County Charter Review Commission on November general election ballot


Fifteen elected citizens will consider amending county Charter

On the November general election ballot, voters will be asked to make some very important choices regarding Clark County. Recently, Clark/Vancouver Television (CVTV.org) asked noted citizen Nan Henriksen to explain the Charter, and why there will be a review.

Henriksen encouraged Clark County residents to think of the Charter as a type of Constitution, a document that controls how the county serves the people. Prior to the adoption of the Charter, “Clark County operated under a Commissioner form of government established by the state in the 1880s,” said Henriksen. “This form was dictated by the state and inflexible. The Charter is basically an amendable constitution, written by Clark County citizens for Clark County citizens.”

The Clark County Charter calls for a review five years after the adoption of the charter. Voters will elect 15 members of a Charter Review Commission this November. Graphic from Clark County webpage.
The Clark County Charter calls for a review five years after the adoption of the charter. Voters will elect 15 members of a Charter Review Commission this November. Graphic from Clark County webpage.

Henriksen emphasized the flexibility the creators of the Charter embedded in it. “The huge benefit is that we can design our own governance and change our charter to grow with changing conditions and changing values in our county over time,” she said. “Bottom line, it gives us more local control, and flexibility.”

Henriksen explained the main changes created by the Charter. It separated legislative and administrative branches of county government. Elected county councilors’ authority is limited to  legislative and policy matters. The council appoints a professional manager, who has both the responsibility, and the authority to implement the legislative decisions of the county council and run the administrative branch of county government. Opponents argue that the Charter transferred power away from elected officials and gave it to the county manager.

Another change was the size of the council increased from three to five members. Prior to the Charter, they were nominated by district, but elected countywide.  Under the Charter, four are elected by geographic district. The council chair is elected countywide.

A third point Henriksen emphasized, is the Charter provides citizens with local initiative and referendum powers.

Part of the flexibility embedded in the Charter, was a requirement to establish a review of the charter five years after its adoption. Those citizens will soon be elected to represent the county in the first review of the Charter.

The Charter states that five years after adoption of this Charter, and at least every 10 years thereafter, the council shall cause an election of a Charter Review Commission. 

The Charter Review Commission is made up of three residents from each of the four County Council districts and three people elected countywide. The commission reviews the Charter to determine adequacy and may propose amendments. Potential amendments would be submitted to county voters during the general election that follows the review process.

The 15 freeholders elected by citizens who created the Clark County Charter in 2015. Photo courtesy of MSRC.org.
The 15 freeholders elected by citizens who created the Clark County Charter in 2015. Photo courtesy of MSRC.org.

On Wed., Oct., 21, the League of Women Voters Clark County will present a workshop on the charter. 

Voters will have the opportunity to select six members of the Charter Review Commission; three representing their geographic district and three “at large” members. Overall, 15 citizens will be elected and spend considerable time in 2021 reviewing the Clark County Charter. They will decide if changes are necessary, and what those changes might be. 

Any changes to the Charter would be offered to the citizens as amendments to the Charter. The voters would either approve or reject proposed amendments in a countywide ballot.

To read a copy of the Home Rule Charter, go here.

To view the Voters’ Pamphlet for the November general election, including a list of the candidates for the Charter Review Commission, go here.

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About The Author

John is a retired airline pilot, serving Delta for over 31 years. Prior to Delta, he served in the US Air Force for 11 and a half years; three and a half years as a Public Affairs Officer and eight years as a pilot. John flew multiple airplanes around the world for Delta, retiring as a B-767 Captain. During his 31 years at Delta, John served as a member of the pilot’s union leadership, representing the Portland-based pilots for five years. John got involved in area politics during the Columbia River Crossing debate. He became a citizen activist, speaking out against wasteful spending and fighting for common sense transportation solutions. He ran for the Washington state legislature twice, a Representative position in 2014 and Senate in 2020. John is the eldest of six children. He remains extremely close with members of his family and lives in Oregon and Washington. He has 14 nieces and nephews and a growing number of “grands” in the next generation. John has enjoyed skiing, scuba diving, travel, and time on his Harley when he’s not busy with local issues or flying.

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