The Clark County charter, passed by voters in 2014, has helped create a system of government that better fits our needs. But it is imperfect.
Because of that, voters in the November general election will weigh in on nine amendments to the charter — ideas formulated either by an elected charter review commission or county councilors. Here are recommendations from The Columbian’s Editorial Board:
Amendments 1 and 2: Approved. No. 1 would make county executive positions (auditor, sheriff, prosecuting attorney, etc.) nonpartisan. No. 2 would make county council positions nonpartisan. While party affiliation can help inform voters about a candidate’s positions, it also can be misleading. Too often, voters are swayed by an R or a D next to a name rather than a candidate’s qualifications or experience. There is no reason the county auditor (the top local elections official) or the sheriff should have to declare allegiance to one party or another.
When it comes to county councilors, cities throughout Clark County have nonpartisan council elections and still manage to come up with effective governance. Removing party affiliation would help return the focus to governing and away from the partisan rancor that is a disease upon our democracy.
Amendment 3: Approved. This would split voting for the county council into five districts rather than the current four. The chair would then be chosen by the councilors, rather than in the current countywide vote. Splitting the county into five districts would improve representation, giving each councilor a smaller population and geographic region to cover.
Amendment 4: Rejected. This would call for the county charter to be reviewed every five years rather than 10. Reviewing the charter last year, six years after it was established, made sense; unforeseen issues were certain to arise. After that, a 10-year time frame is sufficient.
Amendment 5: Approved. This would create an ethics code and autonomous ethics review commission. The county’s current Code of Ethics was adopted in 2001 and is insufficient. When in doubt, we believe voters should err on the side of transparent and ethical government. As a Voters’ Pamphlet statement in favor of the amendment says, “A Code of Ethics for county government fosters trust in local governance.”
Amendment 6: Rejected. This would require the county manager to establish a department of diversity, equity and inclusion. Clark County government has demonstrated a need for improvement in this area, but it is not clear whether the amendment would have a genuine impact. The county has the systems in place to improve its diversity, equity and inclusion without added bureaucracy; it must put those systems to good use in ensuring a welcoming workplace for all employees.
Amendments 7 and 8: Approved. These would make minor corrections to the charter and to processes for citizen petitions and initiatives. A bit of housekeeping is worthwhile.
Amendment 9: Rejected. This would “allow only registered voters in unincorporated Clark County to file and sign petitions for and to vote upon initiatives, mini-initiatives, and referenda relating to ordinances that would be effective exclusively in the unincorporated areas of Clark County.” Actions by the county council and voters affect all residents, even if indirectly. All registered voters should have a say.
As always, these are merely recommendations. The Columbian’s Editorial Board suggests that voters study the issues that will impact how our government functions.