I am delighted that Timothy Ballew II, former chairman of the Lummi Nation, was appointed by Whatcom County Council members at their January 16 meeting, to fill the vacant position on the council until the November election. I believe that Ballew, sworn in on January 19, is very well-qualified and has excellent experience that will serve Whatcom County well.
I was shocked however, that council members didn’t recognize at their meeting how racist and unacceptable the questions were to Ballew regarding his potential service on the council in the context of conflicts of interest. Ballew is both a citizen of the US and a member of a sovereign Native American nation according to the laws of our country. These are his rights as a descendant of the Coast Salish people who were indigenous to our area, where I and other immigrants now are now allowed to live. With no evidence of unethical behavior presented by members of the council, the public challenging Ballew’s sense of ethics was painful for me to listen to.
I am unable to believe reasoning offered by council member Tyler Byrd about why he questioned Ballew so extensively regarding conflict of interest. He said that due to nomination criteria and the lack of questions from council members, Ballew would likely win. However, from the nomination votes cast at the last meeting, Ballew and Natalie McClendon were in close competition. Also, Byrd’s questions toward Ballew came before he heard any questions posed by council members of any nominees, so he could not know how much questioning had been done when he asked his questions. Additionally, Byrd directed the most questions to Ballew and yet, did not vote for him.
As a white person, I am aware that we are all evolving in our levels of racism and other exclusionary actions. We must work to educate each other constantly to confront and banish the practice of discriminating in any way against others because of their race, culture, disabilities or sexual identities.