Chapter 2.107


2.107.010    Established.

2.107.020    Purpose.

2.107.030    Guiding principles.

2.107.040    Function.

2.107.050    Representative members.

2.107.060    Additional appointed members.

2.107.070    Appointment procedure.

2.107.080    Liaison members.

2.107.090    Term of office.

2.107.100    Organization – Meetings.

2.107.110    Staff and funding support.

2.107.120    Reporting.

2.107.010 Established.

There is hereby established a Whatcom racial equity commission. (Ord. 2022-065 Exh. A).

2.107.020 Purpose.

As a conduit for ongoing community collaboration, engagement, and education, within the broader context of diversity and inclusion, the purpose of the Whatcom racial equity commission is to gather, review, and evaluate data and to make recommendations on eliminating racial inequities, in all its forms, throughout Whatcom County. (Ord. 2022-065 Exh. A).

2.107.030 Guiding principles.

The commission shall adhere to the following principles in all its work:

A. Racial Equity. Strive to eliminate inequities and proactively advance equity and justice.

B. Data-Based Decision-Making. Collect and rely on quantitative and qualitative data to identify objectives and measurable outcomes and to inform strategies for reaching desired outcomes.

C. Local Community Involvement in Decision-Making Processes. Recognize and promote the essential value in the expertise of lived experiences; support inclusion that is critical to this work, especially inclusion of communities presently and historically impacted by racial inequities.

D. Attention to All Affected by Decisions. Propose decisions to advance racial equity that are examined to identify those groups benefited or burdened by their consequences; and develop strategies to avoid or mitigate the unintended effects of such decisions.

E. Transparency. Ensure the commission’s processes and actions are fully transparent and subject to public review; ensure public access to information and data used in the commission’s decision-making processes. (Ord. 2022-065 Exh. A).

2.107.040 Function.

The commission is established to:

A. Serve as an advisory board to local government agencies, other organizations committed to the aims of the commission, and the county-wide community with regard to racial equity.

B. Serve as a community forum on racial equity and create mechanisms to identify issues, concerns, needs, and resources.

C. Gather and analyze disaggregated qualitative and quantitative data to identify racial disparities and disproportionalities in the areas of concern.

D. Develop and propose to local government a coordinated and comprehensive plan to address racial inequity in Whatcom County. This plan shall include measurable objectives and indicators by which progress toward racial equity in all its aspects is to be measured. The commission shall review and update the plan as necessary.

E. Develop recommended strategies for implementing the plan, including proposed timelines to achieve each equity objective, together with recommendations for shared governmental and community accountability for addressing racial disparities in Whatcom County.

F. Provide recommendations to the Whatcom County council and the executive, to the Bellingham city council and mayor, and to other relevant entities and jurisdictions concerning:

1. Revisions to organizational policies, procedures, and ordinances as may be needed to promote transparency and diminish racial inequities that may exist.

2. Budget priorities that may be necessary to mitigate and prevent the impacts of racial inequities in local government.

3. Other policies that promote racial equity in response to emerging needs that may require new policies and flexibility in revising earlier proposals.

G. Seek to increase community awareness of current and historical racial inequity, serving as a resource and conduit for education and public information.

H. Review and advise on strategies for reducing barriers to public participation in commissions, boards, task forces, committees, or other similar groups established to participate in county government which function primarily as an advisory, coordinating or planning capacity.

I. Report work and progress to the community, Whatcom County and the city of Bellingham on an annual basis.

J. Seek grants and other funds to support commission work, in addition to the funds it may receive from Whatcom County and city of Bellingham. (Ord. 2022-065 Exh. A).

2.107.050 Representative members.

The Whatcom racial equity commission shall consist of up to 31 voting members including the following 12 designated participants or their representatives. It is encouraged that those who have an interest in or have been impacted by racial equity issues are given preference by organizations, entities, and jurisdictions when considering whom to designate or select to serve on the commission:

A. One representative, Lummi Nation, appointed by Lummi Indian business council;

B. One representative, Nooksack Tribe, appointed by Nooksack Indian Tribe;

C. Designated representative, Whatcom County staff member working to advance racial equity within county departments;

D. Designated representative, city of Bellingham staff member working to advance racial equity within city of Bellingham departments;

E. Designated representative from a municipal equity advisory body outside of the city of Bellingham;

F. Law enforcement chief, lieutenant, or other representative, selected by WC Sheriffs and Police Chiefs Association;

G. Whatcom County school superintendent, selected by the eligible Whatcom County school superintendents;

H. One community health representative with experience serving Hispanic and Latino individuals and communities. This representative may be associated with organizations such as Community to Community or SeaMar; organizations to be considered and selected when filling vacant positions by the commission’s appointment committee;

I. One designated economic development professional, selected by Port of Bellingham economic development division and Whatcom associate development organization;

J. Up to three representatives from organizations working in Whatcom County to advance racial equity and human rights; organizations to be considered and selected when filling vacant positions by the commission’s appointment committee. (Ord. 2022-065 Exh. A).

