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Business closed reader board message during COVID-19 closures (April 17, 2020). Photo: My Ferndale News

Whatcom County Council asks Gov. to allow counties “to determine their own future”

FERNDALE, Wash. — The Whatcom County Council approved by a vote of 6-0 to send a letter to Governor Jay Inslee asking for more self-determination over when and how Whatcom County reopens after most businesses were shut down due to the governor’s emergency orders resulting from concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.

The initial version was drafted and submitted to the council by Councilmember Ben Elenbaas yesterday, May 19th, before a regular meeting conducted online. Councilmember Rud Browne submitted a revision that was approved by a vote of 6 to 0. Councilmember Todd Donovan’s connection to the online meeting was lost after he spoke against the proposed letter, so he did not vote.

Councilmember Ben Elenbaas posted the following graphic of the letter on social media today. A text version is provided below.

Dear Governor Inslee,

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We will make this short to the point as we are sure you are receiving an abundance of correspondence these days. Let us start off by saying the Stay Home, Stay Healthy initiative was a very appropriate and necessary action and we applaud your timely and thoughtful action. That said, we would like to respectfully ask that you take the same timely and thoughtful approach to reopening, with an emphasis on timely. While we have been focused and successful in limiting the negative health effects of COVID-19, we also don’t want to create other crises of a failing economy.

As the legislative body for Whatcom County, we would like you to consider that there is a certain expectation from our constituents that we will lead our citizens through this process. Currently we have very little leeway in doing the job that is expected of us. Moving forward, we would like you to consider modifying your order to allow County Governments that have well-established health departments , administrations, and functional legislative bodies to be more in control of their own futures as we reopen. Just as is acknowledged with the Growth Management Act, local control and planning is very beneficial because each County has its own strengths and unique challenges. We believe these challenges can be best met by granting local governments more leeway in determining their future. Please consider providing counties with a menu of options to reopen employers’ businesses as long as we can document a thoughtful process and appropriate mitigation factors that pertain to the COVID-19 emergency.


Barry Buchanan, Chair
Whatcom County Council

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