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County council weighs new charter amendment, 5 instead of 3

By Steve Wehrly/Journal reporter

If you thought the question about County Council numbers had been put to rest, then think again.

Believing that voters did not understand what they were doing last November, councilmen Rich Peterson and Marc Forlenza want to give islanders a "do-over".

This time, however, Peterson and Forlenza have proposed replacing the 3-person council with five.

Their proposal, which would amend the charter if approved by voters, would retain the three council members to be elected April 23; the two new council members would be elected in a special countywide election in April of next year.

A separate charter amendment also proposed by Forlenza and Peterson would change elections from countywide to district elections, so that the two new council members would be elected by district in early 2014. The terms of the two new council positions would expire at the end of 2014, and they would be sworn into office Jan. 2, 2015 to four-year terms.

The three council members elected this April would run in their local districts when their terms expire, one in 2014 (Lopez/Shaw) and two in 2016.

The propositions were before the council March 26 on "First Touch," which means the council discussed the issue but did not take testimony. Nevertheless, five citizens spoke on the Peterson/Forlenza proposal during "Citizen's Access Time". Reaction was divided, three against, two in favor.

Council Chairman Jamie Stephens and Councilman Rick Hughes voted against moving the proposal forward. Irrespective of its merits, Hughes and Stephens agreed that a charter amendment of that kind should come from a citizens initiative, not from the council.

Council members Patty Miller, Bob Jarman, Peterson and Forlenza voted to move the proposal forward to a April 9 discussion, known among the council as a "second touch".

If the council chooses to proceed with the proposal following its April 9 discussion, it would then get a "third touch", which would include a public hearing, public testimony and a final decision whether to place the propositions on the ballot.

Peterson would like to see the amendments approved by the current council, and before the 3-person council elected on April 23 takes office in early May. Hughes, Jarman and Stevens are running for the three-person council from Orcas, San Juan and Lopez, respectively. Peterson and Miller are not running for reelection.

 

 

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