The Voter – February 2016  news from the League of Women Voters of Bellingham/Whatcom County

League of Women Voters of Bellingham/Whatcom County Officers and Directors
Jayne Freudenberger, Co-President
Rebecca Johnson, Co-President
Judy Hopkinson, Co-President
Susan Mancuso, Secretary
Donna Williams, Treasurer
Riley Abel
Allison Aurand 
Tanya Baumgart
Naomi Bunis
Jean Carmean
Caroline Correa
Judy  Corliss
Janice Keller

Remember to Vote!
Our schools are counting on you! Ballots are due for the election on school levies by Tuesday, Feb 9
 Click here for Ballot drop box locations or send your ballot by mail with a $0.49 stamp.
 The League supports funding our public schools.


Healthcare Committee
Monday, February 15, 2016  
10:00 - 11:30 AM 
Community Food Co-op Bakery Building
405 E. Holly, Bellingham

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Water Conservation Group
Tuesday, February 16, 2016  
6:30 PM  
Birch Bay Water & Sewer District
7096 Point Whitehorn Rd
Blaine, WA

Space is limited for this meeting. Contact Judy Hopkinson at to participate or find out more.

Carpooling available.

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Continue the Conversation:
Women's Economic Security

Thursday, February 18, 2016  
1:00 PM  
Community Food Co-op Bakery Building
405 E. Holly, Bellingham

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Check our website calendar for details of these events. 

Other Community Events

Growing Veterans
Saturday, February 13, 2016
10:00 AM
Bellingham YMCA
1026 North Forest St., Bellingham
Sponsored by the American Association of University Women


Growing Veterans
Learn about the Growing Veterans organization. Two women involved in Growing Veterans will be guest speakers at the next AAUW Bellingham Branch meeting, 10 AM Saturday, Feb. 13 at the Bellingham YWCA, 1026 North Forest St.
Growing Veterans is a non-profit organization that uses farming as a method for assisting returning veterans to reintegrate into civilian society. Chris Wolf, shown above, Operations Manager for the GV farm, and Scotty Irwin, a veteran medic, also will discuss their experiences in non-traditional employment at the farm. Guests are welcome. Contact Jo Pullen, 441-8378.

Whatcom Conservation District Election
Request your Ballot Now for the Whatcom Conservation District Election. The WCD represents one of the first agencies responsible for environmental protection in the state according to its Executive Director George Boggs.  Our league studied the district and held a consensus meeting in September 2012.  (click here for more information) We concluded it was well respected and a huge help to farmers as they seek to upgrade their environmental practices.
The District is governed by a board of supervisors who serve a 3 yr. term without compensation; they set policy and direction for the district.
TO REQUEST YOUR MAIL-IN BALLOT Call 360-526-2381 (ext.101) Requests for Ballots must be received by February 16, 2016. They must be returned by March 15, 2016

New Members Have Joined

We send a warm welcome to these women and men who have joined our League since the last issue of the Voter.
Caryl Dunavan
Jeffrey Garrison
Naomi Murphy
Andy Ross
It's great to have you!


There is an immediate need for League Observers to report on Whatcom County Council and the Bellingham Port Commission.
This isn’t as glamorous (or arduous) as covering a Presidential campaign. And it may lack the current entertainment value. But the issues vital to our community are often the same as those playing out on the national scene. And at the local level we can have a lot more say about how they turn out – right here, right now. 
Observers can choose to attend the twice-monthly council or commission meetings or view them on tape delay shortly afterward. Observers write brief first-hand reports about the items of greatest interest. They are posted on the League website for members and Pulitzer Prize-winning writing skills are not required. Curiosity about how local government works is. Observers gain personal insight about decisions that affect all our lives and serve the voting public through their reports.
Much more information about being a League Observer is available from Jo Collinge at or (360) 676-8648.


Help us explore this question as we plan a program on the topic for February 25, 2016 at 6:30 PM. There is room for a few more heads and hands to explore the topic.

Help the League and share some social time with League friends!
Can you share a couple hours of your time? Soon we will be meeting to label and stuff envelopes with our newly printed
“They Represent You” brochures, a directory of elected officials representing Whatcom County as well as other important reference materials about our government.
If you are interested in an incredibly helpful, short term task, please volunteer to help with this important job. To volunteer - please contact Tanya at or at 360-739-1427.

Calling all Leaguers – a major effort is in the works to line up Voter Registration Events for High School Seniors in Whatcom County. Our young people do not vote – be a part of the solution to this epidemic of apathy! This effort will require plenty of hands – if two of them can be yours please pick up the phone or email now to add your name to the contact list of ready and willing helpers!

