Jefferson Democrats to address charter at meeting tonight
By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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And while the Jefferson County Republican Party has voted to endorse it, the Jefferson Democratic Party membership is being asked to oppose it.
The Jefferson County Democrats will meet at 7 p.m. tonight at the Port Townsend Community Center, 620 Tyler St., to address a resolution passed by its executive board on Sept. 3 to come out publicly against approving the charter process on the Nov. 5 ballot.
The meeting is open to the public, although only party members in good standing can vote or comment, according to George Yount, county Democratic Party chairman.
Yount added that two-thirds of the party members present must vote in favor of the resolution in order for it to pass.
On Sept. 10, the Jefferson County Republican Party voted to endorse the charter process, urging voters to support the measure that would create a board of
freeholders that would then write a new county governance plan.
Voters in Jefferson County will vote on two charter-related items in the general election.
They will be asked to decide whether the county should begin the charter process and will choose a slate of 15 freeholders — five from each county commissioner district — to create the county charter if the first question is approved.
If the first measure is defeated, then the freeholders will not take office.
If it passes, the freeholders will assemble and have until June 20, 2015, to submit a proposed charter, which then would be brought before the voters.
The state constitution permits counties to write home-rule charters to provide a form of government that differs from the commission form proscribed by state law.
Ballots in Jefferson County will be mailed to registered voters Oct. 16.
Those who got the ball rolling want the process to be nonpartisan.
Val Phimister, spokeswoman for the Community Rights Coalition of Jefferson County, which submitted the petitions July 30 that started the home rule charter process, has said that a party preference is inappropriate.
“The party has the option to support, oppose or stay neutral on the issue,” she said earlier this month. “We think they should stay neutral because this is intended as a nonpartisan process.”
Others feel that politics cannot be removed from the process.
“I never thought of this as non-partisan,” said Bruce Cowan of Port Townsend, head of a group advocating defeat of the charter measure.
County Republican Party Chairman Gene Farr said that the “freeholders are made up of several groups with their own agendas. What’s more partisan than that?
“You look at the political values of the people who are running and see that it is impossible to remove politics from anything,” Farr added.
Farr said the county Republican Party originally intended to stay neutral about the charter process and save its endorsement or opposition argument for the charter itself, but changed its mind after hosting two candidate forums where the question was discussed.
“The charter process is a great opportunity to get people involved in creating a better form of government,” Farr said.
He added that he expected county Democrats to oppose the idea because the county commission — a form of government that a charter might amend or replace — is now made up of three Democrats.
“They are all in office and want to keep the status quo,” Farr said.
Clallam County, which has been a charter county since 1979, is the only one of the six charter counties in the state that has a three-member county commission.
Yount said that the county Democratic Party’s executive board’s opposition to the charter does not conflict with the desire of some of its members to serve as freeholders.
“You can still oppose the idea of the charter but run as a freeholder because if it happens you can see that it’s done correctly,” Yount said.
Yount, who is personally opposed to the charter said that he would not take any stand as meeting moderator.
“We are giving both sides every opportunity to state their case,” he said.
The next forum on the charter issue will be at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Port Townsend Masonic Lodge, 1350 Jefferson St.
The forum includes Cowan speaking against the charter with Phimister of Community Rights Coalition of Jefferson County speaking in favor.
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or email@example.com.
Last modified: September 16. 2013 6:07PM