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State constituion expert to keynote freeholders workshop

"The 21 Kitsap County freeholders will learn how other counties have reinvented their governments, as well as discuss how they will work together, during a daylong workshop meeting scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 6.Freeholders plan to discuss proposed by-laws and ground rules, in regards to how we're going to treat each other, according to freeholder Leif Bentsen, chairs of the committee planning the workshop. Freeholders also plan to draft an overall work plan, as well as determine how to deal with and solicit public input.The remainder of the meeting, scheduled for 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Island Lake Community Center near Silverdale, will revolve around a presentation by state Constitutional law expert Hugh Spitzer and a panel discussion featuring veterans of charter efforts in other Washington counties.Spitzer, a professor at the University of Washington, will address the relationship between the state and county governments, vis-a-vis the state Constitution, according to Bentsen.Spitzer also is a counsel in the Seattle law firm of Foster, Pepper and Shefelman, where clients include a number of local governments in Kitsap and throughout the state. In addition to years of experience working with local governments, Spitzer consulted with charter movements in Island and other counties, according to Terrie O'Neill, a county staff member assigned to the freeholders. He is expected to provide background and history on county governments in Washington and to discuss what the freeholders must do to have a legal and workable charter.Following that will be a panel discussion featuring Gary Lowe, the former executive director of the Washington Association of Counties; Lois North, a former state legislator, King County freeholder and King County Council chair; Sue Gould, another former legislator who served as a Snohomish County freeholder and chair of the first Snohomish County Charter Review Board; and Dennis Weber, a high school teacher and former chair of the board of freeholders in Cowlitz County, where a Home Rule effort in 1997-98 was unsuccessful.Some of the freeholders' experience wanted to hear other peoples' experiences before they started planning Kitsap's Home Rule effort, Bentsen said. The freeholders were elected Nov. 7, at the same time Kitsap voters authorized a county government reform effort. They have up to two years to write a new charter, or constitution, for Kitsap County.Mary Ellen Madison, interim chair of the freeholders, said Kitsap residents would benefit from hearing Spitzer and the panel speak.We've been elected by our fellow citizens to wade through this process, Madison said in a press release. We want people to come and observe the work so that they are comfortable with our recommendations when we complete the process. "

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