Up for review
Charter Review Commission’s recommended measures for the General Election (wording subject to change):
1. Should Section 2.20 of the charter provide for election of county commissioners by district in both the Primary and General elections?
2. Should Section 11.10.10 of the charter be changed to elect the home rule charter every five years instead of the current eight?
3. Should the charter allow initiatives and referendums to move to the ballot process without transmission through the county commissioners?
4. Should the charter allow for 120 days rather than 90 to gather petition signatures for initiatives and referendums?
5. Should the Clallam County Department of Community Development director be an elected position?
6. Should the language of “Section 1.30 Interpretation” be revised to: “When interpreting the Charter and its application, the county and its officials will ensure that any interpretation, unless prohibited by law, afford the County those powers granted to charter counties by the State of Washington.” ?
7. Should the term of office for the charter commission be changed to begin Jan. 1 for a period of one year with the first meeting to be held within the first two weeks of the January?
8. Should a new section be added, titled “11.10.40 Board of County Commissioner Review of Charter Review Board recommendations”? The section is intended to enact the Board of County Commissioners to conduct meetings, including town- hall meetings, to fully vet publicly all recommendation for changes or revisions to county operations and procedures (not proposed for ballot measures) forwarded to them by the Charter Review Commission.
Bringing months of meetings, filled with lengthy deliberations to a close, members of the Charter Review Commission selected eight measures to appear on the 2015 General Election ballot.
“I think we got some good issues on the ballot,” Sue Forde, Charter Review Commission first vice chairman, said. “The next step is getting the wording down.”
To do this, officials in the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office are assisting with the final verbiage of each measure before they’re scribed onto the ballot.
“We started with 26 issues and finished them all off,” Norma Turner, Charter Review Commission chairman, said following the commission’s meeting July 20. “It was a long, late meeting, but I think we accomplished a lot.”
Unlike the 32 counties governed by general law enacted by Washington State, in 1976 Clallam County became one of seven to operate under its own unique home rule charter allowing citizens to help shape how local government is structured.
Input from public hearings, the commissioners’ shared conclusions following their review process and more than 1,000 responses from a questionnaire sent directly to 33,700 county residents in late May, helped to identify the eight measures to be brought to the voters in November.
Measures and recommendations
Among the passed measures is the “controversial” question of whether the Clallam County Department of Community Development director should return to an appointed position, Turner said. “There’s a lot of methodology, I think, in bringing this topic back to the voters,” she said.
The question of whether the DCD director should be elected was first put on the ballot in 1983 and voted down. The question reappeared and passed in 2002 and again in 2007.
“Between 1983 and 2002, the Growth Management Act was passed and people were upset with some of rules, but not much happened between 2002 and 2007,” Turner said.
However, in looking back between now and 2007, Turner notes the “$70,000 report” and investigation on the past DCD director.
“That’s why it’s back on the ballot,” she said.
Among others, the ballot measures range from amending to review the charter every five years instead of eight and the allowance of initiatives and referendums to move to the ballot process without transmission through the county commissioners to the possible addition of a new section enacting the Board of County Commissioners to hold public meetings on revisions to county operations forwarded to them by the Charter Review Commission, provide written responses to recommendations and time frame for adoption.
Throughout the review process, the Charter Review Commission made two recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners.
The first recommendation already forwarded to the commissioners was the establishment of a citizen task force centered on the county’s trust lands, which are owned by the Department of Natural Resources, Turner said. The second is the establishment of a “Salary Review Committee” to investigate the salaries of county employees not covered by bargaining rights.
Still to come
Four issues postponed until 2016 include possible language revisions to “Section 10.40 Right to a public hearing” and “Section 7.50 Vacancies,” the creation an office of Ombudsman and whether the charter should define the duties of the administrator in a manner that provides for clear guidance regarding roles with regard to other elected officials and the budget process.
Although pushed to 2016, the Charter Review Commission voted to create a subcommittee to begin developing the Ombudsman proposal by the end of October.
Reflecting on the charter review, Turner said, “The process went well — we were a polite deliberative body.”
Turner’s only disappointment was the lack of public involvement. The public hearings, meetings and questionnaire provided good public input, but Turner admits she doesn’t see a “broad” spectrum of citizens participating in the review.
“There’s a huge need out there to help educate people about their local government,” she said.
However, Turner understands with the responsibilities and pace of daily life, it can be difficult and timely to stay attuned to all the local issues and keep track of the variety of governing agencies.
To help inform voters on the issues anticipated to appear during the General Election, Turner said the county auditor was committed to creating a voter’s pamphlet with information on the various measures.
The Charter Review Commission is holding its last regular meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 3, in Room 160 in the Clallam County Courthouse, 223 E. Fourth St. The commission is expected to review the final language the measures and discuss the pros and cons of each.
Nov. 3 ballot measures recommended by the review commission are due to the Clallam County Auditor during the first week of August.
General Election ballots are mailed Oct. 14.