ARCHIVESDissenters back for another try

Published on Thu, Jun 28, 2001
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ARCHIVES
Dissenters back for another try

Citizens who want an elected mayor to run the city of Blaine hope to see the question before voters again this fall. Proponents of changing the city’s form of government have been collecting signatures intermittently since spring and believe they have enough to qualify them for the November general election ballot.

“We’ve got more than enough required signatures and we’ll be turning them in this week,” said David White, a supporter of the change. “People are just fed up with the stupidity running this city.”

The proposed ballot measure asks voters “whether the city of Blaine shall abandon their present council-city manager plan of government in favor of an elected mayor-council plan of government.” The difference between the two forms is that, in the first the city’s chief executive is hired by an elected city council, while in the second the city is run by an elected mayor, also working with an elected council.

White said an elected mayor would cost the city less, and would only need a part-time administrator to do the job the current city manager does now. “Right now Blaine has more staff positions than it needs. The first thing we need to do is reduce fees to encourage development. As development comes we can expand positions as they’re needed,” he said.
Both Blaine and Ferndale voted to abandon the elected mayor form of government in the early 1980s, following a national trend away from a political and toward a professional city executive. In 1998, Ferndale returned to an elected mayor. A proposal to do the same on the November 1999 Blaine ballot failed, rejected by 57 percent of the voters.
White is confident the measure will meet with success this time around. “I think that what will make it pass this time is the continuing effort on the part of the current government to ignore and disregard the wishes of the people with regards to tax increases, salaries and lack of development, and the support of Senator Georgia Gardner,” he said. “Her opinion seems very well accepted by the people of this town. It should pass with flying colors.”

While she said she was not involved in any campaign to change the form of government in Blaine, Gardner said she had always supported an elected mayor system. “I think people want to vote directly for the mayor,” she said. “It’s not necessarily a cost savings – you always have a city administrator. What I like is real, direct responsibility. With a city manager you’ve got somebody running the city, making decisions, and not taking responsibility. People want to hold someone accountable.”

Once proponents submit the completed petitions to the Blaine city clerk, they are forwarded to the county auditor who decides if there are enough valid signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot. County auditor Shirley Forslof said that, based on the turnout in the last general election, 155 signatures from registered Blaine voters would be needed in this case.
John Choulochas, who helped organize the campaign opposing the change of government in 1999, said his organization was ready to defend the current regime again. “We will react immediately,” he said, should the petition be found sufficient. “This is the best government for Blaine,” he said. “If you look at small cities with an elected mayor, they make it more political than it needs to be. A city manager takes the politics out of the administration and puts it in the council’s hands, where it belongs.”

Choulochas also said a change of government now could jeopardize delicate ongoing negotiations and partnerships. “I can’t think of anything more disruptive, especially for partners like the Lummi Nation and the federal government who have been in negotiation with this team. It’s like changing horses midstream.”

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