DCD position, eminent domain issues of testimony at Home Rule Charter Commission public hearing

By Lois Krafsky-Perry
Citizen Review Online

May 21, 2007

Sequim, WA - The Clallam County Home Rule Charter Commission (CRC) held the first of three final public hearings on Monday, May 20, 2007.  The meeting was held at Guy Cole Convention Center in Sequim.  Approximately 30 people came to testify before the Commission. 

One of the main issues was whether or not the elected DCD (Director of Community Development) should remain elected, or return to an appointed position.  The majority of those who have testified so far on the subject want the position to return to an appointed one. Testimonies came from Pat McRobbie, Claire Hatler, Judy Larsen and Virginia Clark.  Those speaking in favor of keeping the position an elected one included David Roberts, Steve Marble, Lois Perry, Don Hall and Bob Forde.

The previous Charter Commission had placed the issue on the ballot five years ago when large numbers of citizens testified to the abuses and lack of response to the people by the appointed DCD director.  The issue went to the voters, who decided by 57% that the position should be an elected one – accountable to the voters.  Testimony from the former DCD director this year has suggested that no change be made for awhile, to give the new system a chance to work.  Many who have testified have stated that the current elected position “is working”.  There have been two elected individuals since the change in the Charter.

Those expressing the opinion that the DCD position should return to an appointed one state that the role requires an “expert”, and that a ‘broad net” could be cast nationwide to hire someone with the “expertise” to handle the job.  According to former elected DCD director Rob Robertson, the position is primarily a managerial one, and he stated that when he was in the position, he brought the department into a position of streamlining the planning process, speeding up the issuance of permits, and cut costs.

Other issues addressed included the eminent domain issue.  Elected commissioner Sue Forde heads a committee to prohibit eminent domain from being used for the purpose of ‘economic development”.  Several people testified to abuses in other areas, and want to prevent the same thing from happening here.

Election by district only was another issue raised by several people, most of whom spoke in favor of electing county commissioners from within the individual districts, rather than by the county at large.

The primary issues addressed were in response to a list of nine questions that the CRC put together as “sanctioned” questions from the Commission.  In addition, commissioners Dave Cummins and Sue Forde put together a list of 14 questions in the form of a questionnaire covering additional areas that have been brought by citizens to the Commission, but not covered in the ‘sanctioned” version.  Several members of the public also addressed some of the issues on that questionnaire.

The issue of how the questionnaires that have been disseminated should be handled by the secretary to the CRC was raised by Trish Holden.  She is the official secretary for the Commission, and is also secretary to the Board of County Commissioners; she said that since the questionnaire wasn’t “sanctioned” by the commission, she felt she shouldn’t have to send copies out to the Commissioners because it increased her workload.  There was debate over the issue, with Rod Fleck stating that the questionnaire should be treated as any other correspondence, and that the Commission should see all correspondence coming from the citizens.  Norma Turner said she thought that Cummins and Forde should “compile” a list of the responses, and present a report to the Commission.  There was further discussion, with the final outcome that Fleck made a motion to pay the small amount for Holden to get the questionnaires placed into a format (pdf’d) that would easily be emailed to the Commissioners. 

There will be two more public hearings before the Commission goes into the serious work of crafting language for the ballot issues.  Unless there is public input at the next two hearings about any issues other than what is listed on the Charter’s approved list of questions, it appears likely the issues will be limited to those.

The next public hearing will be held in Port Angeles on June 2 at the County Courthouse, starting at 6:30 p.m.  The final hearing will be held in Forks on June 18 at City Hall, starting at 6:30 p.m.  Further information is available on the Clallam County’s website – www.clallam.net - click on Home Rule Charter; or on Sue Forde’s website – clallamhomerulecharter.com.


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