Charter may not be perfect, but it's better than what we had | Letters
August 23, 2011 · 2:12 PM
Recently, there have been complaints about the Charter and even a call to return to the old three-member county commissioner government.
I was one of the original Freeholders who helped hammer out the current charter, and while it’s far from perfect, it’s better than what we had. Here’s what I think the new charter has done well:
— Equal representation.
All votes are about equal. Under the old system, the island with 1/6th of the population controlled 1/3rd of the commission votes.
— Local control.
You vote for the council member in your district only. San Juan can’t control Lopez’s outcome.
Looking at the national level, can anyone really believe that injecting party politics back into local issues would be a good idea?
— Initiative and referendum.
We now can, and have addressed issues at the voter level when we were not satisfied with outcomes.
This shouldn’t be over-used, but it’s good to have as a tool if the voters get ahead of their leaders on an issue.
Not everything has been perfect. Council members still micro-manage, they pander to the loudest group, they can’t seem to get to a decision on tough issues.
But these were all problems we had with the old commissioner model too. Remember that the solid waste debacle has defied solution under both forms of government.
Some things were left undone when the charter was proposed too. We simply ran out of time and didn’t address consolidation of other departments.
Most importantly, we left the council pay undefined and the salary commission set it far too high. Maybe if council members received about half of what they now do they would be less inclined to meddle with operations’ decisions and let staff do the work they were hired to do.
These are issues that the new charter review group can consider, but please, let’s not go backwards to a form or government that not only didn’t work any better, but was also inherently unfair in it’s representation for different areas.
There is an election coming next year and we will have a chance to send a message if we feel that change is needed. Pay attention to the candidates and as the old knight advised Indiana Jones, “choose wisely!”
San Juan Island