingham now and for the foreseeable future. Monday night’s City Council meeting, in particular, was emotionally difficult for me: to have the Council criticized by upset citizens for doing nothing, for standing in the way of voters, for denying democracy, for betraying the people who elected me, for serving harmful corporate interests, etc. This is especially upsetting for me, having spent much of the weekend working on ways to hold the GPT project accountable and to provide the voters of Bellingham with a valid means to cast their vote. Please keep in mind that elected or not, I am an ordinary person such as yourself, no better and hopefully no worse. I am doing my best to protect my community and my daughter’s future.
Let me begin by saying I share many people’s great concern over the likely impacts of the proposed GPT project — from the increased rail traffic, noise, pollution, impact on property values, our city’s quality of life and attractiveness to businesses and visitors, the risks of increased ship traffic through the San Juan straights, and the mining and burning of coal itself. The list of possible or likely negative impacts locally, statewide, and globally is pages long and we do not need to go over them here. The economic benefits have been advertised, while the economic costs are only becoming known.
I steadfastly believe that as an elected representative, I need to work night and day to protect the health and welfare of Bellingham (and where you live in Whatcom County), not just today but long into the future. I feel this is my responsibility even when I have no direct “vote” in the matter, such as the Whatcom County Council members have. Quite simply, it’s not our (Bellingham City Council’s) decision to make. Without authority over the decision, we are forced to work by more difficult and circuitous means, to influence others and to improve the process.
My personal position is that unless and until it can be shown convincingly that the consequences of the proposed coal shipping terminal and associated rail and marine traffic are not a threat to the health, safety, prosperity, and future of Bellingham and other communities, it should not be approved. Let the facts and the truth guide us, and let’s work to ensure that the truth is well known to the public as well as to decision makers in county, state, and federal government.
You may recall that I personally took the initiative early last year to write the City Council’s letter to the county SEPA official and the Corps’ NEPA official, outlining the City’s serious concerns and calling for a broad and thorough environmental review. What you may not know is that earlier this year, I helped secure a promise from the Mayor that staff time and resources would be available to respond to and watch over the EIS process, and I continue that insistence. I have been steadfastly insisting that the City of Bellingham be prepared to offer a thorough set of comments on the EIS scoping process, to require a full accounting of the impacts that must be prevented. Yesterday, I convinced the other members of City Council to send an important letter to Whatcom County’s SEPA official, requesting a definitive answer about off-site rail improvements that directly points to the estimated $100 million cost of an unwanted rail siding in Bellingham. I have also been in regular contact with leaders in the Whatcom Docs organization and CommunityWise Bellingham, and I applaud and welcome their important contributions to understanding the issue.
Let me also say that, as a graduate of CELDF’s “democracy school,” (link added by Stark) I understand the legal, constitutional, and moral critique of corporate and property-based rights as opposed to human and natural-systems rights. Let me also add that as a co-sponsor of the City Council’s recent resolution calling for a constitutional amendment to undo the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, I have shown that I understand the fundamental threat to our democracy when for-profit, fictional persons can and often do wield more influence on our elections and lawmaking that natural human beings.
I say all of this in the hope that you will understand that my objections to Proposition 2 are not motivated by any favoritism of the GPT project, nor any sympathy for coal production and burning, nor by a lack of concern with outside corporate interests undermining our local democracy.
I know many of the leaders in Prop 2 effort personally, and I expressed my concerns about Prop 2 to several of them directly weeks and months ago. This should not be the least bit of a surprise to them. Indeed, I suspect that a legal showdown is exactly what some people were seeking. The problem is, as I see it, Prop 2 creates the wrong conflict between the wrong parties. Creating new categories of rights-bearing entities simply engages in an escalating arms race; it does not undo the problem of corporation’s excessive legal privileges. It puts the City government in harm’s way, and will do little of practical effect to stop the coal train and shipping terminal. I say this for two general reasons. First, the initiative is doomed to being overturned in court; and second, the initiative distracts and weakens the ability of the City of Bellingham to deal effectively with this issue. And finally, it is a tactical and political blunder, by forcing a sympathetic City Council to raise procedural and legal roadblocks, rather than strengthening the Council’s hand to act on your behalf.
