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Commission pondering Pierce County Charter amendments

VIDEO: Explaining what's next in the Pierce County charter review process

Sharon Hanek, Pierce County Charter Review Commission chairwoman, explains what's next for the 21-member body proposing charter alterations to submit to voters on the Nov. 8 ballot.
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Sharon Hanek, Pierce County Charter Review Commission chairwoman, explains what's next for the 21-member body proposing charter alterations to submit to voters on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Should Pierce County Council members be restricted to one elected office at a time? Should term limits for the County Council and county executive be extended or eliminated altogether?

The Pierce County Charter Review Commission will take up those questions and other proposed changes to the county charter at a meeting Wednesday.

Conversations from that meeting and another on June 8 will ultimately shape which amendments the commission advances to the November ballot.

That decision is expected June 15.

Public attendance at commission meetings has been sparse so far, chairwoman Sharon Hanek said. That has left the 21-member commission guessing whether their choices reflect public opinion.

“What we’d like is feedback. We’re assuming the citizens are thinking and wanting certain things,” Hanek said. “We don’t want to be 21 people just making decisions for the county.”

Every 10 years, voters elect a Charter Review Commission to study the county’s basic governing document and propose changes. Three nonpartisan commissioners are elected from each of the seven Pierce County Council districts.

What we’d like is feedback. We’re assuming the citizens are thinking and wanting certain things.

Sharon Hanek, chairwoman Pierce County Charter Review Commission

The commission began its work this year with 69 amendments proposed by the public, elected officials and members of the commission. The number of amendments has now been reduced to 15.

The commission hopes to further narrow down the number of amendments to avoid putting too much on the ballot in a presidential election year. For that reason, it could send some of the smaller proposed amendments to the County Council with a request to consider presenting them to voters next year.

Among the amendments the commission is debating is a proposal to extend term limits from the current two-term cap to three. The commission also discussed eliminating term limits entirely.

Another item would determine whether County Council members could sit on the council if they hold another elected office. There is no restriction now, which has prompted state Sen. Pam Roach, R-Sumner and a candidate for council, to say she might keep her Senate position if elected to the county job.

People can provide feedback on the proposed amendments during the public comment portion of the commission’s meetings. The amendments can be found online at piercecountywa.org/charterreview.

Brynn Grimley: 253-597-8467, @bgrimley

Upcoming meetings

The Pierce County Charter Review Commission will meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday, and again June 8 and June 15 at the County Annex, 2401 S. 35th St., Tacoma.

View the proposed amendments at piercecountywa.org/charterreview.

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