June 17, 2008 · Updated 5:02 PM
The Sounder commented last week that the proposed Housing Bank quite likely would have made it to the November ballot if county Commissioner Rhea Miller hadn't resigned. We felt that she would have been the one commissioner aware of all the hoops through which the measure would have had to jump, the paper work to be completed, and the deadlines to be met.
But it's a virtual certainty that islanders would have gotten to decide this November whether to create a Housing Bank funded by a real estate excise tax if we had a county manager paying attention to the process. One of the reasons governments hire professional managers is to make certain the public's business is carried out in a timely fashion, and in accordance with what must be thousands of local, state and federal rules. Without a manager paying close attention to the process, there is less certainty that all the rules will be adhered to.
In the case of our county government, we elect three commissioners whom we expect to administer the bureaucracy, act as judges in land use cases, and set policy. Yet the truth of the matter is that those who get elected typically are people who are chosen because they advocate policies with which we agree, not because they have the best managerial skills.
However, even a commissioner who has had a successful background as a professional manager can get bogged down in the managerial details of the job. It's one more reason why administrative problems in county government continue to crop up again and again.
For several years we have been hearing voices urging the commissioners to hire a professional manager. But, with the exception of former county Commissioner Darcie Nielsen, it's gotten a cold reception. And since our elected commissioners are the only ones with the authority to hire a county manager, the proposal has gone nowhere.
Now, however, the ball is in the citizens' hands, through the proposed charter form of government. Local voters will have the authority to make that decision for the commissioners when they consider in November the proposal of the San Juan County Board of Freeholders to establish a charter form of government.
The Sounder is not yet ready to make an endorsement one way or another regarding the county charter. The proposed charter is a package of proposals besides the requirement that the commissioners hire a professional manager. Among the other items in the package are the right of initiative and referendum, and a second ballot that, if approved, would double the size of the commission and make the members part-time.
We're still studying the entire charter, and will withhold any endorsements until just prior to November. But it is already clear to us that a county manager is needed, and the sooner the better.
Drivers: Please be extra careful while among little children going to and from school
This is the week when the kids go back to school. And that means it's time for local drivers to become even more careful when behind the wheel.
Here in Eastsound, we can expect to see many little children walking or bicycling along our curvy, narrow roads that, with few exceptions, have poor visibility, and are without shoulders. It's a scary situation that will someday lead to a very tragic accident if just one driver fails to be extremely careful.
We're glad to report that our San Juan County Sheriff's Department will be paying close attention to those driving in and around our local schools during the morning hours, when kids are on their way to class, and in the afternoons, when they're on the way home.
The start of school is always a milestone in the life of parents, children and the community as a whole. It's a reminder that summer is over, the weather is changing, and we're all getting older. Let's do our part to make sure that it never becomes a reminder of an island tragedy.