Fear of graft and corruption can be a healthy impulse for government reformers. It’s what gave birth to the Pierce County charter in 1980, in the aftermath of the arrest and conviction of Pierce County Sheriff George Janovich on federal racketeering charges. And it’s why the charter has a section on competitive bidding for county government contracts — to prevent fraud, favoritism and other abuses of the public purse.
But local government also needs latitude to use its own resources wisely, and Charter Amendment 45 on the Nov. 8 ballot would strike the right balance. For the last three decades, the charter has required competitive bidding for any public works construction project above $25,000. In today’s economy, that doesn’t let the county deploy its own hardhat crews on many small jobs they could do cheaper and quicker, such as widening a road shoulder or improving a sidewalk.
The amendment would eliminate the arbitrary and outdated $25,000 bidding threshold while preserving the right of outside contractors to bid on bigger jobs, consistent with state law or county ordinance. The state, for instance, caps the total annual cost of road construction that a county may perform with its own forces.
We advise a “yes” vote on Charter Amendment 45.