By Larry Hendel of Islanders for Better Government
The four Lopez members of the Charter Review Commission (CRC) are sponsoring a forum, primarily for people on Lopez Island, on August 16 at 5 pm at the Community Center to explain the CRC’s three proposed amendments to the Charter and the reasons behind them.
We are campaigning with many others under the name of “Islanders For Better Government” to support passage of these 3 amendments. The meeting format will be a presentation by Gordy Petersen, followed by a question and answer session. The questions shall be limited to one subject at a time of one minute in length or less, followed by a response by a panel member or two of one minute or less in length also. We’d like to answer lots and lots of questions that evening. The Panel will consist of Barbara Thomas, Madrona Murphy, Richard Ward and Jamie Stephens from Lopez; Maureen see, Gordy Petersen, Bob Levinson from San Juan: Moana Kutsche and Ralph Gutschmidt from Orcas. This is a separate campaign education group and the program is not sponsored by the CRC itself.
We are hoping that other Islanders will join us in our pursuit of getting these three propositions passed in the November election. If anyone is interested in joining us, “Islanders For Better Government”, they can email me at email@example.com, call me 468-3004 or send a note to the address shown below. Donations to help all San Juan Islanders to become more united and for a more efficient government can be sent to:
Islanders For Better Government
P.O. Box 3224 Friday Harbor WA 98250
AMENDMENTS TO THE CHARTER
Islanders for Better Government is pleased to provide this summary of the three Charter amendments proposed by the Charter Review Commission (CRC) that will appear on the November 6, 2012 ballot. It was the major duty of the CRC, as defined in the Charter, to “review the Charter to determine its adequacy and suitability to the needs of the County… and make recommendations to the Legislative Body…” In discharging this duty, the Commission identified improvements in the Charter form of government and overall county governance.
Meeting weekly for 6-7 hours over four and a half months plus hundreds of hours outside of meetings, the 21-members of the CRC, elected by the citizens of San Juan County last November, reviewed the Charter thoroughly. The Commission represented a broad cross-section of the San Juan Islands community with solid experience in public service. The near-unanimous vote on the transmittal resolution of the proposed Charter amendments to the San Juan County Council was made with only two members in opposition.
The Commission included two current Planning Commission members, three former Planning Commission members, two former elected Freeholders, a former five-term County Clerk, a County Council staff member, a former County Commissioner, two attorneys, a former member of the Ferry Advisory Committee, a member of the Agricultural Resources Committee, a former Board member and a former staff member of the Economic Development Council, local business leaders, two former island Port Commissioners, retired executives, individuals with corporate financial experience, and farmers all having a keen interest in county government with varied political interests and philosophies coming together to make our government work better, more efficiently and re-uniting San Juan Islanders once again.
The Charter is being retained as the preferred form of government, and the Commission believes the proposed amendments will improve the need for greater accountability, representation, transparency, and effectiveness of county government and governance – for the long-term benefit of the County.
Ultimately, it is the citizens of San Juan County who determine how good its government will be by electing the best people to serve in elective office.
The Proposed Charter Amendments will appear on the November ballot as County Propositions 1, 2, and 3. In summary:
County Proposition No. 1
Shall the County Charter be amended to reduce the County Council from six (6) members nominated and elected by district, to three (3) full-time members, each residing in a separate district but nominated and elected countywide?
Why? This amendment reduces the size of the County Council to three members elected county-wide and will increase the public’s oversight of County Government, prevents decisions being made behind closed doors, reduces the cost of the of benefits by three members, reduces the costs of administrative support to the Council, provides a venue for easier and quicker decision making, returns the County to the number of Council Members that served us well for 150 years, and puts San Juan County in line with 34 of 39 counties in Washington and the majority of counties throughout the United States. Electing three Council Members county wide from three residential districts will increase each voter’s representation in County government, bring the Council back to the people and ensure that each Council Member is familiar with the needs of individual islands as well as the whole County. This returns the County to the voting system that unified the County for 150 years as provided for in the State of Washington RCW 36.32.040(2).
County Proposition No. 2
Shall the County Charter be amended to place with the County Council those administrative and executive powers not granted to other elected officials, and to remove references to the County Administrator as the chief administrative officer, and to require that the County Council appoint a County Manager to assist the Council in carrying out its duties?
Why? This amendment returns the administrative responsibility to the County Council with the assistance of a County Manager and will ensure the Manager is accountable to the electorate through their elected Council, provide the Council with flexibility in fitting the assignments of the Manager to the talents and experience of the Manager, encourage the administrative and legislative members to work as a team, clarify the budgeting process eliminating the conflict with the Auditor’s office, will allow County employees to bring their grievances and concerns and recommendations through their department heads more directly to the Council, and will eliminate the lack of clarity in responsibilities.
County Proposition No. 3
Shall the County Charter be amended to state that all meetings of the County Council and all committees thereof be open to the public except when a private (executive) session or closed session is allowed by law?
Why? This amendment guarantees that all regular, special and Council committee meetings, other than those allowed by law, shall be open to the public.
By the way, here are the names of the Islanders who are going to be shown in the Voter’s Pamphlet as proponents of the Charter’s propositions:
Proposition No. 1,
Tom Cowan, former County Commissioner
John Evans, former County Commissioner
Kevin Ranker, former County Commissioner and current State Senator
Proposition No. 2,
Mary Jean Cahail, five term County Clerk
Tom Starr, former County Commissioner, land surveyor
Maureen See, CRC Vice Chair
Proposition No. 3,
Gordy Petersen, former Planning Commissioner, local businessman and CRC Chair
Jamie Stevens, current County Council Member
Moana Kutsche, CRC Legal Committee
In November 2005, nearly two-thirds of San Juan County voters passed the Basic Home Rule Charter that called for three Council members elected county-wide. The proposed Charter amendment No. 1 mirrors the Charter proposition a larger number of San Juan County voters approved six years ago of retaining a three member legislative body. Propositions 2 and 3 are obvious corrections.
Islanders for Better Government believes county government should be restored to a more suitable governmental form representative of the size of our county and our limited resources. We believe that a three-person full-time Council elected county-wide, working with a County Manager as a team, and representing all our citizens in an open and effective way is our best hope for good government.