Every 10 years, a citizen commission reviews the King County Charter and recommends charter amendments for the King County Council to place before voters to update the county’s “constitution.”
This is one of those years and the council, last week, received proposed amendments to be considered for the November general election ballot.
After holding 55 meetings, members of the 2007-08 King County Charter Review Commission presented their final report and recommendations to the council’s Committee of the Whole.
The county council has until Sept. 19 to decide which of the proposed amendments, if any, to place on the November ballot. The council may choose to take no action or defer action on any amendment until a future general election, and in fact, the commission proposed a schedule for phasing in its proposed amendments over the next three general elections.
“Many of the issues brought forth by the commission continue to be debated and then will be presented to the citizens,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert of Redmond. “The charter is our constitution and it needs to be updated to meet the growing needs of our county.”
The 10 substantive amendments proposed by the Charter Review Commission are, in alphabetical order:
• Anti-Discrimination: Prohibit discrimination based on disability, sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in county employment and contracting.
• Budget Timeline: Provide the County Council with an additional 20 days to review the Executive’s proposed budget, providing a total of 65 days for review.
• Charter Amendment by Citizen Initiative: Clarify the process by which citizens may amend the charter through initiative and increase the signature threshold to 20 percent.
• Commission Procedures: Clarify the Commission appointment and confirmation process, and require the County Council to review all charter review commission recommendations and decide at an open public meeting how to proceed on each recommendation.
• Election Deadlines: Authorize the county to establish deadlines by ordinance for submitting local ballot measures to the Elections Division.
• Open Space Protection: Establish additional protection for over 100,000 acres of open space properties in which the county owns an interest.
• Qualifications: Permit the council to establish additional qualifications for separately elected officials who head charter-based departments.
• Regional Committees: Reduce the number of County Councilmembers on regional committees, establish a vice-chair position to be filled by a non-Council member; and increase the authority of committees to initiate legislation and, in the case of the Regional Policy Committee, to adopt its own work program, including new subject matter which involves regional policies or plans.
• Unincorporated Areas Representation: Designate a high-level position within the Office of the Executive to represent the interests of rural and urban unincorporated area residents and amend the Charter Preamble to reflect the county’s commitment to the unincorporated areas.
The Commission also recommended two non-substantive, technical charter amendments:
• Budget Allotments: Remove the outdated requirement that county agencies submit estimates of spending to the Executive.
• Transitory Provisions: Remove obsolete charter language pertaining to the County’s transition to a home rule charter government and consolidation with Metro.
The Council will continue its review of the proposed charter amendments with a special Town Hall meeting in Federal Way on Monday, June 16.
The public is invited to meet with King County Councilmembers at an informal reception at 6 p.m. and the Town Hall will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Federal Way Community Center, 876 S. 333rd St.