In short, in my view, Proposition 2 is legally, practically, tactically, politically, and philosophically flawed. I wish it were otherwise. The time and place for the people of Bellingham and Whatcom County to be heard shall come, but this is not the way. You may not agree, [name removed], but please understand why I believe so.
In our American democratic system, we declare that government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. Collectively and through the Constitution we define both the authorities and the limits of government power, in order to create the rule of law and to protect individual rights. The Constitution also reserves certain powers to the federal government, while passing over most all other government powers to the individual states. My point here is that the people’s sovereignty is embodied collectively, not separately, by the federal and state and local governments.
Every city is not and cannot be sovereign and independent. To believe otherwise would be to undermine the very idea of the rule of common law, common justice, and common purpose. It would undermine the “we” in We the People. It would become each community for themselves; our way or the highway. Local rejection of federal authority has a long, sordid past, known sometimes as “nullification” and put into service by racist southerners attempting to oppress and discriminate under the cloak of local democracy. Hyper-local democracy is a dangerous and potentially corrupting tool; you don’t want to use a tool that you would not allow others to use. The enlightened arc of history has been to expand our boundaries of shared community and values, not narrow it down city by city. The rule of law should not be thrown out so quickly. The ends do not justify the means.
More importantly in my mind, Prop 2 is practically designed to create a constitutional showdown between local and federal government — but that’s not what most people are concerned about. The common target of concern is the influence of corporations in our political and legal and regulatory systems. CELDF has done a credible job in outlining how the regulatory system is often a rigged game in which the direct voices of the people or their elected representatives are stymied and thwarted by established legal privileges granted by the courts and federal laws. American legal history shows us that corporations may have been granted too many human rights, not that humans have been granted too few. Well, if this the problem, then we need a healthy showdown between the rights of citizens to protect themselves and the rights of businesses to conduct harmful operations under legal shield of permits. This is a national problem, one that calls for a national solution (e.g., pass an constitutional amendment that declares the Bill of Rights protect natural persons only). Prop 2 misses the mark. It’s the wrong fight. It attacks federalism not just corporatism.
Many people, perhaps including yourself, are understandably frustrated — unable to talk to the decision makers on the Whatcom County Council, and also unable to vote on the issue. There is a feeling that, in all justice we ought to be able to vote to do whatever we feel is right and necessary to protect our interests, our health, our future. I hear you and I get it, but that’s not how the rule of law works, because different issues are dealt with at different levels of government. Under our system, the democratically-elected federal government has sole jurisdiction over some matters, while the democratically-elected state government has authority over others. The state, in turn, delegates certain responsibilities in part or wholly to democratically-elected local governments. In principle, the people are always in charge and sovereign, but we the people govern through different jurisdictions.
The central problem with Prop 2 is that is pits one democratically-elected government against another democratically-elected government; it pits the people’s representatives against the people’s representatives. It creates a constitutional show-down not over the issue of corporate influence or property-based rights, but rather a show-down between federal and local government. This is the wrong constitutional show-down, because a victory will bolster the dangerous states-rights agenda while not directly affecting corporation’s legal status.
The restoration of democracy in America needs to come about not through a weakening of our Constitution, but through a re-assertion of citizen control over federal government. If you want to take back control of our (your!) democracy, begin by understanding which jurisdiction controls what. Then work to change those rules that don’t work, but please do so at the proper level (local, state, national) and by effective means (electoral victories, etc.) that cannot be overturned in court. If passed, this proposition would no doubt be overturned, and where would that get us?
So much for the politics and philosophy, now on to the nitty-gritty of why I voted to seek legal review of Prop 2. (By the way, the City Council does not have the power vote to keep Prop 2 off the ballot, as some have feared; that was never a possibility.)
The city attorney’s office has identified no less than seven fundamental flaws with the initiative — simple, basic flaws that were known in advance and easily identified, but ignored by supporters. From top to bottom, the proposition is invalid, improper and unconstitutional. It clearly violates the City charter, state law and the state constitution, as well as federal law and the U.S. Constitution. Part of the law for initiatives is that they must contain only one question or issue, so that voters can declare their preferences clearly. Prop 2 contains at least two, probably more proposals. As written, people who may want to vote against the coal train but not in support of the Community Bill of Rights cannot do so. They have to support or reject both. Courts routinely throw out such dual-issue initiatives.
