Opinion

Is this what we want to go back to? | Guest Column

Charlie Bodenstab - Contributed photo
Charlie Bodenstab
— image credit: Contributed photo

By Charlie Bodenstab

In early November you will be asked to approve three propositions put forth by the Charter Review Commission. All three propositions are burdensome and destructive.

I’ll focus on just one area at this moment to illustrate the absurdity of what you are being asked to ratify.

The proposed amendments would have us going back to the old three-legislator model, where both the legislative and the administrative functions are controlled by the council. No separation of powers (a sacred principle of our U.S. Constitution), no proportional representation (another violation of the constitution) and most importantly, no limits on the ability of individual council members to meddle in day-to-day running of the county departments.

I was one of the Freeholders elected in 2004 to create a Home Rule Charter. During the writing process we interviewed a number of staff members to determine their views on the three-legislator model. I was repeatedly told that the meddling of the individual commissioners was so prevalent that it was a nightmare to run their departments efficiently.

In fact, they made an issue that the management structure invited practices where the commissioners would repeatedly intervene to get preferential treatment for one of their constituents. To say that this is a corrupt practice is not a stretch, particularly if you are being disadvantaged to the benefit of someone with pull. Is this what you want to go back to?

If you find these comments hard to believe, consider the following excerpts from a recently published letter written by Colin Maycock, president of Local 1848 of the county union urging his members to vote “No” on the amendments.

“…Often the Commissioners used departments and staff as proxies in their own  rivalries and disagreements, with one commissioner demanding a specific result from staff on one day while another commissioner demanded an opposite result the following day… The explicit corruption of this type of meddling became so repugnant that an outcry from the community arose with the ultimate outcome being the adoption of the County Charter… The past interference of the BOCC into the day-to-day operation of the County was an unmitigated disaster for the public,… It was failure then, it would be a failure this time, …..”

Note these past practices absolutely cannot happen under the present charter. It has precise wording that prohibits a council member from contacting an administrative person directly.

Please reject amendments No. 1, No. 2, No. 3.

— Editor's note: San Juan Island's Charlie Bodenstab is a member of the former Board of Freeholders, which crafted the Home Rule Charter approved by voters in 2005

 

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