2.107.060 Additional appointed members.

In addition to those members designated above, the Whatcom racial equity commission shall include up to 19 members appointed by the mayor of Bellingham and county executive from the following categories of community members:

A. Up to seven community members, which group shall include at least one of the following:

1. A student living in Whatcom County;

2. A community member with experience caring for a student currently attending a Whatcom County public school such as parent, foster parent, grandparent, caregiver, or guardian;

3. An immigrant, migrant, or refugee;

4. A business owner, manager, or independent contractor;

5. A youth or young adult aged 16 to 24 at the time of appointment;

B. Two diversity officers or staff members engaged in DEI work in educational institutions: one working in local higher education institutions and one working in local K-12 schools;

C. Two human service providers, including, but not limited to, victim or offender services, housing or houseless services, and mental health services;

D. Up to four subject matter experts, individuals with expertise in, and/or specialists in the commission’s areas of concern;

E. One social justice advocate or activist whose area of focus is racial equity;

F. One representative from a philanthropic organization;

G. One faith leader;

H. One multilingual health care provider.

All candidates under this section shall have an interest in or have been impacted by racial equity issues. Candidates under this section shall apply for appointment to the commission and meet the requirements for appointment as outlined in the Whatcom County Code. (Ord. 2022-065 Exh. A).

2.107.070 Appointment procedure.

An appointment committee consisting of one staff representative for Whatcom County appointed by the county executive, one staff representative for the city of Bellingham appointed by the mayor of Bellingham, and four community representatives recommended by the county executive and confirmed by the county council shall be established to (A) review applications for appointed commission positions, (B) evaluate applicant’s eligibility for appointment, and (C) provide written recommendations for commission appointments to the county executive and mayor of Bellingham. Once established under this chapter, the commission steering committee shall supersede the four community representative members on the appointment committee. On no less than an annual basis, the appointment committee shall assess commission vacancies and perform its duties as provided herein.

In seeking and selecting members for commission appointments, the mayor of Bellingham and county executive shall seek to represent the broadly diverse communities across Whatcom County with consideration to geography, income level, and a demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Appointed members shall be subject to confirmation by a majority vote of both Whatcom County council and Bellingham city council per Whatcom County Charter 3.23. (Ord. 2022-065 Exh. A).

2.107.080 Liaison members.

In addition to the voting members above, the Whatcom racial equity commission shall include up to six nonvoting liaison members or their representatives.

A. Whatcom County executive;

B. Whatcom County councilmember;

C. Mayor of Bellingham;

D. Bellingham city councilmember;

E. One chief executive officer from cities in Whatcom County other than Bellingham, selected by the Small Cities Partnership;

F. One councilmember from cities in Whatcom County other than Bellingham, selected by the Small Cities Partnership. (Ord. 2022-065 Exh. A).

2.107.090 Term of office.

All members shall serve two-year terms. Members may serve up to six years consecutively. Members who have previously served six consecutive years may be reappointed to the commission after one year of nonmembership. Members may serve extended terms without a year of nonmembership if approved by a vote of the commission. Each member shall continue to serve until a successor has been found unless the member was removed from the commission. Members may be removed by appointing authorities following a vote recommending removal by remaining commissioners.

A member term of three years shall be extended to one-half of the first appointed commission members to stagger term cycles for future slates of commissioners. These commission members will also be allowed to serve up to seven consecutive years from this initial appointment. (Ord. 2022-065 Exh. A).

2.107.100 Organization – Meetings.

A. The commission shall comply with the Open Public Meetings Act under Chapter 42.30 RCW.

B. Meetings of the commission shall be open and accessible to the public.

C. At every meeting, the commission will schedule an open session to take public comment on issues associated with commission work.

D. Written records of meetings, resolutions, findings, and recommendations shall be kept, and such records shall be available to the public.

E. The commission shall adopt its own rules and procedures for the conduct of business which may include commission member expectations and agreements rooted in best practices for equitable decision-making.

F. The commission shall elect co-chairs from among its members to preside at its meetings.

G. The commission co-chairs, any other commission officers, and three additional members shall serve as the commission’s steering committee.

H. The commission shall determine its meeting schedule and work with commission staff to set the agenda but shall meet at least six times per year.

I. The commission may form and appoint ad hoc committees to work on specific issues, so long as at least two commission members are also members of each ad hoc committee. (Ord. 2022-065 Exh. A).

2.107.110 Staff and funding support.

Commission staff shall carry out the purpose, function, and daily operations of the commission with support from Whatcom County staff as necessary. The commission and its designated representatives shall be responsible for planning and hosting meetings; recruiting, orienting, and engaging members; and ensuring adherence to provisions of the commission’s bylaws, policies, and procedures.

Local government funding of the commission to perform its duties may be provided for pursuant to an interlocal agreement entered into between Whatcom County and other participating jurisdictions.

As may be permissible under law, the commission, including its staff and operations, may seek fiscal sponsorship by a 501(c)(3) nonprofit entity for the purpose of advancing its work. Additionally, and as may be permissible under law, the commission may seek additional funds from public and private grant-offering bodies for purposes of advancing its functions. (Ord. 2022-065 Exh. A).

2.107.120 Reporting.

At least annually and within the second quarter of each year, the commission will provide a written report and recommendations to the county council, Bellingham city council, mayor of Bellingham, and county executive on progress. (Ord. 2022-065 Exh. A).