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Nov. 23, 2020

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Charter enacted home rule in Clark County

Document OK’d in 2014 requires review after 5 years

By , Columbian county government and small cities reporter
Published:

Clark County voters in the November 2014 election approved a home rule charter, the document that continues to structure county government.

Several previous attempts at a charter had failed before a freeholder convention drafted the current charter in 2013.

The term “home rule” refers to when local jurisdictions, through an elected freeholder commission, craft their version of county government rather than continue with the default option under state law.

For Clark County, that meant turning three commissioners into five councilors to serve as the legislative branch of county government.

The charter also formed an executive branch, creating a county manager position to be hired by the council. The manager oversees department heads in an effort to separate legislative and executive powers.

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WEB ONLY Pro-charter supporters, from left, Betty Sue Morris, Patty Reyes and Joe Toscano react to early election results at Grant House on Election night in 2014. Morris was co-chair for the campaign. Charter enacted home rule in Clark County
Clark County voters in the November 2014 election approved a home rule charter, the document that continues to structure county government.
The Clark County Public Service Center. 52 seek to be one of 15 on Clark County Charter Review Commission
The question of whether Clark County Council positions should remain partisan has drawn mixed answers from candidates for the County Charter Review Commission.

The rollout of the position has been bumpy, with several permanent and temporary managers filling the role.

The charter also cut councilors’ pay nearly in half, and created an at-large chair position along with four positions elected by district. It also created a limited initiative and referendum process.

The proposed charter became a hot issue in the 2014 election. It passed with 53.35 percent of the vote.

Supporters said it would improve voter representation, increase professionalism following years of discord on the council, and encourage checks and balances.

Opponents said the charter gave too much power to an unelected county manager and lamented commissioners’ diminished roles in daily operations. Some argued that it was a rebuke of staunch conservatives David Madore and Tom Mielke, both sitting commissioners at the time.

Five years after its adoption and official certification, the charter mandates the formation of a review committee. Thus, this year’s election. In the future, a 15-member review committee must also be elected every 10 years.

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Columbian county government and small cities reporter
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