No on charter amendments | Guest column

I, too, am a member of the Charter Review Commission, one of three No votes on the amendments. I would like to respond to some of Gordy Petersen’s statements. Mr. Petersen decries the “costly” decisions from the current six-member council. He does not, in this case, and almost every other, explain or support his opinion. He just believes it.

According to the county auditor, the costs of a six-member or a three-member council are about the same. Neither does Mr. Petersen explain why decisions are twice as hard to make with six. Even if that were true, is that necessarily a defect? The trouble with so many of Mr. Petersen’s pronouncements is exactly this lack of supporting evidence and explanation. All council meetings and subcommittee meetings are open to the public now.

There is no need for Proposition 3. Former freeholders were not invited to testify as freeholders. They wrote the charter but the CRC chair refused to ask them to address the members. Deadlocked votes have seldom happened and even less often with negative results. Mr. Petersen asserts that the six council members only attend to the narrow interests of their districts and will not listen to those outside. Could we have some proof?

Gordy Petersen says that the three-member leadership body has “140 years of success.” I disagree. It was not successful.

The Friends of the San Juans’ Autumn 2004 report noted, “This commission form was established by the state in its Constitution in 1889 to suit conditions then. Society has changed; government has not.”

Mr. Petersen believes that the council is not transparent.

“The cake is being baked behind the scenes,” he argues.

The CRC, like the council, falls under the Open Public Meetings Act. A CRC members, writing for publication, commented on the “hundreds of hours outside the meetings” spent by the CRC.

How many of those meetings were open to the public?

In addition: The CRC made the most far-reaching decisions only one week into our deliberations. There were no interviews, no research, no data gathered, and virtually nothing to support the “working model” to which the majority attached itself for the next six months.

Having made their decisions, the CRC then invited seven former BOCC members to attend, all of whom enthusiastically approved of the old ways of doing things. Voters will note that all three signers on the ballot Proposition 1 to return to three council members are former BOCC members. In my opinion, the Charter Review was not a review and the people of San Juan County are the worse for this wasted opportunity.

Proposition 1 will return the county to unequal representation. This is unfair in the opinion of many voters, including residents on Lopez. The majority of county residents voted in 2005 to get rid of this model. Concerns about constitutional challenges are growing. Under proposition 2 administrative authority would return to the three-member council to then be delegated in an unspecified fashion to a manager.

Should the voters approve Proposition 1, the three council members elected on Nov. 6 would lose their seats just a few months later, as would the other three council members whose terms are not scheduled to expire until 2014. Proposition 1, if approved, would cost taxpayers $60,000-$70,000 in new elections. Candidates will have to spend thousands. The council has worked through much of the negative legacy from the BOCC and has moved forward on many new initiatives.

Please reject Propositions 1, 2, and 3.

Janice Peterson

Member of the CRC