Freeholders discuss issues to place on ballot
By Lois Krafsky-Perry
May 17, 2007
Port Angeles, WA - The elected Clallam County Home Rule Charter commissioners met at the county courthouse May 7 to continue hearing from the public and discussing ballot issues at their bi-monthly meeting. Several members of the commission are concerned by the small public attendance at their meetings. Only three members of the public and two members of the media attended this meeting.
“I would like to see more of our constituents attend these meetings,” said Sue Forde, District 1 of Sequim. There are five board members from each of the three districts who serve on the board. It is important to Forde that everyone has an opportunity to give input on the charter decisions facing the county for the next five-year period.
A couple of people testified on issues and some of the same people who had testified at past meetings repeated their requests.
The question of the Director of Community Development (DCD) was under discussion by Pat Willits of Port Angeles, who encouraged the freeholders to consider having the DCD director be an appointed position instead of elected. [The decision to elect the DCD director was placed on the ballot by the last Charter commission and it was decided by the voters by almost 60 percent to make the position an elected office.]
Dave Cummins of Sequim said, “if you get DCD appointed and their philosophy is to middle of the road at all…then they go off on one extreme or another. In the past 25 years, the directors stay until they are offered higher paying jobs. There is no way to remove them from office,” he remarked. He continued: “…the biggest frustration I had in the past was the planning director hired by the commissioners, who was from the east coast. They had re-written code based on east coast perceptions”.
Willits said if anyone is unhappy with an appointed director that they could go to their bosses, the county commissioners.
When discussing the advantage of an elected position because the candidates are local and know the area, Randy Simmons of District 3, asked, “how about those who have lived here for a long time? People who were born and raised here?”
Dave Cummins has asked that the commission consider an issue of no new taxes without a vote of the people. The matter was not met affirmatively by some of the commission. Norma Turner questioned it and said, “Do we want to tie the hands of the (county) commissioners?” Since some members of the commission did not know Clallam County’s history in redistricting, it appeared difficult for Cummins to explain past problems, in redistricting efforts.
“The language is confusing,” said Ken Wiersema of Sequim.
Cummins has served on prior redistricting committees. The issue was addressed when some members discussed changing the Charter reviews from five to possibly every eight years. Cummins thinks it could cause difficulties because of the timing in determining new census numbers for the county.
Cummins opposes new taxes on existing programs. “State law does allow referendums; the county does not. The Charter says you are not allowed to do referendum on a new tax. Let’s get our county charter in line with state law,” recommended Cummins.
“My problem, it is still fuzzy,” said Tom Schindler of District 3. He suggested re-writing it. The issue was voted out as far as inclusion on the questionnaire to go out to the public.
Sue Forde of Sequim was questioned about the Eminent Domain concerns. Forde heads that committee. She explained the many abuses and reminded the commissioners again of the importance of the issue and recommended in agreement with Kaj Ahlburg of Port Angeles, that it should be addressed in the charter.
Chair John Miller of District 2 Port Angeles urged the commissioners to go out into their communities, help educate citizens and get input for charter amendments.
As part of the outreach, Norma Turner of Port Angeles has supplied a questionnaire to the public; and Forde has developed a website (clallamhomerulecharter.com) where she has posted explanation of the Home Rule Charter, correspondence, and other resources, where citizens may go for more information.
The Charter Review commission has issued a press release covering the main issues under discussion for possible amendments. Click here to read.
Forde and Cummins have also developed an educational questionnaire of which we have obtained a copy, where people can answer questions that have been raised already by the public, and also make comments on many issues.
The next public meeting, which will be the first of the final round of public hearings, will be held in Sequim on May 21, at Guy Cole Convention Center/Carrie Blake Park at 6:30 PM.
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