The suggested changes to the charter provide one thing for each and every citizen of this county—empowerment, and I support all three recommendations. When I was a commissioner, I noticed that few people at the State level took our part-time council member counterparts seriously. They simply were not “in the know.” I have personally sat in Olympia in the offices of the Department of Ecology, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Health, the Department of Labor and Industries (after going through all the security checks at the door), the Department of Commerce, and with the head of the State Parks department, Department of Natural Resources, and what is now Puget Sound Partnership, advocating on behalf of citizens. I have sat on a State/Federal panel for oil spill protection with legislators, the Coast Guard, and the shipping industry. I personally visited the Vessel Traffic System in Vancouver, BC, to learn best how to protect our waters. When I asked to speak with these department heads and staff, they listened, because they knew I was full-time, represented by all the voters in the County, and because I had administrative experience, which is their role in government.
The other part of empowerment is the simple ability to hold our County employees accountable to the public. Government and politics are messy in a democracy, but that comes with the territory. Citizens have a right to be heard and taken seriously. When the Council members lost administrative ability and had to funnel every concern through the county executive about a department’s handling of the public, the citizen was left yet another step away from having any impact.
There are other issues as well, such as the huge increase in cost of operating county government under the present system, but a full-time administratively functioning commissioner can make those budget changes, because they represent the public’s needs, not the need of the bureaucracy. Please vote Yes on these changes.