League of Women Voters turn out to voice opposition to charter changes
by Sue Forde, Citizen Review Online
Port Angeles, WA – 6/20/02 - Approximately 35 citizens showed up to listen and testify at the second public hearing of the Clallam County Home Rule Charter Commission. The commission members met at the Clallam County Courthouse on June 20 to hear testimony about proposed changes to the Charter – the county’s “constitution.” Twenty-five people testified.
Before testimony began, each committee chair of the commission offered a briefing as to the changes their committee had proposed, and why. Commissioner Dave Lotzgesell chaired the committee about one of the more controversial issues – that of placing the position of director of the Department of Community Development (DCD) on the ballot as an elected, rather than appointed, position. He explained that the reason they had brought up this issue was due to citizens’ input about the lack of accountability and responsiveness in the department, along with the high salary afforded the director’s position ($87,380 plus benefits), where an elected position would save the taxpayers a sizeable amount of money.
The director of the DCD oversees one of the largest departments in the county, and is responsible for all land-use planning regulations and enforcement, writing the ordinances about land use to present to the commissioners, implementing various federal and state land-use rules and regulations. The department has come under fire with the Initiative 6 – Repeal of the Critical Areas Ordinance – battle over the past year, as hundreds of citizens spoke out at various forums offering their “horror” stories about dealing with the department. Words like “unaccountable”, “bureaucratic”, “fear of retribution” were a frequent theme during that time. (The initiative was short-circuited from going to the voters by the director of the DCD, Bob Martin, the county prosecuting attorney and two of the three county commissioners, when Bob Forde was individually sued by the county. That court case is now at the appeals court, with oral arguments scheduled for Sept. 4th.)
Commissioner Rod Fleck spoke about “grant management” being an issue. It would be a good idea, his committee thought, to allow citizens to know grant funding sources and how the grant affects each department (ie. After the grant funding runs out, would the county still have to pay salary to someone hired with that grant money?)
There was a brief period for questions, and then testimony began.
Frank Fig of Sequim- opposed the election of the director of DCD position. Now retired, he said he spent 11 years as a representative for Boeing Co. in 19 jurisdictions, worked with the Growth Management Act and land use issues in all jurisdictions. None of these positions were elected, but given decision-making capability. They have a “high degree of expertise,” he said.
John Pollack (Audubon Society):
1) spoke against Article I, Section 1:10
2) Said the definition of the word “shall” was excessively wordy
3) Said “no” to elect by commissioner district
4) Spoke against partisanship elections– shouldn’t be elected according to their political orientation.
Marilyn Pollack (wife of John, Audubon Society)
1) spoke against commissioner election by district
Harry Lydiard – League of Women Voters, former county commissioner
1) spoke in favor of 7-member council form of government – low paid or “no-paid” members – would save up to $200,000 yearly – commissioner form is “outdated”
2) opposed electing director of DCD. “We don’t elect police officers; directors of community development should not be elected” was his reasoning.
3) Spoke against commissioner election by district – causes “regionalism”
Bruce Emery (works for Bob Martin, director of DCD) – work for DCD as planner – understands how the department works
1) spoke against electing DCD director position
2) spoke against partisan elections “can’t hire qualified people for those positions”
3) spoke against electing commissioners by district – countywide means that “I have full representation”
Jack Coleman (retired businessman, Sequim)
1) spoke in favor of placing all the proposals on the ballot (they all deserve the attention of the voters, he said)
2) spoke against Article I, Section 1:10 – suggested replacing it with Article I, Section 1 of the Washington State Constitution
3) spoke in favor of election of commissioners by district “We have different economies and lifestyles,” he said.
Rosemary Cockrill (didn’t give address) (League of Women Voters)
1) opposed Article I – sheriff already gets 27% of the budget – that’s enough, she said
2) Likes “shall” defined
3) Against electing DCD director. “We’ve heard developers speak about it who don’t like rules and regulations,” she said.
4) Against partisan offices – would end up with people not as well-qualified, she said
5) Re: changes to the initiative process, with the changes, whether they’re “legal or not” they’ll go on the ballot, she said.
6) Against election by district – it’s “divisive” she said.
Bob Martin, director of the DCD, speaking “on his own behalf”
1) quoted David Lotzgesell from a Sequim Gazette as saying that ‘the power is not being checked by the county commissioners.’
1) defended his salary
2) said he found nothing in the written record to indicate citizens’ desire to make his an elected position
3) said the position to make the DCD director an elected position is devoid of supported factual information
4) he said that the recommendation to place this issue on the ballot is “guided by ad hominum arguments, unsupported accusations, ideological dogmas”, lack of factual information, a serious “failing” on the part of the commissioners, he said, especially attacking Dave Lotzgesell.
