Reject prop one | guest column

Editor’s note: The former six-member council proposed Proposition 1 for a voter decision on the 2013 election ballot. It amends the charter by substituting the words “Charter Amendment Petition” for the word “initiative.” The intent is to get around section 5.34 of the charter, which states that the boundaries of county council districts “shall not be changed by the Legislative Body or initiative.”

by Senator Kevin Ranker and John Evans

Last year, a majority of San Juan County’s citizens voted to make some important updates to our county charter. Specifically, we voted to create a full-time, three-member county council that was elected county-wide. This is critical, as it ensures that those representing us prioritize our county’s success, instead of another job and that they answer to all of us – instead of someone only elected by the residents of Friday Harbor, making the most important decisions for Eastsound.

These changes came about after a year’s careful consideration and an exhaustive research and public process by the elected Charter Review Commission.

On the CRC were Gordy Petersen, Maureen See, Mary Jean Cahail, Bill Watson, Robert Levinson, Ron Zee, Janice Peterson, James Stegall, Frank Penwell, Tom Starr, Bob Gamble, William Appel, Edwin Sutton, Ralph Gutschmidt, Moana Kutsche, Leonard Wood, Stephen Garrison, Madrona Murphy, Larry Hendel, Richard Ward and Barbara Thomas.

The county charter was originally authored in 2004 after significant public process and thoughtful discussions by the elected Board of Freeholders.

Serving as freeholders were Jeri Ahrenius, David Bayley, Charlie Bodenstab, Jeffrey Bossler, Ed Carlberg, Walter Corbin, Lola Deane, Ryan Drum, Frederick Ellis, Richard Fralick, George Johnson, Mindy Kayl, Steve Ludwig, Stephanie O’Day, Gordy Peterson, Bob Querry, Gayle Rollins, Linda Tretheway, Greg Hertel and Gene Knapp.

There are two extremely important similarities between these two groups of San Juan County residents who have worked to make a better county government.  First, they represent the diversity of conservatives and liberals, rich and poor, senior and young that is our county. Second, they prioritized the stability of our county government moving forward – not allowing major changes every time a new group of islanders gets vocal or loses an election.

For this reason both groups proposed, and the voters strongly supported, allowing the most important, major changes to how our government functions only every ten years and only after a thoughtful, public discussion.

Why is this so extremely important? The idea that we would allow the leadership of our county to bounce back and forth between being elected by small districts or county-wide or have six members or three members on an annual basis is not only extremely costly, it will create total dysfunction.  This instability will be extremely harmful to our county’s ability to serve the public – from our roads or building department to public health.

A diverse group of dozens of citizens on the CRC and freeholders spent months and months reviewing county government structures throughout the state for examples of what would work best for us and – they got it right. You cannot change the entire structure of how government functions every year.  To do so is frankly crazy and will only cause incredible instability for our communities.  The current thoughtful charter gives us remarkable flexibility to make all of the changes we want to, we simply make them thoughtfully and after careful research and consideration.

Join us in strongly rejecting San Juan County Proposition 1.