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Counterpoint: Prop. 1 & 2 would 'gut' the charter, not improve it | Guest Column
By Richard Peterson
As a member of the San Juan County Council, I read John Evans’ recent letter with interest and some amount of surprise ("Charter can be improved..." Aug. 24, SanJuanJournal.com).
I would appreciate the opportunity to offer my own perspective on our Home Rule Charter.
John regards the charter as an experiment that will be improved by the “adjustments recommended by the Charter Review Commission.”
I would like to suggest that going back to three council representatives, reprising the old districts with unequal population (one island with 1/6 of the population and another with half the population receiving the same amount of council influence), going to full-time legislators, stripping the charter of the separation of powers (investing all administrative authority with the 3-member council), and inserting a manager for whom delegated powers and duties are unspecified and unknown, could not possibly be described as mere “adjustments.”
The CRC recommendations cut out the major charter elements, leaving very few of its significant features behind. Several observers have said that Propositions 1 and 2 essentially “gut” the charter. I think this is a more accurate description.
I believe the 6-member council gives citizens the most direct and effective access to their government, especially when compared to the experience we had with three. Despite allegations from the CRC that council members are not responsive to anyone outside their districts, my experience has been that I am very actively engaged with citizens outside my district, including lots of communication with Mr. Evans.
John is asking voters to return to a system that he himself criticized back in 2004 when he said, “The major difficulty in the existing organization is the inability of the commissioners to talk, to create teamwork.”
I believe this defect was a major obstacle to effective governance and one of the reasons why the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) left so much unfinished business behind for the 6-member council to address. I should add that most of the BOCC legacy has been dealt with by the 6-member council.
I am glad John sees merit in the “experiment” of our charter, and I believe it deserves continued support in order to be fully implemented. The last of the former BOCC members – who was on record as being opposed to the carter from the beginning – did not leave the council until 2010.
Our charter is working. I urge voters to join me in rejecting Propositions 1 and 2, neither of which moves us forward and both of which will be expensive, needless, and likely result in chaos. The CRC claims no cost advantage in going backward and offers no assurance of problems being solved. Problems inherent to the structure of the charter, in fact, have not been identified, and most complaints can be linked to individual council members, not the underlying structure.
I believe it would have been a far better service to county residents if the charter review commission had focused on its assigned task to review the charter, rather than seizing on a plan to revoke its major provisions.
True “adjustments” would have been welcome and can still be considered next year as part of the county council’s work plan.
— Editor's Note: County Councilman Richard Peterson, District 2, North San Juan, is in his second term on the council.