Tag Archives: home rule

Perfect Example of Need for Home Rule

An article in the Yakima Herald titled, “Government must do its job at trailer park” is a perfect example of county government not doing its job to represent the people.

The article highlights a trailer park on non-tribal land south of White Swan, calling the living conditions a “living nightmare”. Despite rotting floors and the Indian Health Service declaring the park “unlivable and in violation of electrical and life safety codes”, the county has refused to step in.  The trailer park has been an ongoing problem with many agencies recognizing the terrifying conditions. Without any enforcement authority or permission from the county, agencies have not been able to act. Meanwhile the county code enforcement calls the situation a non priority, and county commissioner Kevin Bouchey seems heartless with this report from the paper:

Meanwhile, county commissioner Kevin Bouchey states that tenants have the right to move if they don’t like it, without advising how the impoverished residents in a small, relatively isolated community could find both another place to live and the resources to make the move.

If you believe, as we do, that county government’s job is to enforce laws and be accountable to the people they are supposed to represent, then join us this weekend.

Many Yakima residents are holding on to their ballots, which means we still have time for conversations with them. Hop on the phones with us to call voters to encourage them to vote Yes on Prop 1, Yes for Home Rule. Simply email us at yakimahomerule@gmail.com or call us at 509-823-5062 to sign up for a shift.

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Herald Highlights Home Rule & How It Provides Accountability

“Home rule is, as the name suggests, a chance to establish ground rules for how county government operates.”

The Yakima Herald highlighted Home Rule this weekend with a 3 page spread. It not only described the process of establishing a Home Rule Charter, but also highlighted how Home Rule can increase local government accountability.

David Lester, the article’s author, interviewed Steve Lundin, a renowned expert on local governments. Lundin, retired chief counsel for the state House of Representatives and author on local government described Home Rule as the following:

“It is the ability of the people to frame their county government that suits the local needs. It’s the constitution for a county.”

INCREASING ACCOUNTABILITY

Six counties in Washington state shucked the commission form of government originally handed down by the state and drafted their own county charters. Both San Juan and Whatcom county freeholders weighed in on their experiences increasing local accountability.

“Perhaps the most important change in the home rule form of government is the ability for residents to petition the council through initiative or referendum. Some cities, including Yakima, have that authority now. Counties that have the commission form do not.

‘If you want to give citizens access to your government and want them to be able to say yes or no on issues, you should have that capability. You can only do that with a charter.’ said Richard Fralick, original freeholder for San Juan County’s charter.

With an initiative, citizens petition the county council to enact an ordinance by a public vote by the public. With referendums, citizens petition to have voters amend or remove an existing ordinance.”

According to Joe Elenbaas, original freeholder to Whatcom County’s charter, drafters of the charter can also include local performance audits of county government offices or as the paper reported, “Home rule also offers the possibility of creating an ethics commission to look over the shoulders of public officials.”

Freeholders will have options on what to include in the drafting of the Charter. November’s vote on Prop 1 simply starts the two-year process of freeholders reviewing the current form of government and suggesting changes with the drafting of a Home Rule Charter. After the charter is drafted, voters will get final say on whether to adopt the new charter or keep the current commission form of government.

WHY CHANGE THE CURRENT SYSTEM?

Yakima's needs have changed since the 1800s

As the Herald noted, “none of those elements (above) were contemplated when the state Constitution formalized the commissioner form of government, a format that had preceded the state.” Commission forms of government were put in place over 100 years ago.

The state realized the commission system was outdated and amended the state constitution in 1948 to allow for counties to create home rule.

As Lundin says,

“Population in some counties was growing rapidly and pushing out into rural areas, creating issues for counties that needed more flexibility to deal with them. The most creative ferment of government thinking in the state was just after World War II. Home rule is a progeny of that,” he said. “There was a desire to break away from the (commissioner form); how to provide government on a logical, quasi-regional basis, and how to provide a uniform set of authorities and services for people.”

Yakima is a perfect example of a county whose needs have changed. Our population is five times what it was when we were handed the commission form of government  and is now half of the population of Wyoming. It’s high time we reviewed whether our government is meeting the needs of its residents. Votes YES on Prop 1.

WANT TO LEARN MORE?

Voters for Home Rule for Yakima County is  holding a community meeting tonight and subsequent Mondays to answer all your questions!

