Speaking before another packed council chamber, Blaine City Council voted to add Resolution 1641-14, the name change referendum, to the ballot in November.
Council voted in favor of the referendum in 4–3 during their regular council meeting on June 9, with councilmembers Charlie Hawkins, Dennis Olason and Steve Lawrenson opposing the motion. The referendum would ask voters if they were in favor of changing Blaine’s name to Blaine Harbor, effectively putting the decision in the hands of Blaine’s voters.
The controversial issue was postponed on May 27 in order to allow absent councilman Paul Greenough a chance to vote.
Greenough ultimately came out in favor of the referendum, though he stressed that he was not in favor of the name change itself but rather of letting the voters engage in the democratic process.
“I want this to be an absolutely neutral position on the part of the council,” Greenough said. “You know what’s right; you know what you want. Let the voters decide.”
Mayor Harry Robinson acknowledged that the issue had grown far larger and more contentious than anyone on the council expected.
“We’ve gone down this road a very, very long way, and we’ve managed to stir up a hornet’s nest,” Robinson said. “I believe we’re at a point where we have to vote, and I believe that we need to allow the citizens to decide the issue. I’m going to rely on the citizens of Blaine to decide if this is to their advantage or not.”
Hawkins spoke out strongly against the name change, and his comments were met with applause from a portion of the audience.
“I’m just really, really against this,” Hawkins said. “Blaine is more than just its city limits. Thousands of people will be affected by this name change. It seems really presumptuous for us to decide this.”
As with the May 27 meeting, the public was allowed an opportunity to speak on the topic, only this time the anti-name change group was a much more vocal presence than the pro-name change group.
Angie Dixon who, along with Rachel Hruitfiord, has been spearheading the anti-name-change campaign, gave an emotional appeal to the council while wearing a custom-made “We Are Blaine” T-shirt.
“We started out as two girls on a mission, but we are no longer two girls with a small voice,” Dixon said. “We are a community in Blaine with a huge voice wanting to be heard.”
One of the most divisive issues involved with the name change has been the question of cost, with wildly diverse estimates ranging from a few hundred dollars to well over $100,000. City manager Dave Wilbrecht said at the meeting that the city estimates “minimal costs,” and that city postal codes will remain the same, regardless of the name.
Blaine resident Trevor Hoskins spoke in favor of the name change.
“Quite honestly, I think that the cost will be nothing like what the rumors are suggesting,” Hoskins said. “As far as I can see, adding the name Harbor to Blaine will change or cost very little for most citizens and probably not very much in the long term.”
Supporters of the name change feel that adding Harbor to the city’s name will emphasize the town’s waterfront location and rich fishing lineage, which will theoretically draw more tourism. Detractors feel that the step is too small and too uncertain to affect any economic change.
“We have not been shown any evidence that changing the name will do anything to stimulate the economy, so why are we still discussing it?” Dixon asked.
Councilman Clark Cotner, an outspoken supporter of the name change, was very pleased with the outcome.
“All I ever wanted to do was give everyone a chance to vote,” Cotner said. “When it first came up years ago, it was shot down without anyone having a chance to vote on it.”
The name change was first proposed in 2000, but the movement didn’t gain much traction and it died before it could go to a vote.
Dixon said she is disappointed, but will continue to fight the issue until November.
“We’re feeling a little frustrated, because these people won’t all get to vote,” Dixon said. “We, out of pocket, are going to have to figure out how to pay for campaign signs. The T-shirts have helped – we’ve sold about 120 of them – but we’re going to have spend our money now to make sure this doesn’t happen.”
The issue will appear on the general election ballot on November 4.