Election season: Five run for Port, some unopposed
The start of election season kicks off with the September 16 primary. Some individuals are running unopposed, but one position has five names on the ballot.
Five individuals are vying for the Port of Bellingham district 3 commissioner position. Incumbent Ginny Benton will face Jim Jorgensen, Jack Grant, Ron Wilson and Travis Holland.
Benton, who is currently serving her second term on the commission, said she still has some unfinished business she would like to take care of.
�I�m running for re-election because I believe I still have major contributions to make,� Benton said. �Citizens need to know that wise, careful and conscientious decisions are being made to respond to urgent needs arising from our traditional industrial base downsizing or moving from the county.�
Benton, who has been serving since 1996, said she is committed to no tax increases, defined and limited tax uses, building cooperative coalitions in the county, developing new and innovative approaches to government and guarding and upgrading the quality of the marine environment. Under her service as port commissioner, a marina and pier have been constructed in the community.
Jim Jorgensen, local salmon charter operator and retired Blaine school teacher of 30 years, said these are challenging times and would like to work with the port director and commissioners to further enhance cooperation and planning between the port and local governments to stimulate economic development. He is involved with several community issues, including sitting on both the Blaine Citizen�s Wastewater Advisory Committee (CWAC) and the Blaine-Birch Bay birding committee. In addition, he is the president of the Marine Education Foundation, the organization responsible for the construction of Marine Park.
Bellingham restaurant entrepreneur and planning commissioner Travis Holland said he would like to reverse what he sees as a current trend among commissioners voting to protect their personal business interests over the public interest. Holland said he will work to create family wage jobs, eliminate conflicts of interest and make sure the port represents the community�s interests.
Bellingham-based attorney Jack Grant said he wants to make the public more aware of the Port of Bellingham. Until several months ago, Grant said he was even unsure of what the port provides, but is committed to sharing information about the port with the public
�I think I have the background and the education to do the job,� he said, adding his 20 years experience practicing law in both the United States and Canada.
Ferndale council member Ron Wilson said he is fit for the position because of his experience in business administration, more than 20 years in the army and volunteer work. Holland said he does not want the port to compete with the private sector and criticized the port for several things, including the amount of rent money the port is seeking for a building the county wants to use as a temporarily jail. He also pointed out the port�s recent action of taking over fueling operations at the Bellingham airport from a private individual.
All of Benton�s challengers have stated they intend to communicate more with the public, if elected.
There are three districts within the port commission � NE, NW and South Whatcom. The Port of Bellingham policy is established by a commission of three elected members, each serving four-year terms. Current commissioners are Ginny Benton, Scott Walker and Doug Smith. Commission meetings are open to the public and held on the first Tuesday of the month at 4 p.m. and the third Tuesday at 3 p.m. at the Harbor Center Conference Room in Bellingham on Roeder Avenue. For more information call 676-2500 or visit www.port of bellingham.com
As for the city of Blaine, two of the three council seats have only one candidate: Dieter Schugt of Ward 3 and John Liebert of Ward 1 are running unopposed. David White, who was rumored to be running against Liebert, is not on the ballot.
Schugt, the current mayor, also served for five years on the planning commission, two of those years as its chair. He said he has been actively involved in numerous committees concerning responsible growth in the Blaine-Birch Bay area for the last 17 years. Blaine continues to face substantial issues, he said, and like all small cities across the state, Blaine is impacted by severe budget restraints.
Schugt said the community is making progress, citing improvements made to emergency response and fire service. But he also stated the need for an adequate year-round supply of water and finalizing of wastewater plans.
Liebert, a semi-retired educator who finished his full-time teaching career at Blaine high school in the summer of 2000, said one of his goals still to be achieved is a new waste treatment plant to serve the community, as well as a master plan for the airport, a �turn of the century� upgrade of city hall, and the re-zone study for the entire city. Liebert grew up in Blaine and said he continues to look at the community as the jewel of the county.
Ward 2 sees two candidates: incumbent Ken Ely and Andy Anderson. Chiropractor Ken Ely said he is running again to continue working with Blaine and its economy. �What I had hoped we could achieve in two years has taken us four. I must continue in office for another term to help finish the job.�
Ely is looking forward to the successful establishment of such projects as a new wastewater system, boardwalk, and lighthouse project.
Andy Anderson, a former Blaine mayor and councilman, said he�s running because it�s time to give back to the community. �I have been here for many years,� he said. �And I want to see this community grow.�
Anderson is currently leading a carousel project and is trying to spread the word to the community. He�d like to bring a full-scale, hand-carved horse carousel to the waterfront area to attract tourists. Anderson said he has been working on the project since 1995.
Several county positions are running unopposed, including county executive Pete Kremen, county council member Barbara Brenner, auditor Shirley Forslof and sheriff Bill Elfo.
Sheriff Bill Elfo said the whole county faces serious issue, including drug problems and the shortage of county jail space. The jail can only hold 260 people and many criminals are released early because of that. This problem, he said, is one he is working to fix, and a temporarily fix is being sought.
Absentee ballots for the September 16 primary election are available in the auditor�s office from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday for registered voters and Saturday, September 13 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The last day the ballots are available is Monday, September 15. Voters or a relative may call the auditor�s office at 676-6745 or 676-6742 and request an absentee ballot, pick up the ballot in person at the office or mail the request to Whatcom County Auditor, 311 Grand Avenue, Suite 103, Bellingham, WA 98225.
According to county auditor Shirley Forslof, absentee ballots are in the mail to over 35,000 absentee voters. Voters are reminded to open and review their absentee voting materials as soon as they receive it and call her office if they have any questions. Absentee voters are encouraged to sign their ballots and mail them so they can be postmarked by Tuesday, September 16. Ballots can also be dropped off in the auditor�s office anytime until 8 p.m. on Tuesday, September 16, or at any open polling place Election Day.