The Whatcom County Council is the legislative branch of Whatcom County government. The County Council is comprised of 7 members. One member is elected from each of the 5 County Council districts, and 2 members are elected as the countywide at-large representatives.
All County Council positions are non-partisan. The term of office for each position is 4 years.
The Whatcom County Council welcomes comments from the public. Citizens may contact the councilmembers at the County Council Office, in writing, by phone, by email, and by attending County Council meetings. Time is scheduled to accept public comments during the open session of each regularly scheduled County Council meeting. Please contact the County Council Office to confirm meeting times and locations.
With few exceptions, meetings are open to the public and subject to the Open Public Meetings Act (RCW 42.30). The public has access to most documents, which are subject to public disclosure (RCW 42.56), on file in the County Council Office. Whatcom County Council meetings are televised on BTV10, Comcast channel 10, at 7 p.m. on the 2 Wednesdays following a regular Tuesday evening County Council meeting.
The County Council exercises its legislative power by adoption and enactment of ordinances and resolutions. The Council is elected to:
Adopt plans for the present and future development of the county
Conduct public hearings on matters of public concern
Create county government policy
Create land use rules
Enact public safety laws
Establish the compensation for all county officers and employees and to provide for the reimbursement of expenses
Councilmembers may not receive a salary increase for the term of office during which the salary ordinance is adopted or receive a salary in excess of 15 percent of that of the County Executive
Establish, combine, and abolish non-elective administrative offices and executive departments and to establish their powers and responsibilities, except as otherwise provided for in the Whatcom County Home Rule Charter
Levy taxes, appropriate revenue, and adopt the county budget
Set speed limits, no-shooting zones, and animal control regulations
(Whatcom County Home Rule Charter, Article 2, Sections 2.20, 2.21)
The entire County Council acts as:
The Committee of the Whole, to hear items that must be discussed in closed executive session.
The Whatcom County Board of Health, in all matters pertaining to the preservation of life and health of people within Whatcom County. (WCC 24.01.050, RCW 70.05.060)
The Whatcom County Flood Control Zone District Board of Supervisors, to approve projects for the Flood Control Maintenance Program. (RCW 86.15.050, WCC 17.20.030(D))
The Council has 5 committees:
Finance and Administrative Services Committee: budget, taxation and purchasing, personnel policies and union negotiations
Natural Resources Committee: water, forestry, agriculture, fishery, and mineral issues
Planning and Development Committee: zoning, development, stormwater, fire, and septic and sewer issues
Public Works and Health Committee: road construction and vacation, new construction, remodeling, public utility issues, and criminal justice issues
Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee: criminal justice activities and planning, public safety, and law enforcement.
The Council appoints 3 councilmembers to each committee during Council reorganization at the beginning of each year. The committees regularly meet during the day on regularly scheduled Council meeting days, generally every other Tuesday, except the Health Committee. The Health Committee generally meets monthly.
In addition, the council appoints individual members of the County Council each year to various local, state, and federal boards, committees, and commissions. The County Council may, by ordinance, create and appoint citizens to advisory committees on specific topics.
In certain matters, the County Council may act as a quasi-judicial body. In connection with the legislative process, the County Council may investigate the affairs of the county and any county department, office or agency.
The council may subpoena witnesses, administer oaths, take testimony, and require the production of evidence. It may invoke the aid of any court of competent jurisdiction to carry out such powers, provided that any witness shall have the right to be represented by counsel. (Whatcom County Home Rule Charter, Article 2, Section 2.21)