Contrary to what many people think, citizen initiatives cannot be used to let the people vote on anything just because it is important. The power of the citizen initiative is best understood as direct legislation. Rather than working through our elected legislators, we the people can petition to enact legislation (laws) directly by popular vote. The key point is that citizens have no more power through direct legislation than the elected legislators wield on your behalf. If the City Council has no authority or jurisdiction, then neither do the people when they act through municipal initiative. (The same is true for state initiatives: the people can vote to directly pass state laws but only state laws.)
In other words, the people cannot pass state or federal laws through a municipal (city) ordinance, any more than the City Council can pass state or federal laws. The City is not taking away a legal right, because that legal right does not exist. (I am referring to legal rights, not moral rights.)
The City Council also has no administrative or executive authority: under the city’s founding charter, that’s the mayor’s job. Therefore, citizen initiative cannot enact administrative or executive actions (as clearly stated in our charter). Moreover, when the City is carrying out the orders of a higher authority (e.g., federal law) it is acting in an administrative capacity. We are not passing a local law, but only carrying out a law passed by another level of government. Prop 2 includes administrative acts. Since Prop 2 proposes to do that which the City Council cannot do, even if it wanted to, Prop 2 is likely beyond the permissible scope of initiatives and therefore invalid.
Finally, there is the federal question. The U.S. Constitution clearly states that interstate commerce is the sole jurisdiction of federal government, and Congress has passed numerous laws that clearly exempt interstate rail traffic from local control. Moreover, and regrettably, rail companies were given an exalted and nearly untouchable status in federal law going back to the gilded age of the 19th century; they are in an especially privileged position legally. By claiming to overturn or pre-empt these constitutionally-based federal laws, Prop 2 runs smack into a legal freight train (pun intended). I am not a legal expert, but I am mortally certain that Prop 2 would be overturned on this ground alone if challenged in court. Prop 2 supporters have pointed to examples of other cities that have declared against harmful corporate practices, but none of these cases dealt directly with the Commerce Clause or the considerable position of rail.
Now, you may not care whether it is “legal” or not, but as your elected official I have to care very much about exposing the City to costly and losing lawsuits. Moreover, under federal code, the city could actually end up paying the other side’s lawyer bill if (when) we lose! Facing the loss of tax-payer dollars to pay the legal bill for both sides, I felt compelled to act. In addition, our legal system requires that court challenges must be made in a timely fashion; as a matter of fairness, one may not be allowed to wait until after the fact. Sometimes failure to act means that you also lose your place in court. These details may not interest you personally, but it may help you to understand the complex motives behind our actions.
Other people have criticized the City Council for being too concerned about avoiding law suits. I assure you this is not the case. As some of you know, the City Council dealt with three major land use/zoning decisions last Monday night, and in all three cases we were threatened with legal action if we did not act in the way that some parties wanted us to act. We will act anyway, I believe, because we feel confident in our positions and justifications. Sadly, the City is sued or threatened with lawsuits all the time. We pick our fights, and defend the public interest. The mere threat of a law suit was not the main issue with Prop 2. It was the un-win-ability of the lawsuit that was persuasive.
There is a common theme to many of the complaints we have received: “don’t take away our right to vote, our right to be heard and to decide.” But there are other means to be heard and to vote, including through an initiative that was written differently. Just as the City Council can pass non-binding statement of belief and intent known as a resolution, so too can a citizen initiative pose a question to the people — a direct resolution if you will. The outcome of the election does not enact a law (which is why it could not be overturned by outside interests), but it does make a practical, political, and moral commitment that the City would then work to uphold.
On Monday, I formally notified the other members of the City Council that I wanted to work on developing alternative ballot proposals to be put before the people, to address the coal train issues and the Community Bill of Rights in a way that would not be legally challengeable. Several council members quickly said that they would help me to develop those ideas. If the court decides that Prop 2 is invalid, the Council may be able to place alternatives on the ballot if we act quickly. Nothing has been decided or proposed yet, but the Council could choose to place two advisory votes on the ballot, one issue dealing with the coal train issue and the other dealing with a Community Bill of rights. As advisory votes rather than laws, these cannot be challenged or overturned. On the down side, of course, because they are not laws, they do not actually change the system or enact new legal tools.
