Letters to the Editor: October 24-30, 2019


The Editor:

I read all local candidates’ websites and social media posts (including ones later deleted), and I attend or listen to as many candidate forums as I can.

Only Natalie McClendon, Satpal Sidhu and Carol Frazey consistently listen respectfully to everyone. They are uniquely dedicated to and experienced in the collaborative, not combative, governance that Whatcom County needs to move forward.

All three understand the complexities of supporting current education, jobs, public health, justice, etc. needs, while encouraging absolutely crucial new 21st century endeavors. They have the vision, experience and skills needed to help Whatcom County avoid the “horse and buggy” trap, which too many fell into ~100 years ago by sneering at “new-fangled” horseless carriages that threatened their (soon to disappear) horse-and-buggy businesses and lifestyles.

McClendon, Frazey and Sidhu don’t oversimplify either challenges or potential solutions that we face, unlike some of their opponents. They know the years ahead will bring real, increasing demands on our limited water supplies, natural resources, justice and other essential services. They understand that we’ll have to prioritize solutions, given our county’s limited funds for maintaining the basic public infrastructure that we all depend upon, for example EMS and fire services, transportation and non-toxic air and waters.

Please join me in voting for McClendon (district 5), Frazey (at-large council) and Sidhu (executive). These three candidates will work positively and respectfully with all community members to benefit our county.

Wynne Lee

Lummi Island


The Editor:

I’m writing to you, my fellow readers and voters, to cast your vote for Richard May, running for Blaine City Council. Any time Richard supports a cause, it is because he has done his own research and knows the topic thoroughly. With his faithful Whatcom presence, I’m confident he would hit the ground running and be totally value-added to our present Blaine City Council.

He has already spent the 10-plus years that I’ve known him in support of our Whatcom County Library System, especially my beloved Blaine Library, which will be an important city project in the coming months with community engagement sessions from November – January for library redesign.

Thank you for joining me in your support of Richard May.

Cindy Leffel



The Editor:

I had to chuckle at Oliver Lazenby’s short article about the golf cart ordinance. The mention was the streets that have a 25 m.p.h. limit. So funny. The town should take down all those signs on and near Birch Bay; they are not decorative and they are blocking the view of the majority of cars going 40 m.p.h. with no intention of slowing down for a senior with a walker or someone with a dog.

I don’t know how the traffic can be slowed except for foot-high bumps, or a camera that is quick enough to catch a license plate. I realize much of the traffic is very nice people going to and coming from work, either late or tired. Is that a good reason to race? How many minutes do they actually save? Good luck to anyone in a golf cart, ordinance or not.

Bette Fineman



The Editor:

I’m voting for John Romaker for Whatcom County assessor because he’s been chief deputy assessor here for nearly 29 years, working closely with retiring county assessor Keith Willnauer.

John Romaker’s leadership and experience are important in managing the office’s 30 employees and $3.4 million budget. The assessor’s office is responsible for providing timely and accurate information to property owners, county administrators and many local government entities.

Don’t just believe me. Whatcom County’s most respected officials have endorsed John Romaker in this election. They include outgoing county assessor Keith Willnauer, county executive Jack Louws, county treasurer Steve Oliver, county prosecuting attorney Eric Richey and recently retired prosecuting attorney Dave McEachran, plus the mayors of Lynden, Ferndale, Blaine, Everson, Nooksack and Sumas.

Remember to cast your ballot and vote for John Romaker for Whatcom County assessor.

Dave Brumbaugh



The Editor:

I recently sought advice on how to select the best candidate in an election. This should help if you are still unsure of who to vote for this November.

On October 9, The Western Front quoted Whatcom County councilmember and political science professor at Western, Todd Donovan, on his advice to voters. “Look beyond what candidates post on their campaign websites. If you really want to know who matches your priorities, look at who is supporting the candidate and the money that is behind them.”

Satpal Sidhu’s platform lists environment and climate change, housing and economic development (job growth) along with water issues and our judicial system.

Natalie McClendon’s website shows a long list of issues she values, starting with climate change, then jobs and the economy, zero carbon emissions and rural broadband to name just a few. A strong list of supporters is available to see.

Both campaigns verified that their donations mainly consisted of local residents and small businesses.

On October 13, The Seattle Times’ Pacific NW Magazine featured an article on Puget Sound and listed “10 ways you can contribute to the recovery of Puget Sound.” Number one was “vote in local, state and federal elections ... voting for candidates who believe in this goal and champion it.”

Find a candidate whose priorities match yours and vote.

Naomi Murphy



The Editor:

In a recent forum, Bobby Briscoe’s opponent for port commissioner opted not to show up because he did not like the politics of the organization that produced it. The reason given is that it wasn’t a non-partisan forum. He also did not show up to a forum presented by the Mt. Baker Chamber of Commerce.

Each port commissioner seat is a non-partisan position and represents all of Whatcom County regardless of their politics. To shun voters in our community and deprive them of learning about candidates on the ballot is disrespectful and does not further the efforts toward civil discourse in our (unfortunately) divided political society.

