Home Rule rules in Kitsap County
June 11, 2008 · Updated 11:08 AM
"Kitsap County joined the ranks of major Puget Sound counties by taking the first step in becoming a charter county last night.County voters approved an initiative yesterday allowing the election of 21 freeholders to write a home rule charter that could drastically change the way the county is governed.I really believe it will be a wonderful thing for Kitsap County, said Jim Martin, chairman of the Home Rule Committee. The county freeholders will be able to do everything from increasing the number of commissioners to cutting them down to a part-time staff. Home rule charter supporters have been pushing the power of initiative and referendum in the charter and the possible power to elect now appointed officials.Although there was no distinct opposition to the home rule, more than 40 percent of those who voted said no to the charter. Martin said those that voted against the home rule charter probably did not know what the initiative was about. I think there was a lack of understanding about the charter, Martin said. I don't think people realized all that it can do.Although the League of Women Voters had voiced some concerns about the home rule charter, president Kim Abel said it took no formal stand on the initiative and that the passage of the charter could be a good thing for the county. I think it means this is going to be an exciting time to do something in the county, Abel said. There are now going to be a lot of chances for the community to get information. The league will be very busy getting some information out.Even if the home rule charter failed, Abel said it would only be a matter of time before the county adopted one. Since larger counties have routinely approved home rule charters, Abel said the growth of Kitsap County pretty much ensured a future home rule charter and that the county could benefit from an increase in the number of county commissioners.The county is just getting too large, Abel said.Although the home rule initiative has been approved, no charter has been written and no changes have been made. Now that the charter has been approved, seven freeholders from each of the counties will gather to draft a new home rule charter for Kitsap County, which will then go before voters in a future election. Martin, who ran for a freeholder in commissioner district 2, said he was impressed with the caliber of candidates up for freeholder. None of the candidates where clear cut winners as of late Tuesday, but Martin said it didn't matter. Whether I'm with them or not, it doesn't matter, Martin said. The process is underway.Kitsap has become the sixth county in the state to adopt a home rule charter. Whatcom, Clallum, King, Pierce, and Snohomish have passed home rule charters in the past. Kitsap County had voted on a home rule charter before in 1971, but it was soundly defeated. "