The 18th LD Democrats hosted a special community forum on February 5th, 2015, "We Passed the Charter...So Now What?" at the Three Creeks Library in Salmon Creek. Over forty people attended to listen to former County Commissioner & State Representative Betty Sue Morris and Ridgefield community activist Chuck Green discuss the Home Rule County Charter passed by the voters in November 2014.
Several key components of the Charter were explained including the new districts, election changes and the new roles and responsibilities of the county "Councilors".
Starting January 1, 2015, the county "commissioners" were renamed to "councilors" and the Board of Commissioners became the County Council. Two more council positions were added increasing the council from three to five elected members, with the addition of a new district in Clark County. Four councillors will be elected from four districts with a new Council "Chair" to be elected at-large from the county. Each district will have a primary where the top two vote getters will face off in the general election. District elections will be completely contained within the district.
There will be a period of transition to the newly expanded council as two councillors are elected this year to take their seats on January 1, 2016. The two seats up this year are the at-large seat and the new district 2, which includes Ridgefield, La Center, Salmon Creek, Felida and parts of Vancouver.
The key change implemented by the charter is the separation of powers which removes the county council from day-to-day management and most hiring decisions, transferring those responsibilities to the County Manager. This is the same system used by all the cities in Clark County and extensively across the country for larger population counties. As a result of reduced responsibilities, the annual salaries for the councillors was reduced by roughly half.
Many other changes were presented and discussed during the ninety minute forum. Both Betty Sue Morris and Chuck Green will appear again for the Clark County Democrats at their April meeting (Monday, April 13, 2015 at 7pm) which is open to the public and all interested citizens are encouraged to attend.