Bobby Briscoe values transparency and accessibility in his work as port commissioner. His effort to reach out to all voters is part of his effective leadership style and is why his support transcends party politics.

I support Bobby because of his openness to giving a fair hearing to all of the county’s citizens, a value that I applaud. He has my vote, and I encourage you to give him yours.

Barb Davison



The Editor:

During a recent candidates forum held on Lummi Island, it became clearer to me who the best candidates are for county executive, the at-large council seat and the coastal district 5 council seat.

As a candidate for county executive, Tony Larson said that county workers’ wages, pensions and medical benefits were crowding important items out of the discretionary budget. Although he advocates for affordable housing in other contexts, as a union member, I see this as a direct attack on the ability of workers to be able to pay for housing. People who work for local government deserve a living wage just as we expect local industries to pay living wages.

The candidates for the coastal district 5 council seat, Ben Elenbaas and Natalie McClendon, couldn’t be more different. Ben Elenbaas erroneously claimed that from 1999 to 2016, the earth cooled while the earth actually warmed in that time period and continues to warm. It may be incidental that he works for the fossil fuel industry, but I wonder how I could expect him to govern the county into the future at a time when we need a transition to clean energy. Natalie McClendon, on the other hand, supports both protecting living wage jobs and a transition to clean energy.

Running for the at-large council seat, Carol Frazey gave a poignant account of county council members helping to staff an impromptu overnight homeless shelter during this past winter. She has spent a good deal of time thinking about ways to reduce homelessness in our county and has specific ideas on how to accomplish that goal.

I plan to vote for Satpal Sidhu for county executive, Natalie McClendon for county council district 5 and Carol Frazey for council-at-large.

Elizabeth Kilanowski

Lummi Island


The Editor:

Blaine is a unique, small city on the shores of the Salish Sea; a border city welcoming visitors and newcomers. It is also a city divided – by Drayton Harbor – with county land in the middle. Drayton Harbor is home to the oyster farm, myriad birds and fishers catching returning salmon. County actions about agricultural runoff affect the harbor and us. We need highly capable and dedicated people to serve on Whatcom County Council.

Satpal Sidhu is seeking election as county executive. An energetic, enthusiastic and experienced leader – in education, in business, in agriculture, in government – Satpal is well qualified to take on this new role after serving as a member of county council. Satpal is a visionary who will not simply sit in an office and push paper; he will invigorate this county as we embark upon a new era. In times of change, we need leaders who know how to bring people with different ideas together to work for the common goal of a better life for everyone in Whatcom County. Satpal is committed to doing this.

Natalie McClendon is running to represent coastal district 5. As a member of the county planning commission, she has become an expert on issues such as water quality and availability, something which is of deep concern to all of us. Natalie does her homework; she listens to people. Her first question usually is, “What’s important to you?” At a recent gathering, she heard loud and clear about the railway crossing at Bell Road and Peace Portal Drive. A person who listens, studies and then acts, Natalie’s voice is needed on county council.

I invite you to join me in voting for Satpal Sidhu and Natalie McClendon. My completed ballot is already in the box at the Blaine Library.

Helen Worley



The Editor:

Vote for Steven Tojek and Randy Roose; they have the courage to fight the unfairness here.

The over-patrolling in Blaine has been ramped up this summer in a disturbingly strong manner.

One customer, who lived here 50 years, isn’t comfortable coming downtown because of over-policing, but three times a year. He lives on the outskirts of Blaine.

It’s that bad, folks; many I speak with in B.C. refuse to come into Blaine anymore.

I overheard two fellows talking Sunday. One wanted to visit my shop, and one said to the other, I don’t go into Blaine because it’s so over-policed. It was unsolicited! Word is getting around: don’t come into Blaine, the over-policing is back!

Who wants to visit with speed traps and hiding patrol officers everywhere? It looks bad and is disastrous for business.

If we had strong leadership in Blaine, then it wouldn’t be as bad as it has become, and something has to be done about it soon.

Do I hear cutting back on the numbers of police? How about some customer service lessons? Or contract entirely with the Whatcom County sheriff.

Some streets are poorly signed; many streets should be 30 or 35 m.p.h., some should be 20, and signage in town is poorly designed (for ticket revenue, I believe).

The job of the police is not to generate cash, but to protect and serve!

We expect the police to be good citizens as well.

People treated poorly will not tell 10 others to not come into Blaine, but will go on social media and tell 5,000, or 25,000!

You think folks want to walk on eggshells when visiting an area?

Well, they don’t, and they won’t say anything to city officials … they just will not visit again, simple as that. Hello, goodbye!

Their voices were left out of the paper, so let me help them, help Blaine, for the sake of my business and everyone else’s, read between the lines of what you read, make the right choice!

No more status quo. Vote for Steven Tojek and Randy Roose.

Bill Becht



The Editor:

Why vote for sheriff Elfo?

