Three informational meetings set on home rule in Clark County

By Erik Hidle, Columbian staff writer

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Home rule has rocky history in Clark County

Clark County residents have at least three opportunities this summer to take part in civics lessons covering home rule, freeholders and the upcoming elections process that may change the way the county works.

Home rule allows voters to essentially change local government in the manner they see fit, as long as it falls within the laws of the state and abides by the U.S. Constitution.

Freeholders are the 15 individuals whom voters will elect in November to draft the proposed county charter, and return it to voters for final approval.

Common changes include implementing the citizen powers of initiative and referendum, implementing an elected county executive and expanding the number of members on the board of county commissioners.

But other changes can include changing currently elected positions to appointed roles, combining offices into one job, removing partisanship from offices or adding new elected roles.

To help hash it all out, three entities have announced they will host informational meetings on the matter.

Team ClarkForward

The bipartisan Team ClarkForward will have an informational meeting for the public at 6:30 p.m.Thursday, June 27, at Club Green Meadows, 7703 N.E. 72nd Ave.

The group is led by Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey, a Republican, and Commissioner Steve Stuart, a Democrat. The two say they are seeking a new county government that is modeled heavily after the one implemented in Snohomish County in 1980.

Key changes championed by the group include the election of a county executive — an office Kimsey said he might seek — in an effort to separate the executive and legislative powers currently held by the board of commissioners.

The group also looks to expand the board from three members to five. In an effort to reduce the cost to taxpayers, the group proposes reducing commissioner pay to keep the sum of salaries the same as it is now.

Clark County Republicans

Local Republicans will host a meeting on home rule at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 29, at Clark County Republican Party Headquarters, 7736 N.E. Hazel Dell Ave.

According to the Republicans' website, the event will specifically discuss the upcoming freeholder election, as well as the role freeholders play.

Clark County Commissioner Tom Mielke, a Republican, will be the meeting's speaker.

Mielke is the architect of bringing home rule charter to the people this year. He has long said the effort is intended to bring government closer to the people, and has yet to publicly declare what changes he believes should be made in the charter process.

Clark County

The government agency that would be altered by a successful home rule charter is sponsoring a meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 24, at Gaiser Student Center at Clark College, 1933 Fort Vancouver Way.

The meeting has been billed as an informational session and will be led by Clark County Administrator Bill Barron and Kelly Sills, Clark County's economic development director.

The two served as lead staff during this year's planning of a home rule charter.

Clark County is also reminding interested people that filing as a candidate for freeholder will be done with the Clark County Elections Department between 8 a.m. Aug. 5 and 5 p.m. Aug. 9.

Erik Hidle: 360-735-4547; http://twitter.com/col_clarkgov;erik.hidle@columbian.com.