Flaws in Proposition 9 revealed by local author

In Charter Review Commission, Common Voices, Whatcom County Council by Ashley Butenschoen

This year Whatcom County voters are asked to decide whether Whatcom County should be split into five County Council districts instead of three. Each district would send one representative to the County Council with an additional two representatives elected to “at large” positions.

Billed as “fair and equal” by proponents, the Proposition actually makes a monumental mess of a system that’s worked fairly well for decades. A frantic rush to beat election deadlines meant mistakes were made that will keep lawyers happy for years to come; mistakes assuring the proposition, implemented as written, will result in 20 – 40% of the county’s population having no council representative at all for most of the next two to four years and, possibly, requiring two or three of our current council members to resign their positions. Nothing fair and equal about that.

Here are eight reasons conservatives and liberals/progressives can unite in opposition to Prop Nine
1. If implemented, the area South of Bellingham and all of the East County will have no representation on the Council for nearly two years (20 months). The representative for the new District 3 lives in North Bellingham, just outside Ferndale.

That’s not fair and equal!

2. Census data shows the probability is that for at least the first 20 months of the new regime, four County Council members will live in Bellingham with the remaining three Council members living in the new District Four unless some serious and very obvious gerrymandering takes place in violation of state law.

That’s not fair and equal!

3. It’s almost certain, based on Census data, that the new District Five (Blaine, Birch Bay, Ferndale, Lummi, etc.) will have no representative on the Council for nearly four years (44 months).

That’s not fair and equal!

4. If adopted, between one and three County Councilmembers may be forced to resign. The Whatcom County Charter reads, “Any change in the boundaries of the councilmember’s district which shall cause that member to be no longer a resident of the district which that councilmember represents shall not disqualify that councilmember from holding office during the remainder of the term for which that councilmember was elected or appointed,” and, “…councilmembers shall be residents of the districts which they represent.”

The “boundaries of the councilmember’s district” are not being changed; the districts are being eliminated, replaced by new districts to which no one has been elected.

5.The Prop. 9 proposal was vigorously discussed by the Charter Review Commission you elected just last year to address these kinds of things. After months of public input and open public discussion the Charter Review Commission rejected the proposition on a bipartisan, super-majority vote of 11 (no) and 4 (yes) votes. Prop 9 is an attempted coup d’etat by a small minority dissatisfied with the results of the democratic process using their control over the reins of power to get what they want.

That is neither fair nor equal.

6. New districts proposed by Prop 9 cannot be equal in size and that violates state law. Districting law requires district boundaries be drawn using the 2010 census meaning the two Bellingham Districts will have several hundred more residents each than the districts outside of Bellingham will have.

That is neither fair nor equal.

7. The measure on the ballot differs significantly from the measure the County Council voted on. Substantial changes were made with no input from citizens and no Council vote. The changes were so blatant that citizens writing the voter’s pamphlet statement against Prop 9 had to be given the opportunity to rewrite their statement after the deadline had passed.

That is neither fair nor equal.

8. The frenzied rush to get Prop 9 on the ballot was unnecessary. New Council elections will not take place for two years. A properly considered and well written measure could be written and placed on the ballot next year with implementation taking place at exactly the same time the mess of a measure put before voters this year would be implemented.

You want to be Fair and Equal?  
Vote NO on Prop. 9.  It’s so smart even a liberal should do it!

Jack Petree, Bellingham