Clallam's elected development director job going up for vote -- again
By Jim Casey, Peninsula Daily News
August 8, 2007
PORT ANGELES, WA- Like Texans who never tire of remembering the Alamo, Clallam County voters can consider again if they want to elect their community development director.
Charter Review Commission members Monday put the issue on the ballot for the election that will end Nov. 6 - the third time the question will be answered.
Voters defeated the idea of electing the person in charge of the county's building and land-use policies in 1983, but they approved it in 2002 - creating the only elected development director position in the nation.
The two men subsequently elected to the job, however, urged a return to county commissioners' appointing someone to it.
Rob Robertsen and his successor, John R. Miller, said an appointed administrator could fill the post better than an elected politician.
Bringing back the question saw proponents and opponents argue both sides of the same political coin:
People should have another chance to voice their preference, said backers.
The people already have spoken, and reintroducing the issue disrespects them, opponents countered.
Charter Commissioner Tom Shindler, an employee of the community development department, said staff turnover had climbed in 2003, when Robertsen beat former DCD Director Bob Martin.
The directors, he said, "can't be full-time department heads," he said.
"They have to be part-time politicians."
That view, answered Charter Commissioner Randy Simmons, could justify appointing every department head.
"Maybe we shouldn't elect anybody," he said.
In the end, Shindler was joined by Ken Wiersema, Jim Pickett, Sue Erzen, Norma Turner, Mickie Vail, Patty Morris and Kris Grier to put the question to electors again.
Simmons. Sue Forde, David Cummins, Terry Roth, Patti Adler and Rod Fleck voted against it.
Miller, chairman of the charter commission as well as development director, abstained.
The development director will be one of five possible changes voters may make to the charter, the county's virtual constitution.
Another one - independent candidates in partisan contests for county commissioner and prosecuting attorney will skip primary balloting and go directly to the general election - simply would align the charter with state law.
The other three issues are:
Instant runoff voting
Voters may authorize - not order - county commissioners to approve instant runoff voting, also known as ranked-choice voting, for county elected offices at an indeterminate time in the future.
An exception would be judges, whose elections are governed by state law.
IRV allows voters to rank their choices in elections that have more than two candidates.
If no candidate captures a majority, voters' second choices are counted - then the third, fourth, etc. - until a winner emerges.
The process would eliminate non-partisan primary elections, backers say.
However, changing Clallam County's computerized ballot-counting system could cost more than $350,000 and take more than two years, according to Auditor Patty Rosand.
The voting on IRV:
- Yes: Miller, Wiersema, Turner, Pickett, Erzen, Vail, Morris, Shindler and Grier
- No: Forde, Simmons, Cummins, Adler, Roth and Fleck
Little disagreement arose over prohibiting the county from using eminent domain - force-purchasing private land for public projects - for private economic development.
- Yes: Miller, Wiersema, Pickett, Erzen, Vail, Morris, Shindler, Grier, Forde, Simmons, Cummins, Adler, Roth and Fleck.
- No: Wiersema and Turner.
Voters can choose between an eight-year and a five-year cycle for Charter Review Commissions.
The charter currently requires five citizens to be chosen from each of the three county commissioners' district to review the charter and recommend changes to voters every five years.
Washington's six other counties with home-rule charters review them once every 10 years, and an eight-year cycle would align it with legislative and Congressional elections, backers said.
- Yes: Miller, Turner, Wiersema, Pickett, Erzen, Vail, Morris and Grier.
- No: Forde, Cummins, Roth, Simmons, Shindler, Adler and Fleck.
Charter commissioners unanimously voted to support Prosecuting Attorney Deb Kelly's request for a $46,000 to $50,000-per-year position to investigate unexplained deaths.
Because Clallam has no elected coroner, the duties go by default to the prosecutor.
Charter commissioners dropped for now the question of establishing spending limits on campaigns for county offices.
Grier, Shindler and Pickett said the problem wasn't the need for limits but a mechanism to enforce them.
"We haven't found a solution," said Shindler, "but there is a problem."
Reporter Jim Casey can be reached at 360-417-3538 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.