October 10th, 17th, and 24th
6 – 7:30 pm
North First Street Conference Room
223 N 1st Street

RSVP by emailing yakimahomerule@gmail.com

or calling 509-823-5062

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Our Forefathers Would Have Supported Home Rule

“Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories.”

Thomas Jefferson

“Government ought to be as much open to improvement as anything which appertains to man..”

Thomas Paine

“An elective despotism was not the government we fought for; but one in which the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among the several bodies of magistracy as that no one could transcend their legal limits without being effectually checked and restrained by the others.”

James Madison

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Voter Pamphlet Available

The Yakima County Voter Pamphlet is now available online. Included are the statements of the 41 candidates running for freeholders as well as the statements for and against Home Rule.

Home Rule is an opportunity for the people of Yakima to have a say in how their government should function. As witnessed in the candidate statements, people on all sides of the political spectrum agree that Yakima should start the Home Rule process. Each voter will have the opportunity to elect five volunteer freeholders from their district to represent them in the two-year Home Rule process.

Many candidates include what they plan to advocate for in a new charter, and voters will need to choose who will best represent their interests. Prop 1 itself simply starts the process of freeholders reviewing the current form of government and suggesting changes in the form of a Home Rule charter. The freeholders have two years to draft the charter and present it back to the voters who then have final say on whether to keep the current structure or adopt the charter.

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Home Rule Forum Televised on YPAC

The Yakima Chamber of Commerce invited Don Hinman and Bruce Smith to speak about Home Rule at a recent luncheon. Yakima Public Affairs Channel is showing the forum nearly every day. Click here to find their daily schedule.

Don spoke in favor of Home Rule focusing on three points:

  • What is Home Rule?
  • Can we do better than what we are doing now?
  • Will Home Rule make Yakima County government better?

Don’s speech opened with how voters control every step of the process from the 9,700 people who signed the petition to place Home Rule on the ballot to the voters having the final say on whether to adopt a new charter once it is drafted.

He called for community members to “not draw lines in the sand” and to participate in a discussion on whether increased checks and balances like the power of ballot initiatives would improve County government.

Don also made comparisons between Yakima County and business and pointed to the County being run by only three commissioners, holding both legislative and executive powers:

“I spent hours looking at nearly a hundred companies with gross sales of fifty-four million or less listed on the various stock exchanges and over the counter.  Every company had a single person serving as CEO and a Board of Directors that is much larger than three members.”

Three Commissioners overseeing an area twice the size of Delaware and half the population of Wyoming is a lot to manage. Don pointed to several instances of mismanagement and resources wasted:

  1. The County allowed a large concentration of housing to be built just west of the City of Yakima’s borders. Without urban sewer service, the ground became saturated. The City had to respond and residents of the City were left footing the bill.
  2. The County allowed a large feedlot outside Sunnyside city limits. Flies and feedlot odor forced the city to buy the feedlot and shut it down.
  3. The County purchased land near Toppenish to build a jail, but neglected to negotiate water rights with the Yakima Nation. Again, resources were wasted by poor decision making.

Is our County really working for us? During these hard economic times, can we afford lack of oversight and accountability? As Don said:

“I don’t know about you.  But in my business when times get tough that is when I do my best work.  I take a look at everything.  I find efficiencies I hadn’t noticed before, find new ways to do things and make the changes. The profits improve and the services we give to our customers improve.  There is no better time to review your operation than when your back is to the wall. The same holds true for county government.  It is time for the review Home rule can offer.”

You can read Don’s full speech here.

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Your Great, Great Grandaddy’s Government

Yakima County’s current commission system of government was handed down by the state legislature over 100 years ago. Times have changed. Yakima’s population has grown five times larger and business and populations needs are significantly different. Isn’t it time to take a look at whether our county government structure works for our modern needs?

Vote Yes on Home Rule to begin the process of examining our current structure, where, today, just three commissioners make all legislative and executive decisions.

With a county twice the size of Delaware, isn’t it time we examined how to best govern ourselves?

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Official: Yakima County Home Rule & Freeholders on Nov Ballot

Now that all fifteen positions for freeholders have been filled, Yakima County Home Rule and the election of freeholders will officially be on the November ballot. A recent resolution by the County Commission called for Home Rule to ONLY be placed on this year’s ballot if all spots for freeholders were filled.

The filing period ends tomorrow, August 26th at 3:30 pm so there is still a chance things could change. Stay tuned.

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