In Office Since January 2010

VOTE “NO” ON PROPOSITION No. 1, Clark County Home Rule Charter

As a private citizen, I urge all Clark County voters to vote NO on Proposition No. 1, the proposed Clark County Home Rule Charter. Using the knowledge gained from a doctoral degree in Organization and Leadership at the University of San Francisco, and extensive experience with federal, state, and local government, I reviewed this proposal and found it seriously flawed. It was put together by a group of former, current, and aspiring politicians who rejected sound advice from a minority opinion group within their ranks. The resulting proposed charter has the following flaws:

1. The charter can be amended after five years, but cannot be repealed. The provision that precludes repeal suggests ulterior motives and should set off warning bells for all voters.

2. The charter replaces a stable, working form of government with a 125 year history in Clark County. This form of government is laid out in Article XI, Section 5 of the Washington State Constitution as the standard for county government. Thirty-three of 39 counties in our state use this form of government. Why tamper with success?

3. Six Washington State Counties have adopted charters (Clallam, King, Pierce, Snohomish, San Juan, and Whatcom). Four others (Clark, Jefferson, Spokane, and Thurston) have explored or rejected this approach. Clark County has rejected it at the polls three times, the latest in 2002. As a general rule, charter counties have:
a. Less respect for property rights,
b. Larger governments,
c. Higher taxes,
d. More debt, and
e. More regulation.
Are you ready to sign up for that? Only Clallam County, among charter counties, has escaped this fate.

4. The charter proposal shifts authority significantly from the officials you elect to unelected bureaucrats, and diffuses responsibility. These outcomes do not bode well for accountability. As a former project manager for the Little Hoover Commission in California, whose task is to report to the Governor and Legislature on the effectiveness and efficiency of government operations, these aspects of the charter proposal are a red flag for me. They ought to be for you! Authority and responsibility go together in any well-structured organization. They don’t in this charter.

5. The wording of the proposed charter suggests that local initiatives will be better received under this new form of government. That has not been the case in most charter counties, and certainly not at the state level.

Bottom line – this charter proposal is good for politicians and the bureaucracy, but not good for tax payers. It concentrates authority among unelected bureaucrats and diffuses accountability – a bad combination in any organization.

Personally, I do not trust the group that voted to approve this charter proposal for the November 2014 Ballot. They are politicians looking after their own interests and those of special interest groups whose causes they have historically supported. Their approach to this charter is to get the proverbial “camel’s nose under the tent,” then add changes later. This is the approach used by proponents of change who do not wish to reveal their entire agenda to the voters. The charter provision that reveals that intent is the inability to repeal the charter.

The minority among the freeholders who opposed many of the problematic provisions of this charter are elected leaders I trust. Kudos to them for their participation in this endeavor, and for their steadfast opposition to the more problematic provisions. It is unfortunate that their concerns were not addressed in the final proposal.

Dave Shoemaker, Ed. D.
Councilman, City of Washougal