I recently heard the county charter referred to as the "constitution" of the county. I guess that is an apt comparison. In the case of our county charter, previous commissioners built into the process that at least every 10 years a group of elected citizens would meet to review the charter.
Well, this is one of those years and it is time to have concerned citizens run to be on the Charter Review Commission. One needs to be a registered voter in one of the County Council districts (there are three of them). There is no filing fee and there is no primary. Interested individuals file for one of the 15 positions that are available, five from each council district. All candidates are placed on the general election ballot and qualified voters from the respective districts vote for five candidates from their district. The top five vote-getters from each district are considered elected to the commission. The term of office is one year. There is no salary for serving on the commission (just our great appreciation) but members may be reimbursed for reasonable out-of-pocket expenses.
The commission, once constituted, will meet on a schedule they will determine. According to the charter, the commission shall review the charter to determine "its adequacy and suitability to the needs of the county and may propose amendments." The commission meets to discuss any proposed amendments and puts forward any adopted proposals to the voters at the next general election, which will be Nov. 3, 2015.
Ideas for proposed changes may come from the members elected, other government officials or bodies, and other interested citizens. It is a short period (basically December through the following July) in which the work needs to be done. For further information, you can review Article 8 of the existing county charter at: http://www.codepublishing.com/WA/WhatcomCountyCH/.
Consider running for this position, or, if not you, then encourage someone you respect to do so. It is a great service to the community. Our county government is built on a foundation of community service and participation and this is one way you can make a difference. Not all counties have this level of citizen involvement - we are lucky to have this opportunity for direct participation in our governing process.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Debbie Adelstein is the elected Whatcom County Auditor. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.