San Juan County voters reached back to the past to restructure the foundation of local government in the Nov.6 election, approving all three amendments to the Home Rule Charter endorsed by the Charter Review Commission.
With 8,877 ballots counted in Tuesday’s initial tally, a turnout of 74 percent, Proposition 1 garnered 55.4 percent of ballots cast, 4,632 “Yes” votes versus 3,723 “No” votes; Proposition 2 had 4,547 “Yes” votes to 3,503 “No” votes, 56 percent, and Proposition 3, with 7,085 votes, or 85 percent, passed in a landslide.
While the numbers may change with the next tally of ballots are counted, Auditor Milene Henley, manager of local elections, said that she does not expect the outcome of the election to change.
San Juan Island’s Ron Zee, a member of the CRC, said on a scale of happiness of 1-to-10 that passage of all three amendments had him feeling like an “11”.
“I assumed it would be close because there was a lot of confusion about the issues,” Zee said. “I glad the voters of saw the wisdom of the recommendation of the CRC, and I think it will mean better governance in San Juan County.”
The victory means that the council will be cut from six part-time members to three full-time members (Prop. 1); the county administrator position will be replaced by a county manager (Prop. 2), and that all meetings of the county council will be open to the public (Prop. 3), with exception of executive sessions.
Approved by majority vote by the 21-member commission, the propositions were developed through a series of meetings that included testimony from county officials, former freeholders, and others with a goal to facilitate a more effective governance structure.
The propositions do not overturn Home Rule, adopted in 2005.
Passage of Prop. 1 also means that the terms of three newly elected council members, who will take office in January, will end in May. A countywide election will take place in April to elect three council members, each of whom must reside in one of three respective legislative districts.