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Bobby Briscoe, Joan Lotze pull ahead in primaries

Bobby Briscoe will face off against Ferndale mayor Gary Jensen in the race for Port of Bellingham commissioner.

As of August 17, Briscoe, a Blaine resident and fisherman for more than 40 years, won 44 percent of the vote. Jensen took 39 percent, while Ferndale businessman Lloyd Zimmerman trailed with 17 percent. Briscoe and Jensen will now compete for the seat on the commission, which is currently occupied by Blaine resident Jim Jorgensen.

Joan Lotze maintained a sizeable lead over her challengers for the Blaine school district board of directors. Lotze, who was appointed to the board in 2014 to replace outgoing member Susan Holmes, had 59 percent of the vote. Russ Schutt came in second with 21 percent, and Jesse Creydt followed closely behind with 20 percent.

On the county level, Todd Donovan took a healthy lead in the race for Whatcom County Council’s district 1, position B seat. Donovan won 62 percent of the vote. Bruce Ayers came in a distant second, with 17 percent.

To see a detailed breakdown of the results, visit results.vote.wa.gov/results/20150804/whatcom.

Conservative group sues county over redistricting

A local conservative group is suing Whatcom County over the proposed redistricting rules.

Dick Donahue, chair of Common Threads Northwest, is suing Whatcom County and Debbie Adelstein, Whatcom County’s auditor, to remove ordinance 2015-029 from the November 3 ballot. If approved, the ordinance would divide Whatcom County’s three voting districts into five.

Donahue and his group allege the proposal violates county rules, since it specifies how the districts will be drawn. A hearing for the lawsuit was slated for August 14. Donahue is asking for a court order to remove the five-district proposal from the ballot, and is also alleging the county council illegally voted in a private session on another measure.

Ordinance 2015-029, which was added to the ballot July 7, would divide the districts between Bellingham and the rest of the county. Under the new proposal, Bellingham would have two districts to itself.

Conservatives in the county have protested the proposal, saying it gives the much more liberal Bellingham a population edge over the traditionally conservative smaller cities and rural Whatcom County.

Progressives have embraced the five-district system as a response to a district-only voting measure that will also appear on the November ballot. Progressive protesters voiced concern that district-only voting would shift the makeup of the county council to a conservative majority.

According to documents provided by Donahue’s lawyer, Thomas Moser, the suit asserts that identifying specific regions in each proposed district violates the Whatcom Charter Commission’s authority to define the districts. Additionally, as a redistricting plan, the measure is required to face a public hearing at least one week before adoption. The ordinance in this case was adopted in the same meeting as the public hearing.

The suit also alleges the council violated the Open Public Meetings Act by voting in a private session to remove ballot proposal AB2015-217, a measure that would require countywide voting for county council members. Whatcom County council clerk Dana Brown-Davis said the item was removed from the agenda on the advice of county attorneys because countywide voting is already in place.

Hawaii, Las Vegas flights back at BLI

Alaska Airlines is bringing back daily flights to Hawaii and Las Vegas out of Bellingham International Airport (BLI).

Alaska will now offer flights to Honolulu, Maui and Las Vegas beginning November 1. The Las Vegas and Honolulu flights will be daily from November through May 2016, and the Maui flights will run four times a week November through March 2016, according to Alaska spokeswoman Bobbie Egan.

Alaska had previously offered the flights from Bellingham in the summer, but chose not to run the flights this year. BLI has been experiencing a decline in passengers, showing a year-to-year decline of 30 percent, according to acting flight director Mark Leutwiler.

The Port of Bellingham, which owns and operates BLI, is encouraging airlines to offer more flights from more destinations. Leutwiler said the port is considering lowering prices for airlines during the slow season, but those ideas are still in discussion and nothing has been made official.

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