Joy Gilfilen, sheriff Bill Elfo’s opponent in the upcoming election, has never served in law enforcement anywhere. Nor has candidate Joy Gilfilen ever received law enforcement training. If I am going into a hospital for surgery, I do not want a surgeon who has never been to medical school or never been in an operating room.

Many considerations should be made before voting for any candidate for any office. We all need to vote responsibly. But candidates also need to run responsibly. Candidates ask for our votes. In return, I like to ask the candidates for their qualifications. If Joy Gilfilen has no law enforcement experience, how can she be expected to “operate” the sheriff’s department, let alone the law enforcement responsibilities within Whatcom County?

Any political position carries with it a tremendous amount of responsibility, but possibly, none carry as heavy a weight as the position of sheriff. That position carries with it the burden of managing a staff of professionals who carry the power of life and death inside their holsters. Add to that the pressure of dealing with many different levels of civil and criminal behavior, and you have a high level of pressure and responsibility.

If Joy Gilfilen has never served in law enforcement and has no professional training, do we want her leading in that critical position and how will our deputies feel serving someone who has no police experience?

Sheriff Elfo, running for re-election, has served the citizens of Whatcom County for over 15 years. In addition to serving as sheriff, Elfo has also served as a deputy city attorney as well as a prosecutor. Does Joy Gilfilen possess similar experience from anywhere? Elfo has training in skills related to de-escalation of force. Gilfilen does not! Elfo’s skill and experience, along with a variety of other issues in law enforcement, are critical to professional performance. If Gilfilen has never received law enforcement training, basic or advanced, I do not want her as sheriff of Whatcom County. Whether it is management or the sheriff’s office or surgery in the hospital, we want the best we can get. Sheriff Bill Elfo deserves re-election.

Paul Harris



The Editor:

Blaine school district needs board members who are effective advocates for students, teachers, staff and administration. Blaine also needs fresh eyes and someone who can help the district make informed, fiscally responsible decisions.

Dougal Thomas brings valuable background in both of these areas. His experience as a classroom teacher will benefit our students and educators. His experience as a local business owner and employer will benefit all of us as the district makes operating and budgeting decisions moving forward. He and his family are well-rooted in our community, and he will work hard to serve our interests. Please consider voting for him in the upcoming election.

Bill Baldwin



The Editor:

County executive candidate Tony Larson almost sounds reasonable these days. But don’t be fooled. His past activities as a Tea Party Republican and ultra-conservative president of the Whatcom Business Alliance should give voters pause.

In 2015–2016, he worked as an unregistered official for a pro-coal political PAC, Clear Ballot Choices, whose irregularities eventually led to a fine from the Washington Public Disclosure Commission. Having failed to achieve a pro-coal majority on the county council in the 2015 election, Clear Ballot Choices shifted focus to derailing the elected council. In particular, under Larson’s leadership, the PAC worked to discredit the council’s efforts to conduct a thorough review process for the coal terminal project. At the heart of this process were environmental concerns and the need for a full environmental review. Ultimately, that review led the Army Corps of Engineers to deny permit approval for the pier.

In support of an agenda, Larson has demonstrated a willingness to spin the facts. For example, as president of the Whatcom Business Alliance (and under-the-radar operative for Clear Ballot Choices), he made a false claim to the Whatcom Planning Commission that several school districts were among the Gateway Pacific Terminal project’s stakeholders. On a March 8, 2017 KGMI radio show, Larson inflamed his audience by suggesting that the county council was trying to limit all exports from Cherry Point. In fact, the council’s concerns were limited to some fossil fuels, unrefined oil in particular.

Whatcom County needs a county executive with integrity, who does not spin the facts in favor of special interests – an executive who works for everyone and gets the facts straight. I trust Satpal Sidhu to be that person. I urge you to join me and vote for Satpal Sidhu for county executive.

Ben Rogers

Lummi Island


The Editor:

Whatcom County needs a change of leadership. Ben Elenbaas for district 5 is the change we need. The current council has an irrational vendetta against the industries at Cherry Point. These vital industries, BP, Phillips 66 and Alcoa Aluminum are highly regulated and do not need further moratoriums from local politicians. We have the opportunity for new leadership that will protect Cherry Point in conjunction with the best interests of Whatcom County. Ben Elenbaas believes that prosperity is not a choice between the environment or the economy.

Mr. Elenbaas has been a small business owner/farmer and has extensive leadership serving that sector. Ben has a degree from WWU in environmental studies, and has worked in the refinery industry for almost two decades, which gives him a greater depth of understanding and experience about the issues.

We live four miles from the BP refinery and they are great neighbors. No one in our family works at Cherry Point or related industries, yet we benefit, as does all of Whatcom County, from their presence.

Help us bring Ben Elenbaas’ common sense environmentalism to the council vs. the radical approach that we currently have and that would likely continue without Ben.

Jennifer Sefzik



(Please note that The Northern Light will not be printing any political letters in next week’s issue, since it will be the last edition before the November 5 general election and candidates would not have a chance to respond prior to election day.)


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