Phone Tanya @ 360-739-1427 or email



A big thank you goes out to the committee that has been helping with the editing and
proofreading of our brochure, “They Represent You” also known as the TRY. The TRY is a directory of elected officials representing Whatcom County as well as other important reference materials about our government. We distribute about 4500 copies of the TRY countywide. 
Thank you to Carol Comeau, Margaret Kassner, Carole Slesnick, Martha Burns, Lorene Lewis, and Lynn Bellinger for your keen eyes and attention to details! If all goes well, the brochure will be going to print as you are reading this. After it iscomplete, we will need more volunteers to help send them out. If you have a couple hours to share – please contact Tanya at or at 360-739-1427.
Many thanks for your help.
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We’d like to thank all the League members who pitched in to help with our January program on Money in Politics.  We appreciate Georgia MacGregor, Ursula Zvilna, Sheri Lambert, Margaret Kassner, Celeste Shipp and Carol Dukes who helped us set up, clean up and welcome all of our guests to the program.  Board members Caroline Correa, Judy Hopkinson, Jean Carmean, Susan Mancuso, Naomi Bunis  and Jayne Freudenberger also worked hard to make the program run smoothly.  

Discussion leaders Carol Comeau, Riley Abel, Janet Ott, Donna Starr and Lorene Lewis each did a terrific job facilitating the groups in the afternoon session. Last but not least, we are grateful to Robert Clark for recording the program and assisting with all things audio visual.
Get involved
Lending a hand behind the scenes at our monthly programs is a wonderful way to get acquainted while helping the League with its work.  Contact us at if you would like to get involved or phone our member Carol Dukes at (360)922-0131

 Annette Holcomb and Judy Corliss

Click on the image above for Observer Reports



February 2016

The League of Women Voters® of Bellingham & Whatcom County invites the public to a program examining voting demographics, the decline of voter turnout, and potential options for increasing citizen involvement in the democratic process. This program, Voting: Can We Turn Up the Turnout?, will be held on Thursday, February 25th, and will feature Cathy Allen, President/Owner of The Connections Group, Inc, and co-founder of the Center for Women & Democracy at the University of Washington.

Thursday, February 25th
6:45 - 8:30 PM (doors open at 6:30)

Bellingham Public Library
 210 Central Avenue, Bellingham
(light refreshments)


Following Ms. Allen’s remarks, a panel of local experts representing the diversity of demographics will join her to discuss challenges and possible opportunities to increase voter turnout. After her remarks, joining Ms. Allen for a moderated discussion will be:

  • Dean Wright - digital journalism pioneer, co-owner of Connell Wright Media
  • Samuel Seftik - student and political activist
  • McKenzie Dent - local issues co-coordinator for WWU Student Association

The program will explore the following topics:
· Who votes, and who does not?

· Why are more & more Americans failing to exercise their right to vote?
· Are changing voter requirements impacting voter turnout?
· Would changes in voting process increase voter turnout?
· What strategies have worked to increase turnout?

Voting: Can We Turn Up the Turnout? will be held at the Bellingham Public Library (210 Central Ave, Bellingham), in the downstairs lecture room, on Thursday, February 25th. Doors open at 6:30pm and the program will begin at 6:45pm. The program is free and open to the public, and light refreshments will be served. For further information, contact League of Women Voters of Bellingham & Whatcom County’s Program Committee Chair, Caroline Correa, at (360) 647-1232.

Founded in 1920, the League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization with 800 affiliates across the country. It encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues and influences public policy through education and advocacy. Membership is open to men and women of all ages.

Your cookies are kindly requested.
League members whose last names begin with H-M are asked to bring cookies or snacks to share at this meeting.  



Our dear friend and League member, Harriet Spanel, passed away on February 2 following a long battle with cancer. She was 77.
Harriet jumped into electoral politics after, what she described as, a life-changing experience as a student in a class on psychological development of women, taught by Dana Jack at Fairhaven College. Through a class project to write her own story, she discovered that politics was her true calling. This led her to run for the Washington State Legislature - where she served 6 years in the House followed by four terms (16 years!) in the Senate.
Her League training was valuable in helping her to see all sides of an issue and collaborate with members of the opposing political party during her career. Through studying issues with the League, she had also learned the importance of knowing the facts of an issue before speaking out and taking a position.
Harriet Spanel was a member of the League of Women Voters for 50 years. She firmly believed that League involvement prepares one to be an informed voter and citizen, and we were delighted that she found satisfaction undertaking occasional League projects – such as chairing our nominating committee the past two years.  The following are some kind remembrances of her friends and colleagues:
"She was that old-school, reach-across-the-aisle kind of person".
John Stark

"When she retired in 2009, she was the Senate Democratic Caucus chairwoman. She was the glue that held the caucus together".
Bob Partlow
"She had strong opinions but she was not showy about it".
Louise Bjornson
"We have lost an incredible leader and a dear friend".
Kevin Ranker
"I always wanted her on my side".
Kelli Linville
A memorial service will be held in Harriet's honor on Saturday, February 20, 10:30 AM at Assumption Church.

