Charter isn’t smarter –vote NO

You live on Bainbridge Island and you vote, and some folks elsewhere in the county resent you for it.

That’s the only conclusion to be drawn from arguments in support of the Kitsap County charter, which goes before

voters on Feb. 5 (absentee ballots are already in the mail). Far from the fair and balanced document its proponents claim, the charter is a partisan document that will disenfranchise voters, decrease representation and and balkanize a county that should instead be coming together for common interests.

We urge islanders to vote NO on the Kitsap County charter.

How did we get here? Two years ago, voters countywide approved creation of a “board of freeholders” to study Kitsap government and recommend changes – all well and good. Thereafter, the 21-member board (including two islanders) hammered out the “charter” document – essentially a new constitution that reorganizes county government – in a year-long and increasingly contentious process.

On some issues, freeholders found consensus. Most agreed that expanding the county commission from three seats to five makes sense, and would by itself increase representation. Other changes, like making such county offices as sheriff and auditor non-partisan (and making the coroner an appointed position), would have relatively minor effect on the political process and caused little discord.

But a provision for district-only elections proved highly

divisive among freeholders, and leaves the charter a document unworthy of support.

Consider: Today, you vote for all three members of the Kitsap County Commission; under the charter, you would vote for just one member of a five-person board. Far from increasing representation, it would disenfranchise and marginalize voters. And rather than bringing the county together, it would leave Kitsap split into factions, with councillors beholden only to constituents in their own narrow district.

We got a taste of such provincialism last month, when South Kitsap residents howled as the local representative was passed over for the commission chairmanship. “Unfair!” they cried. “Too much power in the hands of two commissioners!” This type of manufactured crisis – over an essentially meaningless procedural move – says more about the political psyche elsewhere in the county than it does about bugs in the system.

In fact, a partisan and anti-Bainbridge subtext has fouled the charter process from the start. Consider some of the commentaries found elsewhere on these pages today:

Bainbridge voters are “liberal greenies.” Islanders have “thrown” elections that would have been decided differently by voters in South and Central Kitsap.

Such comments would be amusing if they weren’t so embarrassing. Really, if islanders go to the polls and others in Kitsap can’t be bothered, whose fault is that?

Charter is smarter? No, the Kitsap County charter is a partisan document, crafted to blunt the impact of the Bainbridge Island vote and leave citizens here politically isolated from the rest of the county.

The charter deserves a No vote – a very strong and emphatic one – from Bainbridge voters.

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