New charter group wants 'flexibility'

"A group of business and community leaders want the voters of Kitsap County to take a closer look at a proposed home rule charter measure that will appear on ballots this November.The group, Citizens for Responsible Charter Government, is hoping to get an additional home rule option on the ballot this fall. We need to give the freeholders a full bag of tools to use, CRCG co-chair Jerry Hebert said. Kitsap, like most Washington counties, has the default form of county government set forth in the state constitution. King and Pierce counties both have home rule charter governments, giving citizens there the power of initiative and referendum. In May 1993, the Kitsap County Charter Government Study Commission recommended that Kitsap adopt a home rule charter form of government. For the charter to go into effect, Kitsap voters must first approve a home rule charter proposal and then elect a group of 21 freeholders to draft the charter.According to the CRCG, the new option, called Section 16, would allow Kitsap County voters to elect a group of freeholders to draft a charter that would encompass a broader spectrum of public offices. They said the Section 4 measure that will go before voters this fall is too limited.CRCG said Section 16 allows for a more broad restructuring of government in Kitsap County, possibly to include simultaneous restructuring of city governments.You need to give freeholders flexibility and options, CRCG spokesperson Ron Templeton said.Templeton said when the bi-partisan Kitsap County Charter Government Study Commission gave its final recommendation, they recommended that Kitsap adopt a Section 16.These were people from all over, said Templeton, a Silverdale attorney. It wasn't weighed down with just Republicans or Democrats.With 51 local governments - including junior taxing districts like water and port districts - in Kitsap County, CRCG said there is redundancy and unequal responsibility for public works and services. CRCG said Section 16 would not usurp any existing office, but would give freeholders the chance to take all into account when they meet.CRCG needs to collect 7,865 signatures by Aug. 7 to get the county-city government proposal on the Nov. 7 ballot. Although the petitions have not even been printed yet, CRCG believe they will get the necessary signatures.We are not trying to thwart the efforts of the Section 4 group, CRCG co-chair Sherril Huff-Menees said. We're just trying to educate the public about what's out there.In the event Section 16 does not pass and Section 4 does, member of CRCG said they would cooperate with the effort for home rule. Hebert, plans to run for a freeholder position, said the charter movement is too important to ignore, even if his preferred measure does not go through.The time for this has come, Hebert said. If they don't get enough signatures by Aug. 7, CRCG said they would keep collecting signatures to put Section 16 on the next election ballot.If we don't win this year, Hebert said. We'll be there again next year."

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