Dearest Harriet, you were a model of citizenship that will live on in all who had the honor of knowing you!

Precinct Caucuses - One Month Away for Some
In Washington State, the Democratic and Republican precinct caucuses are the first step in participation in the presidential candidate selection. Precinct caucuses are used to identify delegates to the County party conventions, where, in turn, delegates to the national party conventions are selected.
Delegates to national conventions are usually obligated to vote, at least at first, for specific candidates, based on instructions given at the state convention. Delegates are generally elected to represent specific candidates. Many campaigns are organizing now to get people to the precinct caucuses to support their specific candidates.
The other function of precinct caucuses is to identify issues that can be carried forward in each party's platform.
What about the Presidential Primary election in May? That is advisory and not binding. But it will tell the story of how voters (at least, those who participate) feel about the various presidential candidates, beyond those attending party caucuses. With so many of Washington's voters claiming to be independent, it could point to different results about voter preferences than the caucus system does.
Republican party caucuses are only a month away, on February 20 this year. Democratic party caucuses will be held on March 26.  Please see your local party organizations for local times and locations.

“Don’t Squawk, if you Don’t Vote!!” 
I was talking to my 23 year-old granddaughter the other day about the 2016 election and voting generally (actually trying to pick her youthful insight to the upcoming League program) ‘Don’t  worry Grandma, I’m going to vote (it’s in the genes!!).  But I can see why my friends don’t bother.” One of them doesn’t  vote because with a complete misunderstanding of the Electoral College, he believes the election is rigged. Some are too busy—working and going to school—some don’t see the relevance between their vote and the policies that affect them. Not that they don’t have opinions—one of which is politicians are all the same—there is no difference between the political parties and it is all a bunch of noise. Well who can blame them? The race for the presidency started more than a year in advance and most of us are tired of it already. The media doesn’t help—latching onto to anything that is sensational and ignoring the substantive statements (there are some occasionally). 
We have come to the end of the Obama presidency and change is really coming, no matter who is elected. I don’t have to tell Leaguers that the issues of climate change, jobs, income inequality, military ventures  are just a few of the challenges facing us—challenges that will affect our younger generations' lifestyle, work and in the case of climate change their very existence. So they especially need to pay attention.
Join us at the League’s “Voting: Can We Turn Up the Turn Out program Feb. 25th—as we examine the reasons our youth and others are tuning out and we look for strategies to tune them in. Bring some of your younger friends and relatives. We know everyone should be invested in the future and one of the mantras of the League is “Don’t Squawk, if you Don’t Vote!!”
In League, 

   Judy           Jayne       Rebecca


League favors spending limits & disclosure for all money in political campaigns

Members of the Bellingham/Whatcom County League studied campaign finance regulations as a part of the LWVUS Money in Politics Review.  On January 23, the League presented an educational program including an engaging discussion with  panelists, Phillip Buri, Partner, Buri Funston Mumford, PLLC; and Todd Donovan, Professor of Political Science, Western Washington University and County Council member.
( Click here for meeting recording).  

League members had a lively discussion about the issue in the context of specific questions that were developed by the LWVUS Money in Politics Review during the afternoon session. Members agreed that some spending limits should be required for all individuals, corporations and political organizations that are using money to influence our elections. Bellingham/Whatcom County League members strongly support full disclosure of contributions to campaigns and they support structural reforms to the Federal Election Commission to enable FEC to meet its regulatory and legislative mandates.

Goals of Campaign Finance Regulations:
Our League believes that campaign finance regulations should protect representative democracy from being distorted by big spending. Members also believe that voters need access to sufficient information about candidates and issues to make informed choices and that the public has a right to know who is donating money to influence elections.

Our membership’s responses to the questions raised in the Money in Politics Review are available here. The responses have been submitted to the LWVUS. The national League will evaluate responses from various League’s throughout the country and then update our Campaign Finance Position for advocacy on the issue.

