October 27, 2021 Sandy Robson
I read an article published recently by The Front that featured the two candidates running for the Port of Bellingham Commissioner District 1 race for this November 2, 2021 general election. John Huntley, who is Whatcom Republican Party’s recommended candidate, is challenging incumbent Port of Bellingham Commissioner candidate Michael Shepard, who is endorsed by the Whatcom Democrats.
Missing from that article and from this November 2 election’s Whatcom County Voters’ Guide, is information about Huntley’s past activities here in Whatcom County that I think voters should be aware of, so I have detailed some of what I consider to be his unacceptable activities below.
For several years, Huntley was co-chair, along with Craig Cole and Brad Owens, of the Northwest Jobs Alliance, which in reality, was a local advocacy and marketing mechanism created in 2011 for SSA Marine/Pacific International Terminals to promote and support its then-proposed coal export terminal, Gateway Pacific Terminal at Xwe’chi’eXen (Cherry Point). For almost three years, Northwest Jobs Alliance’s Facebook page even listed “www.gatewaypacificterminal.com” as its website address. Craig Cole was SSA Marine’s local, paid consultant for its coal terminal scheme. Fortunately, after years of steadfast opposition led by Lummi Nation, the GPT coal export project and its permitting path died several years ago.
The now-defunct Northwest Jobs Alliance left a trail of evidence demonstrating its pattern of negative messaging to raise resentment about, and discredit, the Lummi Nation’s opposition to GPT.
In a 2015 letter signed by John Huntley and Brad Owens, the Northwest Jobs Alliance brazenly asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take action that would serve to diminish or abrogate Lummi treaty rights.
Some people may remember six years ago an inflammatory, op-ed published on December 23, 2015, in the Lynden Tribune that was authored by Huntley and Brad Owens on behalf of the Northwest Jobs Alliance. The op-ed referenced Lummi Nation’s Silver Reef Casino, and Huntley and Owens alleged, without substantiation, that the leadership of the Lummi Nation had embarked upon a campaign against the working families of Whatcom County. Those allegations could also have been perceived as having been leveled at Lummi Nation as a whole.
As if it weren’t bad enough that Northwest Jobs Alliance’s Huntley and Owens submitted their inflammatory op-ed for publication in a local newspaper, the so-called Alliance had launched a second strike aimed at Lummi Nation leadership the day before, by submitting a December 22, 2015, comment letter to the Whatcom County Planning Commission, on the then-ongoing Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan Update. The comment letter was a slightly revised version of Huntley and Owens’ op-ed that was published in the Lynden Tribune and contained the same unsubstantiated accusations.
The following month, Northwest Jobs Alliance featured a version of its ugly op-ed in a January 12, 2016, advertisement promoting the same negative messaging against Lummi Nation’s leadership.
Huntley is president and CEO of Mills Electric, and is also president of the Whatcom Business Alliance’s (WBA) board. He, along with the Northwest Jobs Alliance and the WBA, were all publicly and actively involved in opposing the proposed Cherry Point Amendments to the Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan, and in opposing the temporary moratorium at Cherry Point that had been in place several years until this year while those amendments were under review and consideration by the Whatcom County Council and the Whatcom County Planning Commission. Those amendments were designed to provide stronger and permanent protections at Xwe’chi’eXen (Cherry Point) thus better and more fully protecting public safety, tribal treaty rights, and our environment.
In 2019, Mills Electric sponsored tables at the March 19, 2019, “Cherry Point Heavy Industrial Area Past, Present, Future WBA Board of Directors & Members Breakfast and Program” event, held at the Bellingham Golf & Country Club. One of the main themes at that event was that the proposed Cherry Point Amendments to the County’s Comprehensive Plan and County Code would supposedly harm Cherry Point businesses, and Whatcom County as a whole. A good portion of that event served to deliver propaganda to attendees.
Also, some people may not be aware of the fact that according to records posted on the Washington Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) website, John Huntley was listed as committee chair for the political action committee (PAC) named the “Coalition For a Better Northwest Washington,” formed to support conservative candidate, Tony Larson, who was running at that time for county executive, and to oppose Satpal Sidhu’s candidacy for the county executive position during the 2019 general election. The PAC funded negative campaign ads attacking Satpal Sidhu’s candidacy.Larson, who has been referred to as “Tea Party Tony” for his activities over the years in local politics, lost his bid for county executive, and Sidhu was ultimately elected that year.
Raising resentment of tribal treaty rights; encouraging the public and government officials to ignore tribal treaty rights; calling into question the motivation behind a Native American Nation’s exercising of its tribal treaty rights; interfering with the federal regulatory review process and the government to government relationship between a U.S. federal agency and Native American Tribes and Nations; and making disparaging and unsubstantiated accusations against a Native American Nation and its leaders, are some of the various ways in which the Lummi Nation was attacked as powerful corporations endeavored to realize their perceived manifest destinies, in pursuit of a coal export terminal at Xwe’chi’eXen. SSA Marine used its advocacy entity, Northwest Jobs Alliance, to take actions such as what I’ve described above, thus removing its corporation by one degree from those unacceptable actions.
These unacceptable actions by John Huntley I’ve listed above are just some of the reasons why I am voting for Michael Shepard for Port Commissioner.