Submitted by Charter Review Commissioners Jane Fuller, Richard Grout and Kevin Ranker.
San Juan County is one of only seven Washington “charter” counties. Our Home Rule Charter, our local constitution, is only reviewed once a decade by an elected citizens Charter Review Commission (CRC).
Elected last November, the CRC spent eight months researching, listening to hundreds of residents, deliberating, and ultimately drafting six important amendments that will be on the November ballot.
The 2021 ballot propositions include:
• Revised introduction: Acknowledgment, Preamble, and Declaration of Community Values
• Term Limits for Council Members
• Climate and Environment Commission
• Initiative and Referendum revisions
• Non-discrimination in county government
• Justice, Equity, and Inclusion Commission
Full text at: https://www.sanjuanco.com/1764/Charter-Review-Commission
Taking into consideration some of the most pressing issues in our County and country, the CRC responded to local demands for climate action and to uphold justice and equity for all residents. We came up with meaningful changes for our County’s charter. The CRC’s work is built on “commitments” the County made in recent years on the environment, and on justice, equity, and inclusion.
In response to local tensions last year surrounding the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and other anti-discrimination protests the County Council passed a little-known resolution “Affirming a Commitment to a Safe and Inclusive Community.” That same year the Council passed an updated resolution on climate change. Unfortunately, little has been done to meaningfully implement these Council resolutions.
To ensure the County truly addresses climate change and protects our beautiful natural environment, the CRC proposes the creation of a volunteer Climate and Environment Oversight Commission to oversee and support the County’s new Climate and Environment Department. This commission will review the activities of the department, advise the director, recommend actions to the county government, and produce an annual report for residents on the status of our County’s performance on these critical issues.
On local issues of discrimination and inequity, the CRC proposes including a section in the charter that incorporates non-discrimination language and upholds our core values to ensure that no person is discriminated against in hiring and conditions of employment, compensation, or termination, or in the treatment of residents and visitors in the provision of government services. It also ensures that all professional services contractors with the County meet the same requirements.
The CRC also proposes establishing a volunteer Justice, Equity, and Inclusion Commission to provide advice and support to the county government, while bringing county residents into the dialogue on these important issues.
These and the other propositions create a powerful structure that ensures San Juan County leads by example when it comes to justice, equity, climate action, the environment, and citizen engagement in democracy. These propositions will allow us to truly be the change we want to see.
An online Voters Information Session on the six Charter Amendments that will appear in the November election was held on Oct. 7, hosted by six CRC Commissioners. A link to the recording of the session can be found at https://youtu.be/2c_GY608Yww.