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Botkin proposes a third way

"With five weeks remaining before voters choose whether or not to incorporate Silverdale, County Commissioner Tim Botkin came forward last week with a new proposal for the governance of Silverdale.Botkin’s idea merges concepts from two on-going attempts to change Kitsap governance: incorporation and a new county charter.Under the state constitution, there are two ways counties may be governed. One is the default structure, under which Kitsap currently operates. The other involves a group of elected citizens (called freeholders) drawing up a new charter for the county – essentially a new county constitution.With a new charter, all bets are off. The freeholders may restructure county government in nearly any way they please, within a few state constitutional guidelines.That’s where Botkin’s new idea comes into play. Botkin Thursday proposed a new county charter in which Silverdale would have special status.The charter could create a new Silverdale council, Botkin said, which would make decisions on everything from land-use planning to road projects to how many deputies are assigned to Silverdale. The charter could also require that tax revenues raised in Silverdale are spent in Silverdale.Under Botkin’s proposal, services would continue to be provided by Kitsap County. But the new council would determine when, where and how those services would be provided.“I think the incorporation drive and the charter movement right now is more of an indication of people feeling disenfranchised,” Botkin said. “I think it can be a discussion of how we can make things work better ... If charter is on the horizon, and I think it should be, then it doesn’t make sense to take this (Silverdale) region out of the charter decision.”Details would be worked out when the charter is drawn, Botkin said. But in a statement released Thursday, Botkin wrote, “The most critical issues for Silverdale residents, that is, local control over development decisions and locally generated revenues, would be part of the larger (charter government) review.” Those critical issues, Botkin said, would be addressed in the new county charter.If Silverdale residents are still unimpressed with the new charter, Botkin said, they could still vote to incorporate. But, he argued, the new form would cut down on duplication of government structure and services and eliminate competitive, adversarial relationships that often exist between cities and counties.Bert Cole of Silverdale 2000, a group of pro-incorporation businesspeople, questioned the timing of Botkin’s proposal and doubted whether Silverdale residents could be certain the novel structure would work.“I can’t imagine them putting anything on the table that we would understand, that we would believe, that could be implemented, if we let this (incorporation) election goes by the wayside,” Cole said. Cole pointed out that Botkin’s proposal would require at least three countywide elections – one to initiate the process, one to elect freeholders and one to approve the new charter. Incorporation, Cole said, is the only way to guarantee the kind of local control Botkin’s proposal is intended to address.In making his proposal Thursday, Botkin declared his support for the current charter movement. A group calling itself the Home Rule Committee has gathered enough signatures to put the charter idea before Kitsap voters in November 2000. “I’ve been mum on (charter) and some people have taken me to task on it,” the first-term commissioner said. “I think I’ve been consistent on it ... I said during the campaign, it would be two years after I was elected. November of next year is close enough.”"

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