At the same time, I will continue to work with the city administration to participate in a robust environmental review by the county, to identify all impacts and to hold the GPT applicants accountable. The permit review process will take months if not years. Please be assured that I will give the matter the attention and time that it deserves.”
(end Lilliquist statement)
The Bellingham City Council has agreed to modify a low-income housing levy measure to address financial issues raised by Mayor Kelli Linville and City Finance Director John Carter.
At their Monday, May 21 evening session, the council voted 7-0 to take another step toward a property tax increase measure that would provide money for two different low income housing funds, if a majority of voters approve in November. The larger fund would get about $2 million of the annual levy proceeds, and that money would be directed toward programs that would benefit people making less than 50 percent of the city’s median income. The other fund would get $1 million a year from the levy, and would pay for programs that would benefit people making up to 80 percent of the median income.
The council directed city staff to draft legal language to that effect for additional council consideration at their June 4, 2012 meeting. If council gives the modified levy proposal final approval, the tax hike would face city voters during the Nov. 6, 2012 general election.
At a Monday afternoon committee session, Linville and Carter warned the council that the levy as originally proposed would take a significant bite out of the city’s taxing capacity during its seven-year term.
Under state law, the city now has a total levy limit of $3.60 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The city already collects about $2.35, leaving about $1.25 in remaining capacity. The housing levy as originally drafted would take another 36 cents out of its potential $1.25 in future taxing authority.
But state law also grants an exemption for housing levies aimed at the neediest people who make less than the median income. Levies for that purpose do not count against the limit.
Linville told the council that she preferred a levy that would be 100 percent for the neediest, and would therefore add no restrictions on the city’s ability to raise property tax revenues in future years. The mayor has repeatedly expressed concern about the future costs of environmental cleanup and street and utility projects on the waterfront. The city also faces eventual pension fund liabilities.
But the council chose a hybrid approach that would reduce, but not eliminate, the housing levy’s impact on city taxing capacity.
Linville said it’s up to the council and the voters to weigh the impacts and make those decisions. She added that she’s all for increased aid to the homeless. But she also wants to make sure that the council stays focused on the city’s overall financial situation.
“I would say that any decrease in the capacity for us to meet our unmet needs in the city is a concern,” Linville said.
She hopes the council will adopt a two-year budget process that would encourage more long-range thinking about revenues and expenses.
In that time, they have garnered 436 signatures with a low-key, word-of-mouth campaign.
Don’t assume that this initiative effort is doomed to failure. If they can get the signatures to put their measure before city voters, their chances may be good.
Olympia voters faced a similar measure just last November, and they passed it by a 57 percent margin.
Many of Bellingham’s dog and cat owners are going to rally to this cause.
Whatcom County labor organizations are far from unanimous on candidate endorsements in city races this season, with divisions showing up most noticeably in the mayor’s race.
Mark Lowry, president of the Northwest Washington Central Labor Council, said that organization has declined to issue an endorsement in the mayor’s race. As Lowry explained it, representatives of the council’s public employee unions have some issues with both incumbent Dan Pike and challenger Kelli Linville, the former 42nd District state representative.
City employees represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees are “less than enthralled with Mr. Pike,” Lowry said. At the same time, some members of state employee unions have similar issues with Linville based on her role as a key budget-developer in Olympia. Result: no labor council endorsement for either candidate.
Lowry also noted the labor council’s disenchantment with Pike’s position on the Gateway Pacific Terminal project that would ship coal and other bulk cargoes from a new Cherry Point pier proposed by SSA Marine of Seattle. Labor leaders see the project as a welcome source of construction jobs their members desperately need.
At first, Pike seemed to agree. He proposed routing trainloads of coal to the pier site via the South Fork Valley to avoid impacts on Bellingham, but after it became clear that such a route was unlikely, and community opposition to the project was building, Pike took a strong stance against it.
“We believe Mayor Pike threw organized labor under the bus to score some points with environmentalists,” Lowry said.
