Call for non-partisan county officeholders has support

Organizers of an effort to convert elected officeholders in King County’s government to non-partisan say they’re getting closer to their goal.

Initiative appears to have enough voters’ signatures in charter push

Organizers of an effort to convert elected officeholders in King County’s government to non-partisan say they’re getting closer to their goal.

Joe Fain, chairman of Citizens for Independent Government, submitted more than 80,000 signatures of registered voters on petitions last week to the county clerk in the first major step toward placing Initiative 26 before voters.

The initiative, which seeks to be ann amendment of the county charter, proposes changing the offices of county executive, assessor, and council to non-partisan, effective in 2009.

The initiative needs 52,817 valid signatures of registered voters in order to qualify for this fall’s election.

The last King County Initiative that qualified for the ballot submitted fewer than 75,000 signatures, which Fain said indicates the level of support for I-26.

“Despite having to collect signatures in the snow, rain, and freezing temperatures, our success is a true indication of this reform measure’s popularity among voters,” Fain saidt. “Elections should be about choice. Local government should be about service. Non-partisan elections will bring greater competition to county elections while placing the focus on competency and qualifications, instead of party politics.”

Fain has worked for Democrat and Republican members of the County Council. He also has held jobs in King County District Court, whose judges are elected without party labels.

The process leading to Initiative 26 began in April 2007, when County Councilman Pete von Reichbauer introduced similar legislation before the council. The proposal wasn’t not discussed at that time, however.

This time, if enough signatures are validated by the county clerk and county election officials, the council will have until July 5 to consider the proposal.

If the council takes no action, the initiative will appear on the primary election ballot in August. If approved by the voters, the mesaure will become a proposed amendment to the county charter and appear before the voters on the November general election ballot.

If the council adopts the initiative before July 5, theh measure would move directly to the November ballot as a proposed charter change.

The council may also propose an alternative version, in which case both the alternative and Initiative 26 would appear before the voters on the August primary ballot, Fain said.

The county Charter Review Commission has proposed amendments to the county’s governing document. Before making final recommendations, the commission will conduct four public hearings. The closest one to the Covington and Maple Valley area is scheduled for April 15 at 6:30 p.m. at RiverRock Grill and Ale House at 4050 Maple Valley Hwy.