Saturday, December 12, 2009

County Council: Who Would You Appoint?

A recent Herald blog reflected a brief interview with County Executive Pete Kremen about whom he might appoint to take Bob Kelly's place as interim Council Member for next year.

I suspect Pete already has an idea of who will be on his 'short' list, but may take his time to let the excitement simmer at reduced heat, plus further evaluate the political tea leaves.
There are several clues that may have bearing on what is now Pete's decision:

• Whoever is selected must have been nominated by the Council, per the list of 25 names shown below.

• Preference would likely be given to those applicants who attracted 3 Council votes. [no one got 4]
By my reckoning, 11 applicants received 3 votes - 8 'liberal-leaning' and 3 'conservative leaning'.
This would eliminate 14 applicants.

• Since Kelly was elected 2 years ago and considered 'liberal-leaning', maintaining the Council's voted political balance would mean appointing an applicant with similar views.
This would eliminate 3 additional applicants.

• Since this appointment is only for one year -until another 1-year election next November - there is little time for an appointee without prior experience as a Council member to adequately come up to speed on his/her responsibilities as well as the important issues under consideration.
Accepting this logic would eliminate 7 more applicants, leaving Dan McShane as the clear favorite.
Only McShane and Ward Nelson fit this criteria, but Nelson also did not get 3 votes since he abstained from voting for himself.
Also, I can't think of a better appointee than McShane if Pete wants the DNR Reconveyance of forest lands around the Lake Whatcom Reservoir to succeed. [unless he doesn't want to share the credit]

• The notion of barring whoever is appointed from running for reelection is not a good idea, and likely could not be enforced anyway. Not long ago, the City Council experienced a similar situation with the untimely death of Joan Beardsley. In that case the City Council was able to gather the 4 votes necessary to appoint a 1-year replacement, Don Gischer, a former Council member. Gischer ran for reelection the next year for a second 1-year term, but was unsuccessful as Stan Snapp was elected.
The following year Snapp ran for reelection to a full 4-year term and was unopposed.

Late in 2006 the City Council also had to appoint an interim mayor when Mark Asmundson resigned unexpectedly. At that time, some Council members did think it important NOT to give any new candidate the appointment because that might tend to create the advantage of incumbency later, considered an 'unfair' advantage over any challengers. We were fortunate that former Mayor, Tim Douglas, garnered the 4 Council votes required for the appointment. Also, he was not keen to run for reelection.
I believe that the position of Mayor was considered more demanding and has much more responsibility than the position of a single Council member.

I must say that I find it ironic that Barbara Brenner, the current longest serving County Council incumbent, should be the one so concerned about an appointee being allowed to run for reelection.
When I was appointed to the City Council over 10 years ago, I thought it important to convince that Council that I would take the job vary seriously and and at least be prepared to run for election the following year.
That did seem to work out OK, but I do understand the kind of disappointment and jealousy that politics can engender.

So, how about it Pete?
After all, McShane did run for office even though he lost narrowly to a newcomer.
And, he does know the County issues well, plus he closely reflects the voted political balance that has prevailed this year and last.
Please don't make this decision based on anything other than simple common sense.
And, make it sooner rather than later.
The citizens of Whatcom County deserve to know they will be well represented, at least until another election can occur next year.

My tabulation of nominees:

* Beattie 3-3 L
* Dupre 3-3 L
Franklin 2-4 C
Gorman 0-6 L?
* Grah 3-3 L
* Hansey 3-3 C
Helm 2-4 C
* Hunter 3-3 L
Jacoby 0-6 ?
* Keys-Halterman 3-3 C
Kole 0-6 ?
* Lysne 3-3 C
* Melious 3-3 L
McRoberts 1-4-1 C?
* McShane 3-3 L
Nelson 2-3-1 C
Pros 0-6 L?
Quinlivan 2-4 C
* Schissler 3-3 L
Smith 2-4 C
Starcher 0-6 L?
* Starr-Culverwell 3-3 L
Sygitowicz 2-4 C
Thorndike 1-5 C
Ungern 2-4 C

* Applicants receiving 3 Council votes
L or C denotes my perception of political leaning