A passionate defense for an unrevised charter might make sense if San Juan County residents are satisfied that government has improved in the ways we hoped it would when we voted to make a change six years ago.
The revisions that are being proposed are practical solutions to observed problems. They speak directly to three qualities of good government: representation, accountability and transparency. Aspects of the charter which hinder rather than foster these aims have been identified and need to be changed.
Our local “constitution” needs to work in practice, not just theory. Propositions 1, 2 and 3 do not jeopardize any charter provision that reflects the charter’s main intent: greater local control, and greater citizen control, over county government.
The power of each individual’s vote was dealt a serious blow by the elimination of county-wide voting in council elections. An even-numbered council begs split decisions and has encouraged the formation of a three-member voting block, making compromise difficult or meaningless. With a six-member council, state law regarding open public meetings remains subject to interpretation and we lose the guarantee of transparency afforded by a governing body of three.
The historical division of our county into three districts has to do with where representatives reside, not where voters reside. As San Juan County residents we have more in common with other islanders than we have differences. When it comes to county government, none of us benefit by identifying only with our own particular island or district.
The strict separation of powers obstructs timely government response to citizen concern. It gives an unelected administrator/manager independent power and confuses the issue of accountability, allowing one branch of government to blame the other when things go awry.
Propositions 1, 2 and 3 do not “gut the charter.” They bring it closer in line with its original intent. Consider voting YES to improve the charter.