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Solid solutions; proof in the process | Guest Column
By Larry Hendel
One of the most interesting aspects of the Charter Review Commission’s review process was that the overwhelming majority of the members, with diverse experience, all having a keen interest in county government, and with varied political interests and philosophies, came together with three positive suggestions to make our government work better and more efficiently.
The CRC is comprised of 21 members elected by the citizens of San Juan County. Its assignment was to review all portions of the charter and make its recommendations available for voter approval or disapproval.
It met weekly for 6-7 hours for over four-and-a-half months beginning last January, and individual members put in hundreds of hours on their own researching and preparing for weekly meetings.
It was obvious at the first meeting that many CRC members had given considerable thought to the charter. Early on, members independently brought to the table sections of the charter they felt needed attention. After several meetings most of us seemed to agree on major issues.
We made comparisons between Washington state counties, their size and operations, and had many discussions with their commissioners/councilors. State and county laws were researched, and information received from public testimonies and letters was evaluated. Extensive findings were documented.
The three proposed amendments cover sections that most members felt needed revision. They were re-evaluated a number of times throughout the review period and each time the vote showed overwhelming support for them.
At our last meeting, 17 out of 19 members voted to have these amendments put on the ballot. Two members voted against it, one abstained and one was absent.
The CRC has been criticized rudely and inaccurately by one or two people portraying the process used as flawed, coming to conclusion too quickly and implying that our members met “behind closed doors”. Not true.
CRC members put a huge amount of thought and effort into the review process both before and throughout the meeting period. Those who voted for CRC candidates last November obviously wanted people on the CRC who had given a lot of thought to the charter.
It is unbelievable after living with this experiment for six years that anyone would come unprepared and empty handed to the very first meeting.
Apparently, those critics objected to, or couldn’t understand, members being prepared. They still can’t.
We accomplished a lot and it is because of members having a great deal of practical and managerial experience, community involvement and insight that enabled us to operate efficiently.
The commission included two current and three former planning commissioners, two former elected freeholders, a former five-term county clerk, a county council staff member, a former county commissioner, two attorneys, a former member of the Ferry Advisory Committee and member of the Agricultural Resources Committee, a former board member of the Economic Development Council, local business leaders, two former port commissioners, retired executives, farmers and individuals with extensive corporate financial experience.
— Editor’s note: a member of the Charter Review Commission, Larry Hendel of Lopez Island is a former member of the San Juan County planning commission.