Will term limits lead to MRC overhaul?

A newly established policy that ushered in term limits to San Juan County's numerous advisory committees could lead to a major overhaul of the MRC.

Eight positions on the Marine Resources Committee will be appointed by the County Council in the coming weeks and a new MRC coordinator will soon be announced.

On July 30, Philip Green, Robin Hirsch and Chuck Schietinger were appointed to MRC positions 2, 1 and 4, respectively. The appointments were made without notice or prior naming of the candidates during the final agenda time, titled "County Manager and Clerk Updates."

Other appointments, including three to the Veterans Advisory Board and one to the Agricultural Resources Committee, were on the agenda with names of the appointees. Barbara Marrett, a Port of Friday Harbor commissioner, was reappointed July 30 to a four-year MRC term.

A week later, Councilman Rick Hughes gave the required notice of reconsideration of the July 30 appointments.  The following day, citing "discomfort" with the summary procedure and with his lack of familiarity with the candidates, Hughes moved for reconsideration. Hughes and Jarman voted to reconsider the Green, Hirsch and Schietinger appointments and scheduled another vote for Aug. 20 at the council meeting on Shaw Island.

Hughes insists he has no specific problem with the three candidates and nobody in mind to nominate instead.

"I just wanted to take the time to do my homework to make sure that we were getting the appropriate balance on the committee," he said. "The council has made major changes in the appointment process for all the advisory committees and the MRC is one of the most important, so I just wanted to take the extra time to do it right."

Councilman Bob Jarman made similar comments before voting with Hughes to reconsider the appointments.

The local MRC, the first in the nation created under the Northwest Straits Initiative and one of seven local MRCs working under the aegis of, and with funding provided by, the Northwest Straits Commission, consists of 15 San Juan County residents chosen to bring a diversity of scientists, conservationists, sports and commercial fishermen and water-intensive business interests together to plan and administer a variety of programs and projects to restore the northern Puget Sound to ecological health.

Council Chairman Jamie Stephens, council liaison to the MRC, voted against reconsideration, saying he did so because he had proposed the appointments on July 30, an abbreviated process necessary to assure that the MRC meeting scheduled for Aug. 7 would have a quorum to choose a new MRC chairperson.

To that end, on July 30, Stephens also suggested that current committee members Tina Whitman, Jim Slocumb and Mike Durland be reappointed to new terms, but acceded to a request by Hughes that the reappointments be for 30 days, pending receipt of applications from new potential members.

Five other local residents - Ed Kilduff of Lopez Island, Laura Jo Severson of San Juan, Margaret Manning of Orcas, Thomas Temple of Crane, and John Geniuch of San Juan - have applied.

Under new appointment procedures for advisory committees, instituted in early spring by the former 6-person council, Whitman, Slocumb and Durland, having served more than two terms on the MRC, were term-limited unless no other qualified prospective appointees applied. The three had reapplied to serve an additional term.

The prior MRC chairman, John Aschoff, who had come under fire from former Councilman Rich Peterson, did not reapply.

On Aug. 6, after all appointments were reconsidered, the terms of Whitman, Slocumb and Durland were again extended until Aug. 30, again to assure that the MRC meetings would have a quorum. However, a quorum was not present at the MRC's Aug. 7 meeting, precluding any formal action, including the planned selection of a new chairman. An Aug. 21 MRC meeting has been cancelled.

Hughes and Jarman reiterated their desire for a balance of perspectives and skills on the committee. No mention was made of any specific political or ideological balance.

Two applicants for positions, Manning and Kilduff, have been critical of county actions and policies regarding planning and land use; two other applicants, Severson, of Crane Island and Temple, of San Juan Island, have been active with the Island Oil Spills Association. Temple, who has a science background and experience producing and shipping salmon, has not been contacted since he applied.



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