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This 'home rule' mutt is kinda cute

"The Kitsap County charter government movement is a cute little mutt - a pinch of this breed, a speckle of that. An unlikely pedigree, to be sure.Charter government supporter and unabashed campaigner for freeholder - even showing up at Democratic party rallies to pitch his own cause - is former county commissioner Matt Ryan, the last Republican to sit on the Kitsap board. Our guess is that what's really eating him is the ongoing Democratic control of the county courthouse; adding a few seats to the county commission might improve his party's chances with local voters. As with many reformers, we suspect Ryan is trying to reform his way back into office. Then you've got wildcards like home rule secretary Gene David Hart of Bremerton, a political novice calling vaguely for better government and an end to everything from drunk driving deaths to urban sprawl, whose personal website announces his other, more quixotic quest - the governor's mansion in Olympia.And there's north-end County Commissioner Chris Endresen, viewing the charter government idea with the pragmatic eye of the insider - running Kitsap County and a $50 million budget, she believes, is getting to be too much for three people to handle, the help of an appointed county executive notwithstanding.Goodness bless 'em, what a bunch - and like them, for various reasons, we think Bainbridge voters should take seriously the idea of redrafting Kitsap County government.True, since annexation a decade ago, Bainbridge Island has become increasingly oriented east, almost a suburb of Seattle. Even our phone service is local to the big city, long distance to Suquamish. But we remain part of Kitsap County, joined by geography, mutual interests in land use and transportation planning, and by that portion of the property tax bill that props up the courthouse in Port Orchard.And since everyone else wants to play James Madison, we'll throw in our two cents on the new constitution as well. For starters, a charter government should have three goals: 1) Expand the Kitsap County Commission to five persons, perhaps seven, and throw in an elected - not appointed - executive. Bainbridge has seven part-time councilors, an administrator and a mayor charged with keeping 23,000 people happy. With 10 times the population and over 350 square miles to deal with, the county commission could use some help. 2) De-partisan the courthouse, by taking party affiliation out of the election process. Come campaign time, that would focus political hopefuls and voters alike on issues and qualifications. There's no reason anyone should be voting for a sheriff or a county clerk along party lines, nor can we imagine what difference it makes whether the coroner is a Democrat or Republican. (There's a punchline here somewhere, but it eludes us.)3) Skip the initiative and referendum idea. If you're going to invest new faith in local government, don't cross your fingers.Some of the literature going around suggests that charter government backers aren't so much disenchanted with the current system as they are with some of the decisions it's produced. But that's reducing the issue to partisanship again, when this is a decision that should be made on principle. Read up, then make your decision in November.There is a failsafe: After freeholders hammer out a new charter, it would be put to Kitsap County voters for approval. That's your chance to have the mutt neutered, or put down entirely."

Community Events, April 2014

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