Thursday, December 8, 2022
Dec. 8, 2022

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In Our View: Give charter amendments close examination

The Columbian
Published:

The Columbian’s Editorial Board already has weighed in on Charter Amendment No. 10, recommending a “no” vote for reasons that were spelled out Sunday in an editorial. But voters also will find five other Clark County Charter amendments on the November ballot that warrant thoughtful examination.

As always, these are simply recommendations designed to provide information and foster discussion. The Columbian suggests that voters study the measures, which would make changes to how our county is governed.

  • Charter Amendment 11: Yes. This amendment would alter the hiring process for county manager. If approved, it would require the Clark County Council to consult with elected executive officials in a public meeting when selecting a county manager.

The measure would add transparency and additional input to the process, which would benefit the community.

  • Charter Amendment 12: Yes. The amendment would add a preamble to the county charter that includes, “Clark County recognizes and acknowledges that we reside on the ancestral lands of the Indigenous peoples of the lower Columbia River, who were stewards of these lands long before others arrived and settled in the area.”

The “statement against” in the Voters’ Pamphlet states, “The ‘preamble’ proposed by this amendment is a diversity and inclusion, ‘woke’ preamble. It is being added as an afterthought since it was not written and included by the original commission that wrote the Clark County Home Rule Charter. Reject this woke, afterthought of a ‘preamble.’ ” We think it is better to be woke than to slumber.

  • Charter Amendment 13: Yes. This would require elected county executives to provide a list of senior office employees to serve in the role if the position becomes vacant. It also describes the process for appointing a person to a vacant county council position.

Currently, the county council chooses replacements for executive positions, a situation that has led to blatant cronyism in recent years. Ensuring that somebody who has experience and is qualified to fill an open position is a hallmark of good government.

  • Charter Amendment 14: No. As stated on the ballot, the amendment “would require petitioners who submit a petition for a referenda or initiative the signatures of 8 percent of the number of votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. It would also allow petitioners of initiatives to transfer gathered signatures to a mini-initiative petition.”

The amendment deals with county-level initiatives, mini-initiatives and referendums — methods of self-government that are essential to Washington’s democracy. But democracy is defined as the majority rules. Loosening the parameters for bringing a mini-initiative before the county council makes it easier for fringe elements to impose their will upon the entire county if they can find sympathetic ears on the council.

  • Charter Amendment 15: No. This would establish a Diversity and Inclusion Officer and a Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Commission. Diversity and inclusion must be an essential part of business in each county department; laws and policies must guard against bigotry, both latent and blatant, and accountability must be enforced — from the county council chair to managers in all departments.

But it is not clear how an additional layer of bureaucracy would advance equity. Federal and state laws — along with county policies — already provide protections against discrimination. Creating a new office would do little to help enforce those laws.

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