Small change? Supporters, critics differ over impact of Proposition 1

Election Day 2013 is Nov. 5.  - Journal file art
Election Day 2013 is Nov. 5.
— image credit: Journal file art

Responding to the 2012 voter-approved charter amendments that reduced the size of the County Council from six members to three, the former six-member council proposed Proposition 1 for a voter decision on the 2013 election ballot.

Their unanimous vote to put this proposition on the ballot was one of the final actions of the old council.

Proposition 1 amends the charter by substituting the words "Charter Amendment Petition" for the word "initiative" in section 9.33 of the charter. The intent is to get around section 5.34 of the charter, which states that the boundaries of county council districts "shall not be changed by the Legislative Body or initiative."

In the official description of Proposition 1, San Juan County Prosecutor Randy Gaylord writes, "If this measure is approved, a proposal to alter the residency district boundaries for council could be submitted to voters after the successful filing of a Charter Amendment Petition.”

Under present law, such a change could only be made by a new Charter Review Commission.

Opponents believe Prop. 1 is the first step to change countywide voting to voting by district, and perhaps to increase the number of council members.

In the statement opposing the proposition, Bill Appel, Louise Dustrude and former county councilman Bob Myer say passage of the measure would allow major changes in the council structure and county manager operations "without sufficient public input and careful scrutiny by an elected Charter Review Commission."

Former councilman Richard Fralick, a supporter of Prop. 1, said the intent of the proposition is simply to return to the people the possibility of changing the size and shape of the districts, which the new charter makes impossible because of section 5.4.

Fralick does not advocate any changes at this time, but wants future voters to have the right to change the size and composition of the districts.

"Giving local control back to local people was a central principle of the original charter," Fralick said. "We just want to return that to the people."



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