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Home rule measure cleared for ballot

"After holding their collective breath for a month, boosters of home rule government for Kitsap County can finally relax.County election officials validated 8,308 signatures on the home rule petition Dec. 15, guaranteeing voters a chance to decide whether county government needs reform in November 2000.The Home Rule Committee submitted 10,341 signatures to the auditor Nov. 15--nearly a third more than the 7,865 needed for certification. But county elections manager Dolores Gilmore said more than 1,500 signatures on the original list were invalid because the signatures did not match, were illegible or were not county registered voters.Jim Martin, president of the committee, said he was surprised that so many signatures were invalidated. “We qualified people before we ever had them sign,” he said, explaining that volunteers were trained to gather only legitimate signatures.But that’s all water under the bridge. In the next few weeks, the committee will begin fund-raising and educating people about the process of reforming county government laid out in Section 4 of the state constitution, Martin said.“The hardest part of this process, besides gathering signatures, is informing people of the exciting opportunity this is,” he said. When voters are asked whether county government should be reformed, they will also be asked to elect 21 freeholders--county residents who will draft a new, charter government.The freeholders could make some county elections non-partisan, create a county council, or give residents the right of initiative. When the charter is complete, voters will accept or reject it. A loosely organized group of citizens that doesn’t like the Home Rule Committee’s method of reform hoped to get an alternative charter proposal on next November’s ballot. They have until July to gather 7,865 signatures for their question, but at this point no petitions have been circulated.Martin said he doesn’t expect the alternative charter proposal--city-county reform based on Section 16 of the state constitution--to challenge the one his group supports. “I don’t see any mayor who would want Section 16 to subordinate their city to the city-county overlord government,” Martin said of the proposal supported by County Commissioner Tim Botkin, among others. Martin said there isn’t sufficient support for the alternate charter to put it on the ballot."

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