Home rule headed to public hearing

Clark County commissioners will discuss process for home rule charter




Clark County commissioners will officially consider beginning a home rule charter.

At Wednesday’s board time meeting, Republican Commissioner Tom Mielke and Democratic Commissioner Steve Stuart gave the verbal cue to add the matter of considering a new county charter to a June 4 public hearing.

That hearing, scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Public Service Center, 1300 Franklin St., will give the public a chance to weigh in on the topic.

If commissioners vote at the June 4 meeting to move forward on a home rule charter, the next step would be to put a vote on freeholder positions on the November ballot. The freeholder board would be made up of 15 residents who would draft a new county charter.

Republican Commissioner David Madore didn’t comment on the matter at Wednesday’s meeting.

Madore has said in the past he finds some aspects of such a charter troubling, specifically in that it could propose electing a county executive position.

Mielke has pushed for the home rule charter for months now. He’s said the goal of such an effort is to give the people a say in the makeup of local government.

And while Stuart has appeared to be supportive of the charter, he’s yet to make it clear what he hopes comes of the process.

Little was said on Tuesday before the commissioners moved to give the matter a public hearing.

Mielke is likely to receive a fair amount of public support on the matter from a group that has been vocally critical of him over the past month.

Broaching a home rule charter was a topic discussed in the aftermath of public anger over the two Republican commissioners’ decision to appoint state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, as the county’s director for environmental services.

Changes suggested by that group include creating an elected county executive and adding positions to the county’s board of commissioners, which currently sits at three.

Other changes made possible with a home rule charter include changing elected positions to appointed roles, and adding initiative and referendum options for voters.

A draft timeline of the process puts an election on a new charter in November 2015. But the matter could come before voters as soon as November 2014, depending on the pace of the freeholder board’s work.

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