Charter change could usurp the peoples’ power

I listened to Hoquiam Mayor Jack Durney on the radio on Jan. 14 speak again about a new county charter. I can only assume he is talking about the “Home Rule” Charter process that allows counties, per our state Constitution, to reorganize their local government.

If Mr. Durney is fully aware of the process, this whole process may take years. And, after a great expense to the county in time and money, may never change a thing because the voters have the final say — not the Mayor of Hoquiam or the county commissioners.

Having studied the “county charter” and the law that pertains to its provisions extensively, I also want to ask what type of “Home Rule” charter would a committee of Freeholders design? (Freeholder is a throwback from our colonial days and means a free man and land holder).

Mayor Durney spoke of changing present elected positions to non-partisan and leaving the commissioners’ positions partisan. That may be his desire, but it is not necessarily what will happen. The mayor of Hoquiam will have no more input to the voter elected Freeholders than any other citizen in open, fact-finding meetings.

Mayor Durney frequently cites “improved efficiency” and cutting costs in vague, ambiguous terms as a reason for adopting a county charter, but has yet to provide any specifics.

My big concern is that the freeholders may design a “home rule” charter that could really change how the county conducts its business and essentially does an end-run around We The People. It could combine or eliminate presently elected positions that answer to the people. Or it could allow for partisan elected commissioners and all other presently elected officials to be appointees of the commissioners, which skips mighty close to the old patronage system.

In this case there would be no voter input whatsoever for any of the presently elected offices. We would have to rely on the commissioners’ good judgment. This leads to favoritism and nepotism, or what the southern states call “Boss Hog Politics.”

We all know that if your job depends on the boss, you serve the master first — instead of We The People.

Yes, we have some problems at the county level, but they are being addressed. If things always ran smoothly, we wouldn’t need government.

As a final note, since our state constitution was amended in 1948 to allow Home Rule Charter, many counties have thought they had a good idea and tried the Home Rule Charter process. However, as of today only six of our 39 counties have home rule charter. If “Home Rule” is such a great idea, why hasn’t it gone whole hog across the state?

Mayor Durney, I admire you for bringing “county charter” up for discussion, but I question if it is right to stick Grays Harbor taxpayers with the time, energy and money trying to change something that isn’t irreparably broken and has worked just fine for us and 38 other counties. Unlike King County of the 1960s, we are not filled with the cancers of major fraud and corruption that a major “home rule” charter operation is required.

Should Grays Harbor become Hazzard County. Or Chicago? I say, “No.”

M. L. Jones



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