Home Rule Charter a good fix for bad county government

In Camas and Washougal, as in many smaller communities, September and October are busy times – especially for families with children in school and extracurricular activities.

Let’s face it, September for many of us is the storm after the lazy days of summer. School is in session, and fall sports and band practice, among many other activities, are in high gear for our kids. College classes have started, or will be starting soon. Then there’s the Huskies, Ducks, Cougars, Seahawks, Mariners and Timbers to cheer on as well.

Not enough hours in the day? Sure seems like it for many of us.

So up to now, we can perhaps be excused for not being up to speed on the upcoming November general election issues and candidates on the ballot. Hey, it’s been busy!

But now, in mid-September, it’s time to pay attention to one ballot measure in particular that holds great potential for fixing a seriously bad situation that currently exists in Clark County government.

If you forget all the other issues on the ballot and the self-promoting candidates for office who want to save the world, fine. Our community will live to see the next sunrise regardless of what happens with those candidates and issues.

But the proposed Clark County Home Rule Charter, otherwise known as “Charter YES,” might be the most important issue to come before county voters in recent general election history. The proposed charter makes so much sense, from an overall good government perspective and from a taxpayer’s view that it’s hard to think that voters wouldn’t approve it.

Here’s a nutshell version of some of the benefits of the Home Rule Charter.

o It creates a county council/county manager form of government. The county council will deal with budget, legislative and policy issues. The county manager will focus on implementation of those policies and administrative duties.

o The county charter broadens the base of elected representation with five county council members instead of three county commissioners. This is especially important given the frightening amount of power currently held by Commissioners David Madore and Tom Mielke who vote in lock-step as the 2-1 majority on the three member county commission. Madore and Mielke currently have a near stranglehold on any issue to come before the county. If the county charter passes, they would be just two votes on a five member county council.

o Four county council members would be elected by district in both the primary and general elections and one council member elected at large to serve as chair. For those of us in east county, that means we would have a county council member that is more responsive and accountable to the unique issues we face in our community.

o There would be no additional costs to taxpayers. County council salaries would be reduced gradually to $53,000 per year instead of the current six figure-plus salaries earned by the three current county commissioners.

Again, these are just a few of the benefits of the proposed Home Rule Charter drafted by the 15-member Board of Freeholders. These folks met from November 2013 through May 2014, disbanding when the charter was completed.

It should be noted that former Camas Mayor Nan Henriksen was the chair of this group, and did an excellent job keeping things on track while keeping the door open for every political viewpoint. The end result is a proposed charter that is not a Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal form of government being proposed. It’s one that represents all citizens of Clark County.

For more information on the charter visit www.charteryes.com.

Mike Gallagher is a Camas resident and the former publisher of the Post-Record.