"Freeholders OK initiative, call for odd-year elections"

"As the Kitsap County Board of Freeholders considered the powers of the people and election mechanics Saturday, keep it simple was the theme of the day. In most cases, the freeholders voted to conform to existing state guidelines rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.But the Freeholders, a 21-member elected body charged with writing a new county charter, did not arrive at these conclusions quietly. The initiative process provided a lot of fuel for debate. After choosing to include new powers of initiative in a draft county charter, the freeholders voted 10-8 to implement a 120-day grace period between voter approval and a ballot measure becoming law. Other county charters have specified a 60-day lag.Robert MacDermid, a Silverdale attorney, said he wanted to give the government time to prepare for changes mandated by initiatives. This is one area that has the potential to wreak havoc on government, MacDermid said. Frankly, it seems to me we should have it take effect 180 days or one year after.But Marcus Hoffman of Silverdale said voters and initiative sponsors could be frustrated by the delay.These people gather signatures for eight months and put it before the voters - and now we're going to make them wait by adding an additional year or six months? Hoffman asked.Freeholders also debated how many signatures should be required to qualify an initiative for the ballot. An initiative is, by definition, a one-sided view of an issue - it often causes as many problems as it solves, said DeWayne Boyd of Bremerton. I think we need to be conservative in this issue and set a higher number.MacDermid said the book Democracy Derailed, by nationally syndicated newspaper columnist David Broder, illustrates how initiatives have been used as tools of special-interest groups. Others argued that requiring more signatures adds a poison pill to the process and usurps citizen power.When you make (the requirement) higher, you drive toward the monied interests who can pursue initives, said Matt Ryan, who has helped gather signatures for initiatives.After much banter, the freeholders voted 12-6 to stay consistent with state guidelines. Initiatives would qualify for Kitsap ballots if petitions are submitted bearing signatures from 8 percent of people who voted in the last gubernatorial election.In discussion about election mechanics, the most spirited debate centered around how old citizens must be to be eligible to run for public office - proposed ages were 18, 21 and 35.I don't think 18-year-olds are up to it, said Sherry Appleton of Poulsbo. They haven't borne the tax burden and they haven't raised families.Others argued that if 18-year-olds can serve in the armed forces and vote, they should have the right to run for public office.If they have the right to vote, they should have the right to run. Let the public decide, said freeholder Leif Bensen of Indianola.The group voted narrowly to make the qualifying age 21.In other business:l Freeholders voted to include recall, the right or procedure by which an official may be removed by a vote of the people in the charter. The Kitsap charter will reiterate existing state law on recall.l The group voted to require those who want to run for office to have lived in the area they want to represent for at least one year.l The group voted to stagger council elections across odd-numbered years.The decisions are considered straw votes. The freeholders plan to present the draft charter to Kitsap residents this summer, then revise it in the fall.The freeholders are scheduled to meet again at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 22, at the Bremerton School District administration building. "

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