Speaking of the bus, Lowry also serves as president and business agent for Amalgamated Transit Union Local 843, a 186-member local that represents Whatcom Transportation Authority bus drivers. Local 843 is endorsing Linville.
Lowry said public transit systems here and around Washington are in dire financial straits because their sales tax subsidies have shrunk amid recession. He wants to see a coalition of state and local governments formed to develop new taxation options that local governments can adopt to help pay for transit, and Local 843 leaders believe Linville has the expertise to play a key role in that process.
The labor council and the ATU also parted ways on the Ward 3 City Council race, with the council endorsing Barry Buchanan while Local 843 endorses challenger Cathy Lehman.
“Barry Buchanan has been there for us for four years,” Lowry said. “He has never backed away from us. Barry has always stood with us and we couldn’t see not standing with him.”
But from a strictly ATU perspective, Lehman got the edge, Lowry said. He described her as very engaged in mass transit issues, and committed to a robust transit system even before her candidacy, as head of the local office of Futurewise.
The big factor: Seattle’s failed ordinance charged a 20 cent fee for use of bags, and the money–millions of dollars–would have gone to the city. Bellingham’s ordinance lets the merchant keep the nickel fee that is mandated here, enabling the merchants to recover their bag costs while encouraging consumers to bring their own bags.
The Bellingham City Council appears to be ready to pass an ordinance to ban the use of plastic shopping bags at all retailers in the city.
The ordinance cleared the council’s Natural Resources committee on a 4-0 vote Monday afternoon July 11, with Chairman Seth Fleetwood and members Michael Lilliquist, Barry Buchanan and Gene Knutson voting. Two other council members in attendance, Terry Bornemann and Jack Weiss, also indicated their support for the measure.
If the council does approve it, the bag ban would take effect in one year after passage. Besides banning the use of lightweight disposable plastic shopping bags, the ordinance would also require retailers to charge customers five cents for each disposable paper bag they use.
The extra nickels are meant to help retailers cover the higher cost of the paper bags while giving shoppers an incentive to remember their reusable bags.
Under the legal procedure for adopting a new ordinance, the measure must get a second, final vote at another council meeting.
The seven-page ordinance contains a few complexities:
- Low-income people can be exempted from the nickel paper bag fee;
- A store can get a temporary exemption from the law that would be granted by the mayor, if that store can demonstrate a special hardship
- Paper bags provided to shoppers must be made from 40 percent recycled materials;
- Restaurants are still permitted to offer disposable plastic bags for take-out foods.
- Small paper bags can be offered to shoppers for small items, free of charge.
At Monday’s committee session, council member Bornemann praised Brooks Anderson and Jill MacIntyre Witt, leaders of a group called Bag It Bellingham, for proposing the ordinance and undertaking a citywide public education campaign since the ordinance was first suggested in March 2011.
As a result of their efforts, Bornemann said, the initial backlash against the proposal died away and support grew, from retailers as well as shoppers.
“You went and did the work and headed that off,” Bornemann said. “Thanks for doing it the right way.”
Anderson replied that she was aware that the ordinance would need widespread support to be successful.
“We wanted this to be about all of Bellingham,” Anderson said. “We really did work to get the buy-in.”
Knutson noted that Bellingham was a leader in moving to a citywide recycling system more than 20 years ago, and this was another example of Bellingham’s leading role on environmental issues.
The bag ordinance gained some momentum in the last few days after two local supermarket firms, Haggen Food and Pharmacy and The Markets, said they favored the ordinance.
After the meeting, Heather Trim of People for Puget Sound in Seattle said her group expects to launch a new effort to get a plastic bag ban in place in Seattle. An earlier ban that imposed a 20-cent paper bag fee that was sent to the city proved unpopular and was defeated at the polls. Trim said she thinks Bellingham’s approach could be a good model for Seattle to try.
The Bellingham measure will charge just a nickel, and the revenue goes to the retailers, not to the city.
By waiting a year to phase in the ban, Anderson said Bellingham’s law will give retailers plenty of time to use up bags they have already purchased, while giving shoppers time to adjust their expectations.
She noted that retailers have already been taking steps to encourage shoppers to carry reusable bags, because they want to eliminate the cost of providing shopping bags.
