Initiatives and local measures on ballot

Published on Thu, Oct 16, 2008 by Pat Grubb

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Initiatives and local measures on ballot

By Pat Grubb

While the race for the President may be creating all the national excitement, there are a number of measures, levy lifts and initiatives that have local people anxious to see the results.

Charter Amendment No. 1, submitted by Whatcom County Council, would return the county council election system to one where all county residents could vote for every council race on the ballot, not just their own district and the at-large candidates. Each candidate must still reside in the district he or she would represent and the top two primary candidates would still be forwarded from their respective districts to the general election. This was the system up till three years ago when residents voted to change it to district-only voting.

Proponents of the amendment say that vote had unintended consequences when it turned out that council members tended to tune out voters and subjects not involving their respective districts.

Residents have noted, for instance, that some council members did not bother to attend meetings or forums in districts other than their own. Previously, ignoring concerns from other districts could mean members might suffer when it came to election time.

Opponents of the amendment say the new system is a fairer process that ensures the diversity of Whatcom County is recognized and ensures council members will be known locally, be accountable locally and will listen to residents.

Fire District 21 North Whatcom Fire & Rescue is bucking the economic headwinds this fall and proposing a levy lift in Proposition No. 1. The levy lift would increase the levy rate from $1.32477 per $1,000 of accessed value to $1.40 per $1,000. This would equate to an extra $23 per year for a house assessed at $300,000.

Commissioners say passage would allow the district to provide extra funding for staffing, emergency medical services and planned capital improvements. It would also, commissioners aver, allow smaller consistent increases in taxes instead of large increases every few years. No organized resistance to the measure has materialized.

There are three state initiatives on the ballot, some more relevant to local voters than others. State Initiative 985 would open HOV lanes to all traffic in other than rush hours. Proponents say the initiative would reduce congestion and reduce gas consumption. Seeing as there are no local HOV lanes, voting for this measure would benefit locals who drive through Seattle on a regular basis.

On the other hand, Initiative No. 1000 would allow certain terminally ill competent adults to obtain lethal prescriptions. This measure would permit terminally ill, competent, adult Washington residents, who are medically predicted to have six months or less to live, to request and self-administer lethal medication prescribed by a physician.

The law, modeled after Oregon’s 10-year-old Death With Dignity, would allow competent adults of sound mind facing death in the short term to decide the manner in which they die, according to supporters who include former governors Booth Gardner and Dan Evans.

Opponents say the law fails to provide adequate safeguards and would lead care givers and bureaucrats to steer patients towards assisted suicide instead of end of life care. Patients in Oregon have been denied chemotherapy but offered assisted suicide instead, assert opponents.

Initiative measure 1029 would require long-term care workers to be certified as home care aides based on an examination, increase training and criminal background check requirements; and establish disciplinary procedures.

Proponents say the initiative would go a long way in protecting our elderly and less fortunate among us who require care on an on-going basis. Opponents say the initiative would drive up costs and could make it difficult for family and friends to provide help to needy family members.

Whatcom County auditor Shirley Forslof started mailing ballots on October 15. The general election will be held November 4.