Answering this via email (by the way, I work with Jeff):

1. Thurston County is badly in need of county government reorganization. The question quickly becomes “what is the best way to accomplish this outcome”? While I would love to see a new charter put before the county voters, the current constitutionally provided option has proven unwieldy. The election of freeholders as a precursor to the development of a charter proposal has resulted in a kitchen sink approach to the process with numerous agendas, the inability for consensus, and a patchwork proposal that gives everyone a little to like and a lot to dislike. The result the last time around was a voter rejection by a 2 to 1 margin.

The CTED proposals to the legislature in a paper called, “County Financial Health and Governance Alternatives”, raised the idea of an appointed freeholder process to develop a charter proposal. I think the sideboards and accountability of such an approach would generate a charter with a much better chance of voter approval. This would require at a minimum legislative action and possibly a constitutional amendment by the voters. I think I would prefer to pursue this type of option before trying the elected freeholder process again. So, yes I would like to engage the home rule process, but no, I would not vote initially to pursue the current option before trying to develop some alternatives. This rates as highly important to me. I believe it is critical to reorganize county government.

2. The County website is indicative of the diffuse nature of elected authority in Thurston County which has resulted in a lack of accountability. Yes it is bad and should be changed. The first phase would be the fundamental overhaul of how information is provided to citizens and options, including the website, for interaction on issues of the day. However, at some point the website can only reflect the structure of the government. If county government remains decentralized and unaccountable it would be hard for a website to reflect a broader understanding of how and where to interact. The average citizen should not have to be a student of governmental design and structure in order to figure out how to address their issue of concern.

Also, I think blogging is a useful medium to help demystify the quirks of county policy and decision making. It would be worth exploring. I wouldn’t expect that I personally would adopt the standards of some bloggers with the expectation of daily or even hourly entries.

These answers point out something great about Jeff, he’s one of the most studied people I know in general and probably of the applicants as well. His observations regarding the first question are well taken. It doesn’t serve anyone to have an ill designed charter on the other end of a home rule process.

That said, I don’t agree with his conclusions I don’t think an appointment process for free holders in necessarily going to solve the issue of the “laundry list” charter. You’ll just have a laundry list charter written by appointed freeholders instead of elected ones.

Its better to have a thorough election process for freeholders and lean heavily on their education once they start work. The opposite of Jeff’s suggestion, a citizen jury process, would also be a better alternative in my mind. In the end, I think an appointment process would build-in biases about the role of government from those already inside the government.

Jeff’s observation that the state of the website reflects the state of the county government is very insightful as well.

Jeff’s a smart guy, if he doesn’t get the appointment, it would be interesting to see him run.