Every 10 years King County in Washington State reviews its charter and has a citizens panel recommend changes. The Charter Review Commission came up with a series of amendments earlier this year that they recommended to the King County Council to be placed on the November 4, 2008 ballot.
The King County Council ultimately voted to place 6 Charter Amendments on the November 4, 2008 ballot and will consider additional ones for a vote next year.
In addition two citizen initiatives proposing Charter Amendments are on the November ballot. Initiative 25 for a nonpartisan elected elections official is now Charter Amendment 1 and Initiative 26 requiring that King County elected officials be non partisan is now Charter Amendment 8.
Initiative 25 (now Charter Amendment 1) is opposed by the Municipal League of King County:
“The integrity of the elections process demands independence and professional management in the elections function of government. Consistent with the Municipal League position on record that leadership positions in King County government which require administrative and management expertise should be appointed, we oppose making the position an elected position…. “
The League of Women Voters of King County also opposes Charter Amendment 1.
As noted in a Seattle Times article last year if Charter Amendment 1 passes there will be a costly special election to elect the new Elections Director in February 2009. There will be no primary vote for this office.
Initiative 26 (now Charter Amendment 8) was a Republican sponsored measure intended to hide party identification. Majority Rules Blog opposes Charter Amendment 8 because it will make it more difficult to determine what political philosophy a candidate actually supports. It is an attempt by Republicans, who paid signature gatherers to place this proposed amendment on the ballot, to shed their party label and hide their political positions behind campaign slogans and rhetoric that obscure their real political goals.
Charter Amendment 8 will make it more difficult to know where candidates stand on issues. The reality is that no Republican now is forced to run as a Republican under our current voting system of the top 2 candidates going on to the general election. No one is required to state a party affiliation now. Charter Amendment 8 is not needed and should be voted down.
It is also important to note that Charter Amendment 8 also sets up a non-partisan redistricting commission. Redistricting now is done by a Committee of 2 Republicans and 2 Democrats who jointly select a 5th member. If Charter Amendment 8 passes and so called non-partisan members are selected, the current political balance may well be lost and the commission dominated by members of 1 party or the other depending on the appointment process.
An 84 page King County staff report on proposed charter amendments 2 – 7 is at http://mkcclegisearch.metrokc.gov/attachments/31053.pdf
There is currently an updated link at the King County Elections site to all the ordinances passed by the King County Council that also provides more detail on what the charter amendments do. Pro and Con statements are present as well as the actual text of the ordinances.
I have also provided links below to each of the charter amendments if you want to check more detail, pro and con statements and read the actual ordinances on a specific charter amendment
King County Charter Amendment No. 1
Elected Elections Director
Shall the King County Charter be amended to provide that the position of county director of elections be created as a nonpartisan elected office?
King County Charter Amendment No. 2
Shall Section 840 of the King County Charter be amended to add disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression to the prohibited grounds for discrimination in county employment and county contracting, and to limit the prohibition against discrimination in county contracting to contracts with nongovernmental entities, as provided in Ordinance No. 16204?
King County Charter Amendment No. 3
Shall Sections 230.10, 270.20 and 270.30 of the King County Charter be amended to reduce the number of county council members on regional committees, establish a vice chair position on regional committees, authorize the regional policy committee to adopt its own work program, add authority for regional committees to initiate legislation, modify regional committee procedures, and authorize the addition of nonvoting members to the water quality committee, as provided in Ordinance No. 16205?
King County Charter Amendment No. 4
Additional Qualifications for Elected Officials
Shall Section 630 of the King County Charter be amended to authorize the county council to establish additional qualifications for separately elected officials who head executive departments, as provided in Ordinance No. 16206?
King County Charter Amendment No. 5
Establishing Forecast Council and Office of Economic and Financial Analysis
Shall the King County Charter be amended to require the establishment of a forecast council and an office of economic and financial analysis, as provided in Ordinance No. 16207?
Shall Sections 410 and 420 of the King County Charter be amended to impose deadlines that are twenty days earlier than existing deadlines for county agencies to submit budget information to the county executive and for the county executive to present a proposed budget to the county council, as provided in Ordinance No. 16208?
King County Charter Amendment No. 7
Charter Amendment by Citizen Initiative
Shall King County Charter Section 800 be amended to establish a new process for citizens to directly propose amendments to the King County Charter and to increase the signature threshold for citizen-initiated charter amendments from 10% to 20% of the votes cast in the last election for county executive, as provided in Ordinance No. 16221?
King County Charter Amendment No. 8
Shall the King County Charter be amended to make the offices of King county executive, King county assessor and King county council nonpartisan, and to establish the nonpartisan selection of districting committee members?
Fuse Washington recommends support for Charter Amendments 2-7 and No votes on Charter Amendments 1 and 8.
This post was revised and updated on Oct 27, 2008 to add more information.