Apr 212013

Last Wednesday evening, April 17, 2013, Rud Browne’s friends opened his campaign for the at-large seat on the Whatcom County Council. They crowded the Walton Theater room of Mt. Baker Theater; if the fire marshal had been there he might have turned purple at the number of people. They were all there because Browne, a popular entrepreneur and environmentalist, represents a splendid opportunity for progressives to take back control of the Council.

In a well-organized talk Browne explained how, as a young man in Australia, he worked in blue-collar jobs before moving to Canada and the U.S. In 1989, in his apartment with $20,000 in capital, he started a business that became The Ryzek Group that has 360 employees, 140 in Whatcom County, with annual revenues of $60 million. The business is described as “providing full life cycle management–repair,  refurbishment, recycling, etc.–of bar-code, mobile, wireless and RFID computer equipment.” In addition to the U.S., operations are in Canada, the U.K. and France. Along the way he has received numerous entrepreneurial and environmental awards. In May he will be a featured speaker at the Economist’s 11th Annual ‘Future in Review Conference on Digitizing the Future.”

Coal trains and the proposed Cherry Point terminal are well understood to be the big issue in this Fall’s Council elections, where the majority of four seats will be decided. The Council is likely to be the prime decider. How could an environmentalist who worked to preserve the Lake Whatcom water supply be for the coal port? In his talk Wednesday evening, Browne was circumspect in explaining that he is for a strong economy with good jobs as well as the environment. He wants to look at all the facts.

Dan Pike, the former Bellingham mayor, in conversation after the talk asked, “What more is there to know?” He said he looked at the facts and decided to be one of the first to state his opposition to the coal terminal.

Browne will be the guest of Richard May at the April 24th Tipple and Talk at 7:00 p.m. in the Via Birch Bay Café and Bistro. May, who will lead the discussion on Wednesday, was a 2008 campaigner for President Obama in several states, and is active with the Whatcom Democratic Central Committee.

This year’s election will be more than about yard signs.


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