By Minor Lile
At its Jan. 28 meeting, the Charter Review Commission allocated most of the agenda time to introducing themselves to each other, with each member of the commission taking a few minutes to share some of their background and reasons for wanting to serve on the commission.
In other business, the commissioners agreed to hold subsequent meetings from 4-6 p.m. on Wednesdays, with the next meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 3. The commissioners also agreed to schedule at least two town hall meetings to gather community input and feedback. The first town hall is likely to be held sometime in March, with the date and time to be announced. The meeting also included a brief presentation on Open Public Meeting requirements by Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Amy Vira.
The 18 commissioners (nine from San Juan, six from Orcas and three from Lopez) represent a variety of backgrounds and perspectives. Several have previously served as elected officials in the County. These include former county commissioners Kevin Ranker and Tom Starr, as well as former county assessor Paul Dossett. Three of the commissioners were on the previous CRC in 2012 — Starr, Maureen See and Bill Appell. Others have backgrounds in planning, administration, law, education, international development and public advocacy.
Most of the commissioners have long-standing family and personal ties to the county and the island that they live on.
In their comments, several of the commissioners pointed to the extraordinary nature of the times we are living in and how that might inform the charter review process.
“One year ago the first COVID case occurred in Everett. Who would have ever imagined the impact? We know that climate change will alter the trajectory of our civilization,” Orcas representative Anne Marie Shanks said. “Between COVID and the climate crisis, right here in San Juan County we have the opportunity for an economic and ecological reset. We must reimagine our county and build a more sustainable and resilient community.”
While a few commissioners offered specific suggestions that they wanted to be sure were considered during the charter review process, most of the commissioners said that they were primarily interested in a thorough consideration of how well the home rule charter works, and that they were not bringing any particular agenda.
“The only agenda I have is for this process to be as transparent as possible for the community at large, so they know how we got to whatever consensus we come to,” Orcas representative Janet Brownell said.
Commission Chair Ranker noted that he has been compiling a list of topics and recommendations that he has received from several of the commissioners and that these will be reviewed at the next meeting on Feb. 3.
Public attendance at the meetings is encouraged. For the foreseeable future, all meetings will be held on Zoom. The meeting link for the Feb. 3 meeting is us02web.zoom.us/j/85271643269. Information for accessing the meeting by phone is available on the San Juan County website, sanjuanco.com.
The general contact email for the Commission is firstname.lastname@example.org.