5) Said he doesn’t have the power that’s attributed to him in the position he holds – “ the position I occupy has significant responsibilities that have to be carried out in a competent manner by a qualified professional” - the position has “little if any discretionary decision-making”
6) Said he meets with the administrator “on a daily basis”, meets with individual commissioners “on a daily basis” meets with the full board on a weekly basis to receive direction
7) “most of the decisions in my department are made by a hearings examiner” “virtually all of the decisions that I as the director get to make are subject to review”
8) the changes in the initiative and referendum process are …flawed
Kip McKeever, retiree, property owner, Sequim, helped gather signatures for I-6
1) In favor of the changes to the initiative process
2) In favor of commissioner election by district
3) In favor of electing DCD director
Vickki Ruden – head of League of Women Voters
1) Spoke at the last hearing, wants to elaborate on what she said then
2) In favor of council/manager form of government
3) Against partisan elections
4) Against electing DCD director
5) Against electing commissioners by district
Mary Ann Grant – League of Women Voters – continued with Ruden’s statement because Ruden ran out of time
1) Same as above
Jack Lyon, Port Angeles
1) proposed 5-7 council form of government
2) Against elected DCD director
Ann Hasting Murray (neighbor of Bruce Emery in Port Angeles)
1) Against electing DCD director
2) Opposed to electing commissioners by district
3) Against Article I
Connie Hyatt – unknown affiliation, if any – Sequim
1) Opposed to partisan election of officials – too much spent on elections, need more human and environmental services that make our communities “livable”
Helmet Weissman (worked for Royal Bank as a planner)
1) Against having a charter
Mary Bedinger – League of Women Voters
1) Against Article I
2) Against election of commissioners by district (lack of accountability, she said)
3) Against election of DCD director – (land use, writing of codes “needs the oversight of the commissioners,” she said
4) Against partisan positions (“What does political philosophy have to do with the job?”)
1) in favor or commissioner elections by district
Rick Rodman (sp?) – lived here 20 years, he said, Sequim
1) Against Article 1 – said budget should be balanced between departments – concerned about the word “ample” – means “more than enough”
2) Against election of DCD director
3) Against partisan offices – “Irrelevant what party they belong to”
Jay Ward – 301 Eunice, Sequim
1) Opposes Article I – should adopt Article I, Section 1 of the state constitution as others have suggested
Jeff Well (former hired districting master for redistricting commission, League of Women Voters)
1) Against partisan elections
2) Against electing DCD director
3) Likes summary of League of Women Voters
4) Favors 5-7 commissioners
Sue Forde, Sequim
1) favored changes in the Initiative and Referendum sections – makes it an “easy-to-follow procedure”. Hopes it will eliminate the “end-runs around citizens’ participation” as has happened previously
2) Wants section on recall expanded like they’ve done with initiative & referendum
3) Eliminate Article I and replace it with WA state constitution Article I, Section 1
4) Likes “shall” defined
5) Likes changes in budget process – would like to see more on grants, with stipulations about what happens when a grant runs out (“grant money is tax money”) – make potential grants easily available for public review and input as grants have “strings” attached which may harm citizens in the long run
6) Keep time limit on emergency ordinances to 60 days. Long enough.
7) Election DCD director. One of the largest departments, wiels much power over what people can and cannot do with their property. Many of their rules are “subjective” because of vague ordinance wording (and they write the proposed ordinances on land use), yet little or no recourse by the citizen. County commissioners usually stand behind staff decisions. Electing offers an alternative for the abused citizen. Elected treasurer and auditor positions work well; this one should, too. Better off without so many “professionals” overseeing every phase of our lives and property.
8) Favors commissioner elected by district. They still would represent citizens from across the county.
9) Favors partisan candidates. “Each political party has distinctly different platforms and view on how government should be run. The more information a citizen has, the better informed at election time.”
Norma Turner (League of Women Voters) “spent a year in Africa”, wants to “protect clean water”
1) Against electing DCD director
2) Charter is a county constitution – should be a framework – initiative process contains policy and procedure - “too much detail for the public to understand”. Ordinances require public hearings. Who defines responsibilities? “I urge you to ‘pick your battles’ – and don’t put too much on the ballot, she said.
Barbara Moody (worked for FEMA)
1) limit emergency ordinances to 60 days – they’re enacted without due process
Susan Ersen (back a second time)
1) Opposed partisan elections – more expensive, politicians would require more staffing
2) Opposes Article I – elevates law enforcement above human services, parks, etc.
3) Supports the consensus of the League of Women Voters
4) Initiative – should state that “citizens can’t pass laws that conflict with the laws of our land.”
1) favors partisan elections “What we believe influences everything that we do.”
2) Favors commissioner election by district “so the people who live in that district can make thei decision”
3) Director of DCD deals with land use – watershed issues and environmentalism
4) Favored placing all changes on the ballot - The people should be able to make their own decision at the polls – “I read the Charter today for the first time, and didn’t have any problem understanding it; we’re not ‘stupid’ as has been indicated by some people here, she said.
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