Thursday, February 23, 2006

Election of Sheriff by Rick Sorrels


By Rick Sorrels

A clear majority of the Charter Review Commissioners want the voters to determine in the November election whether the Pierce County Sheriff will continue to be appointed by the County Council or elected by the citizens. This and other important issues were discussed at Thursday’s meeting of the Charter Review Commission.

The exact wording of a proposed amendment to the County Charter may be drafted as early as next Thursday, Feb 23rd, after hearing testimony from any citizen who wishes to speak (5 minute limit), and after debate by the Commissioners. The Commission will be inviting the Thurston County Sheriff, the King County Sheriff, the Pierce County Sheriff, and representatives from the Washington State Council of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs to attend, offer comment, and be questioned on the issue.

The 21 Commissioners were elected to their position in last November’s election. They were sworn in during January and serve for a maximum of six months. By July they must finalize the wording of any amendments to the County Charter that will appear on the November ballot.

The Commissioners have a great deal of evidence to gather, testimony to hear, and work to do. They meet every Thursday at 6:30 pm at the Pierce Transit building located at 3720 96th St SW in Lakewood.

The Commissioners have identified 35 important issues that they want to investigate, but they recognize that only a fraction of those will ever make it to the ballot. Citizen’s input will have a major influence on which issues survive until November.

The four issues determined to be most important and to be investigated first are: (1) whether the Sheriff will be elected or appointed, (2) term limits for county officials, (3) creation of a compliance review office, and (4) whether election of county officials will be partisan or non-partisan. Study of these four issues should be concluded within the next month, with investigation into other issues to follow.

The County Charter is comparable to the Federal or State Constitution. It establishes the basic fundamental structure, power, and limits of our county government. It is reviewed and amended only once every 10 years.

Amendments to the Charter are controlled and initiated by the citizens, not the politicians. The review and amendment process is a rare opportunity for common citizens to voice opinion and to actually influence changes to our local government.


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