On Monday, July 11, The Bellingham City Council will consider a proposed ordinance to ban the use of plastic shopping bags in the city. That ordinance picked up some key support Friday, July 8 when Haggen Food & Pharmacy threw its support behind the measure.
The ordinance would force retailers to stop offering plastic shopping bags to their customers within city limits. It also would require retailers to collect a 5-cent fee for every paper bag used by a customer. The extra nickels would be kept by the retailers, and the city would collect no extra revenue.
The council’s Natural Resources Committee will consider the ordinance at its 1 p.m. Monday meeting in council chambers at City Hall, and the agenda available today indicates that the measure is expected to move on to the full council for additional discussion at the 7 p.m. general session.
I haven’t been able to get ahold of Council Member Seth Fleetwood today to clarify what will happen on Monday.
To read the full ordinance, click here.
Here is the press release from Haggen:
Haggen Food & Pharmacy stores are supporting a proposed Bellingham ordinance that would ban the use of plastic bags for most retail uses.
“In keeping with our longstanding commitment to the environment, Haggen has always supported a reduction or ban on single-use plastic bags,” said Glen Foresman, vice president of retail support for Haggen, Inc. “We were the first to introduce reusable bags in our marketing area, have sold more than 500,000 reusable bags to customers and have provided in-store recycling centers for plastic bags since 1993.
“Haggen’s preference is for statewide legislation that would provide consistency on this issue in all of our markets,” Foresman added. “While Haggen will continue to support passage of such a bill in the state Legislature, Bellingham’s proposed ordinance is similar to what we have backed for statewide consideration for five years and we encourage the City Council to pass it. We understand this will be a significant change for many customers and we will work hard to ease their transition and encourage their use of reusable bags, which is ultimately the best thing for the environment.”
(End press release)
The seven-page ordinance proposed for Bellingham contains many wrinkles, among them:
- a provision exempting low-income people from the nickel paper bag fee;
- a provision allowing a store to get a temporary exemption from the law that would be granted by the mayor, if that store can demonstrate a special hardship;
- a provision allowing retailers at the Bellingham Farmers Market to distribute paper bags to their customers without charging the nickel fee;
- a provision authorizing the city to inspect retail establishments to check for compliance, and to seek court orders against violators;
- paper bags provided to shoppers must be made from 40 percent recycled materials.
Lest we forget, Whatcom Democrats did endorse a number of other candidates at their Thursday, 17 meeting: candidates who were unopposed on the county ballot.
That list includes two who are running unopposed: Bellingham City Council members Terry Bornemann and Jack Weiss.
They also endorsed candidates who were unopposed for the Dem endorsement, because their opponents did not seek the party’s seal of approval:
- Steve Oliver, incumbent County Treasurer
- Pete Kremen, departing County Executive, seeking the District 1 seat on the County Council
- Christina Maginnis, County Council District 2
- Alan Black, County Council District 3
- Incumbent City Council member Seth Fleetwood
We omitted the website for Barry Buchanan’s reelection campaign the first time we published this announcement. Here it is: http://www.barryforbellingham.net/
City Council member Barry Buchanan announces his campaign kickoff, and some labor union endorsements:
Bellingham – Barry Buchanan announced that he is kicking off his re-election campaign for Bellingham City Council Ward 3, at an event he is hosting at the Squalicum Boathouse on Thursday May 19, 2011 from 5 pm to 7pm. “Join us for an evening of great food, conversation, and support for Bellingham,” Buchanan said.
Buchanan also states that he has received several early endorsements: “I am really proud to announce endorsements from the Bellingham Police Guild, The Bellingham/Whatcom County Firefighters Local 106, and Teamsters Local 231.”
The Bellingham election season begins to hit its stride in the coming week. Here are two scheduled events:
Kelli Linville for Mayor kick-off
Wednesday, May 4, 5-7 p.m. at Squalicum Boathouse, 2600 Harbor Loop. Grab some refreshments, talk to the candidate.
Cathy Lehman City Council campaign kick-off party
Thursday, May 5, 5-7 p.m., Pickford Film Center, 1318 Bay St. Boundary Bay Brewery beverages, music by Bar Tabac