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A county charter in need of a fix | Guest Column
By Bob Levinson/San Juan Island
I am a member of the Charter Review Commission.
Six years ago I ran unsuccessfully for a freeholder position but followed the process closely. I was not completely satisfied with the six-person council, felt it was too large for our small community but liked the idea of an independent county executive. It has not worked out as anticipated.
I can understand the extreme opposition from former freeholders and the existing council for their stand against the changes recommended by the CRC. It is hard to accept your ideas have not worked out. The existing council is also against the charter changes for basically the same reasons.
After six years of the charter being in effect, I have to admit it has not and there is no guarantee that the county operations will change. Most successful business people have failed sometime in their lives, only to bounce back and become successful with a change of plans. We learn from our mistakes and move on.
We have to admit that our original idea for a charter government has not worked as planned and make the needed changes. What has not worked with the Charter is:
— A six person council is not needed in our small county; most counties in the state and country work well with a 3-person council.
— With a 3-person council the entire county will have a vote for each position, not just 1-of-6.
— The county executive idea has not worked in our county. The council did not allow for separation of powers to take place and has gotten involved in areas that should have been left to the executive.
— council members meeting behind closed doors with staff.
— The county budget increased in six years about 50 percent.
— Why did Pete Rose leave the island for a lesser paying position?
— Individual council members had four to six years to get the charter functioning as it should, and they haven’t Why should we now believe that they can or would function within charter rules?
Our county has worked fairly well for 150 years with a 3-person council. We are one of the smallest county in the state. Except for the larger counties, most of the counties in the states and the U.S.A operate with a 3-person council. But as the last six years have shown us, the original charter has not functioned properly and needs to be amended as proposed.
Any system depends upon the people who run the system; it is critical we elect people based on their qualifications, not on their ideology. Please vote for the charter amendments.