Three changes to county’s charter would let sunshine in

So, it’s that time again; time to futz around with the county government.

A Charter Review Commission has been seated and is hard at work. Although the current county charter leaves a bit to be desired, throwing the whole thing in the dumpster and starting anew is fraught. The opportunity for mischief is great, and so is this commentary.

If people like me don’t tell you what we want, the real estate cabal certainly will. They’ll pour their sweet poison in your ear and we’ll end up with government of the developer, by the developer, for the developer and it shall never perish from the county (Apologies to President Lincoln). And why not? They are the ones with the pin-striped lobbyists, the big budgets, the nice lunches and maybe even a golf outing or two, who knows? When the real estate people are done with the commission, it’ll probably kill the initiative, gut the wetlands protections, and turn the county Planning and Development Services into an agency of the Master Builders. Well, I can tell you with 100 percent certainty neither the LaBelle family, nor anyone we know finds this prospect attractive, so I trust you won’t go along with any such nonsense.

Now having told you what we don’t want, let me tell you those things we do want. There are only three.

One: The county website needs to have all land use proposals that are submitted to planning, appear on the county’s website (homepage) as an easily seen button labeled “Land Use Proposals.” Click the button and you’ll go to an index of proposals, each with a two-line abstract that gives the exact location by street address, not Tax ID. Click on the link you want and read the whole thing.

Moreover, proposals must be put up on the website within 72 hours of being filed, not weeks or months later. As it is today, the red notices are pounded in the ground long after the decision has already been made.

Two: For any development involving two acres or more, the county will send advisory ballots (paid for by the applicant) to residents adjacent to the property, two layers out, asking for their approval — a yes/no kind of thing. The results will be published on the homepage of the county’s website, and in The Herald, the Snohomish Tribune and submitted to the County Council; this will guide them in casting their votes. The results of each council member’s vote will be published on the homepage for everyone to see. Appended to the council member’s votes, will be a one-paragraph where the council members can explain why they voted as they did.

Three: The initiative will be retained, as-is.

These are modest, no-cost proposals. As the county already has a website, and a webmaster to administer the website, these kinds of things should fall well within the webmaster’s purview and skill set. No one should complain.

Today, Snohomish County’s government is furtive, obscure and definitely not accountable to the public. These three proposals will go a long way to letting sunshine into the county’s backrooms and broom closets.

Tom LaBelle lives in Clearview.

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