Expand port and county commissions to five members.

July 22nd, 2021 by Ken

There’s a move underway to expand the Thurston County Commission and the Port of Olympia Commission from the respective three member to five members.   The effort is being led by Olympia Port Commissioner Joe Downing who has advanced the idea for the port commission and is promoting the idea for the county commission.

Downing has talked with the county commissioners and has met with them in a public meeting.  The idea is gaining support from both the county and the port.

In my recent interview with Downing on KGY we talked about the reason for the move.  I offered my support for the proposal.

Currently, three-member commissions like the county commission and the port commission are severely impacted by the state’s Open Meetings Act which forbids conversation between elected officials when they constitute a majority.   Therefore, currently with a three-member commission, two can’t talk with each other about issues to come before them without violating the law.

This makes the port’s executive director and the county’s executive significantly powerful with the control of information between the elected officials.

This alone should be reason enough to increase the members.  But, Thurston County now has a population of around 300,000 residents.  We are not longer a “rural” county and a three-member commission is hard put to represent all of their constituents.

Moving to a five-member Port Commission and a five-member County Commission makes sense from many points.

Those opposed talk about the cost of increasing elected officials and their staff.   Downing estimated the cost for the port would be about $80,000 per year.  I roughly estimate the cost for the county commission at $500,000.

That’s a small price to pay to make our elected officials more responsive to their constituents and to improve communications between them and those who they represent.

Posted in The Real News


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