Feedback for the Clallam County Charter Review Commission via a questionnaire released online and through local news mediums in late May is due Tuesday, June 30.
Reflecting public comments and ongoing deliberation as a commission, the commission created a survey with eight questions focused on areas of the Clallam County charter in need of possible amendment.
The questionnaire sent directly to 33,700 county residents included things like the appropriate number of county commissioners, whether the Department of Community Development director should be elected, election processes and whether elected officials should be allowed to serve on the Charter Review Commission.
“I’m hoping it can be an educational tool,” Norma Turner, Charter Review Commission chairman, said.
As of June 15, the commission had received about 800 responses. Returned surveys are far less than the questionnaire sent out during the previous charter review that brought in 24,000 responses.
In the past, the review commission sent the questionnaire with utility bills, but since then Clallam PUD has changed its policy and “weren’t very supportive,” Turner said. Thus, instead the commission sent the questionnaire through the Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette, Forks Forum and the Port O Call, reaching a little less than half the Clallam County population.
Despite fewer residents directly reached via mail, Turner is “delighted to have the survey out there” as it has “stirred a lot of discussion,” she said.
Of about 40 residents attending the commission’s public hearing in Sequim on June 15, 14 gave public comments varying in opinions. Despite the differences among the comments, most focused on either how many commissioners should represent the county and/or whether the DCD director should be elected or appointed.
“I support placing the option for five commissioners on the November ballot,” Candace Pratt, Sequim mayor, said from the position of a private citizen.
Pratt also noted her “strong” belief that the county’s DCD director should be appointed.
In contrast, Dick Piling stated his like for local control.
“The DCD director should remain elected,” he said. “Keep control in the hands of the people.”
Clallam County is the only county to have an elected DCD director.
A small handful of area residents suggested few to no changes to the Clallam County charter.
“We have to be careful of feeling that we have to do something,” Jerry Sinn told the commissioners. “Not having any recommendations is not failure.”
The “voters have already spoken” on some of the topics being questioned, Sinn said, and therefore recommendations for change aren’t “warranted.”
Locally structured government
Public insight collected through public hearings, regular meetings and the questionnaire allows the Charter Review Commission to refine what’s placed on the ballot for potential change.
“Just because we’re elected to review it (charter) doesn’t mean we have to make changes, but this is one opportunity to evaluate it and make adjustments if there are any issues out there,” Turner said.
Unlike 33 counties governed by general law enacted by Washington State, in 1975 Clallam County became one of seven counties to operate under its own unique home rule charter allowing citizens to help shape how local government is structured.
“Approval of the Clallam County Home Rule Charter provides for increased local control over our government and increased local involvement in that government by its citizens,” according to Clallam County Charter.
Every eight years an elected commission of 15 citizens from the three districts of the county review the Home Rule Charter and make recommendations for any changes. After identifying changes, if any, voters are given the final say during the November general election.
Language drafted by the review commission is due to the Clallam County auditor in early August for placement of the November ballot.
Charter Review surveys
Surveys due Tuesday, June 30.
• By mail: Clallam County Charter Review Commission at 223 E. Fourth St., Suite 4. Port Angeles, WA 98362
• Online: www.surveymonkey.com/s/ZDH2QGK
• Public hearing: 6:30 p.m. Monday, June 29, in Room 150 at Clallam County Courthouse.
More info: www.clallam.net/bocc/homerulecharter.html