WES Study Featured at City Club Presentation

Our League’s 2014 Women’s Economic Study was featured at the January City Club presentation. Click here for meeting video.  Professors Sarah Elwood and Vicki Lawson from the University of Washington and Founders of the Relational Poverty Network used our study to tie in a local connection to their talk on how the rhetoric in our country changes when we talk about the middle class vs. the poor. While the middle class is touted as hardworking, aspiring, stable……., those words are not very often ascribed to the poor, rather the opposite is true. 
There is little recognition of the man who works two jobs to keep his family housed and fed; our image of the poor is that they are lazy and addicted to handouts. Tax policies including mortgage interest deductions, better schools, attention to parks and infrastructure, better policing and much more are all prerogatives of the middle class but not mentioned when we expect people to climb out of poverty “by pulling themselves up by their bootstraps”. The professors praised our study for actually interviewing poor people to see what they thought of the systematic policies that keep them poor. Poor people are shamed and often do not step forward seeking help from well- meaning agencies as they are afraid of the stigma of being poor. They urged us to examine our own thoughts and words when talking of these two groups and to seek the ideas of the poor in designing the solutions that will help them out of poverty.  To see a video of the entire program check out

Kay Ingram, WES Study Chair
Join Us! Continue the Conversation on Women’s Economic Security in Whatcom County on Thursday, February 18 at 1:00 pm in the Food Co-op’s Community Room.There is some parking available behind the building. Access to that parking area is off the alley off Holly between the Shell Gas Station and the Co-op’s Community Building. Hope to see you there!

Meet a Member
Donna Williams

Member Donna Williams' desire to become more active in the community came just as the League was looking for a new treasurer. We are delighted to welcome this experienced accountant to our board. A graduate of the University of Denver with a BS in accounting, Donna lived in Eagle, Colorado for over 20 years running a kitchen and bath business that specialized in remodel projects.  She left Colorado after raising her two boys and came to Bellingham drawn by the mountains, water and WWU. In Bellingham she worked in public accounting for 8 years but now is happy to be taking over a new job of running the financial numbers for Daylight Properties.
Donna is a clarinet player and, several years after joining the Bellingham High School Alumni Band (no, you needn’t have gone to school there), she met and married Skip Williams a former music teacher and clarinet player. They are members of the 60 person North Cascade Community band playing in concerts all over the northwest corner.
Donna has felt frustration in not being able, with her heavy workloads of the past, to join in work on community issues. The League is glad she chose us to satisfy this goal. She loves the league for its study component—as she says this is a process that helps you become an informed voter.


Board Briefs - February 2016
Our Board of Directors is working on several endeavors:
  • Revamping our local LWV website so it is easier to navigate
  • Creating a database of the League interests of our League members so we can more easily connect members with their interests, such as Voter Services, Voter Registration, program development, and much more
  • Monitoring local community political activities, including the Redistricting Committee, and state legislative activities through advocacy leadership by board members
  • Initiating a High School Voter Services project
  • Maintaining a strong League budget to support our many activities

You have a right to be heard
Just last month, nearly 2,000 people attended three public hearings, and a record-setting 290,000 public comments were submitted on the proposed oil-by-rail terminal in Vancouver. The public was able to speak up thanks to important laws and rules that ensure your voice can be heard!
After this remarkable turnout several leaders in the State Senate are trying to make it harder for the public to participate in decision making by advancing two measures that would stifle people’s voices.
We cannot stand by and let that happen. Contact your Senator now and ask them to oppose SB 6224 and SB 6527.
The public has a right to be heard when it comes to the impacts of large energy projects. From coal export terminal proposals to oil-by-rail terminals, we have witnessed the massive outpouring of opposition by tens of thousands because Washington State has instilled and embraced the public input process.
Here’s some more details:

SB 6224 forces the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) to make recommendations on an energy project, such as a nuclear facility or an oil-by-rail terminal, in half the time allowed today. A recommendation must be made even if EFSEC does not have all of the information and public input required to make a well-informed decision.
SB 6527 undermines one of the most important environmental laws we have – the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). SEPA gives local communities a voice in understanding the impacts to our water, air, land, and transportation systems from a significant project.
Contact your Senator immediately and urge them to stand up for the people of Washington! Act now!
In light of this overwhelming public response, proponents of the proposed fossil fuel terminals and other energy projects are pushing to cut corners and make it harder for the public to weigh in.  Please act today

Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) School Kids

These companion bills, HB 2682/SB 6379, would allow automatic voter registration for eligible individuals who interact with a state agency that requires proof of citizenship. This would include citizens applying for commercial or enhanced driver’s license, and those who receive services from state agencies like the Health Benefits Exchange and DSHS. These bills came at the request of the Secretary of State and have substantial bi-partisan support. HB 2682 is currently in the House Rules Committee and SB 6379 is currently in the Senate Government Operations Committee, and will ultimately have to go through Senate Rules.
Please contact members of these committees and ask them to move these bills forward.


The VOTER,  February 2016
Newsletter Editors, Annette Holcomb & Joy Monjure
Our mailing address is:
League of Women Voters of Bellingham/Whatcom County
P.O. Box 4041, Bellingham, WA 98227
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