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Following is a summary of the King County Charter, including a brief explanation of the charter review and its amendment requirements. Also included is a detailed history on the development of the charter, each past charter review, and separately proposed charter amendments through 2006.

Development of the Charter

In the 1960's, King County government experienced a series of scandals involving, in separate events, the Assessor's Office, the Prosecutor's Office and a project to remodel the Courthouse. In response to these scandals, the League of Women Voters and the Municipal League conducted a review of County government--its organizations and functions--and eventually went to the three County Commissioners to request that the election of Freeholders to draft a home rule charter for the County be placed on the ballot. The Commissioners were not responsive to this request. The Municipal League then established a committee to reorganize County government. This committee, as provided by the State Constitution (Article XI, Section 4), obtained the signatures of ten percent of the voters in the County on a petition placing the election of Freeholders on the ballot. The Commissioners ruled the petition out of order on the ground that the ten percent figure was based on the wrong election. The Commissioners, however, noted the growing strength of the charter movement and eventually put the Freeholders elections issue on the 1967 primary and general election ballots. There were 225 candidates in the primary election for the 15 Freeholder positions.

The Freeholders drafted a charter proposal, but not without difficulty. They initially had difficulty securing adequate funding from the Commissioners who were resisting reorganization. They also had to contend with a Prosecuting Attorney who opposed a change in the County's organization. The Freeholders hired their own attorney and a consultant to assist them in drafting the Charter. Among the more controversial issues the Freeholders addressed was whether the Assessor's position should be elected (they decided it should be), whether elected offices should be partisan or non-partisan (they decided on partisan), and whether the clerk of the court functions should be under the administration of the Superior Court or the Executive (they placed these functions under the Executive).

The Freeholders' charter proposal was placed on the Fall 1968 ballot and approved by the voters. It took effect on May 1, 1969.

Charter Review and Amendment Requirements

As originally adopted by the voters in 1968, the Charter provided that the Executive review it or cause it to be reviewed at least once every ten years and report on any recommended Charter changes to the Council. The details of this process were at the Executive's discretion with no legal constraints, requirements or other guidance provided. As a result of the 1987-88 Charter review process, in 1988, the King County Charter (Article 8, Section 800) was amended to require appointment of a citizens commission to conduct the review. Nothing prohibits the Executive from reviewing the Charter at other times by other methods. The Council may also review the Charter at any time by whatever means it chooses. Regardless of how the Charter is reviewed, the Charter only empowers the Council to place Charter amendments on the ballot. Ordinances placing Charter amendments on the ballot are not subject to Executive veto or repeal by citizen referendum.

History of Charter Review and Amendments

Summary

There have been proposals to amend the Charter in 1971, 1975, 1977, 1981, 1988, 1989, 1992 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999.

  • Thirteen amendment proposals came after citizen charter review processes in 1971, 1977, 1988, and 1997. Council-initiated proposals account for the other amendments. In 1979, a proposal which came out of the 1977 Charter review process to abolish the Metro Council and assign Metro's responsibilities to King County was put on the ballot and failed. There were no Charter amendments associated with this ballot measure.

  • In 1975, 1981 and 1989, the charter was amended in response to specific issues regarding a change the redistricting process and put it on a ten-year cycle (1975), to provide guidance for political activities by County employees (1988) and to limit campaign contributions for County elected offices. Note that in 1996, a council-initiated charter amendment returned the frequency back to a five-year cycle.

  • In 1986, a council-initiated proposal to reduce the ratio between the Executive and Council salaries was placed on the ballot and failed.

  • In 1997 two charter amendments were proposed by the Council in response to issues raised over baseball stadium financing. Neither were pursued. In 1999, the council initiated six charter amendments proposed in response to council-perceived powers imbalances in the Charter. Only one relating to a referendum to the people was pursued. That was placed on the 1999 ballot.

Most of the above changes were relatively minor adjustments to the Charter. The early 1990's saw the first substantive changes to the Charter in response to structural changes in King County government.

  • In 1991, a proposal to merge King County and the Metropolitan Municipality of Metropolitan Seattle (the regional transit and water pollution control/sewage treatment agency known as "Metro") to expand the Council from nine to thirteen members and to create multijurisdictional committees with city membership failed. (Technically, the Charter amendment passed but, since it was contingent on the ballot measure to merge King County and Metro failed, the Charter amendment was not effective.)

  • A repeated attempt in 1992 to merge King County and Metro passed. It included Charter amendments to (1) expand the Council from nine to thirteen members, (2) create three multijurisdictional policy committees as part of the County Council for transportation (transit), water pollution control, and regional issues, (3) create an initiative process for cities for countywide matters, and (4) modify the citizen's initiative process.

In 1996, two council-initiated charter amendments were on the ballot. One changed the appointed sherrif to an elected position (as it was pre-charter). This was strongly opposed by good government groups. One proposed to change the council redistricting process back to once every ten years from five years. Both were approved by voters.

The 1996-97 Charter Review Commission sent ten charter amendment proposals to the council. The Council put six measures on the ballot of which three passed. The Commission-initiated amendments were: (1) Create an independent Ethics Board (failed); (2) Increasing the monetary value of public works projects carried out by county work forces (passed); (3) Clarify the method for determining the number of signatures for unincorporated area initiative and referendum petitions (failed); (4) Establish procedures for interim Assessor, Sheriff, and Executive until statutory process can be carried out for replacement. (passed); and (5) Authorize revisions to laws enacted by initiative or referendum after two years. The Council-initiated amendment was to lower the eligible age for holding county office from 21 to 18 (failed, for the second time).

In unprecedented follow-up the next year, the Council continued to work on some issues including: Modify Regional Committee procedures (some new committee procedures were adopted); Create a task force to develop a Charter amendment proposal for an unincorporated area legislative body and to revise the method of electing the county council for placement on the 1998 ballot (reviewed but not acted on); and Create subarea planning commission for unincorporated areas (reviewed but not acted on).

Two issues generated considerable debate between the Council and Commission but without resolution: (1) Establish an initiative process to amend the Charter; and (2) Establish whether the Executive, Council and Assessor positions should be partisan or nonpartisan.

In 1999, the County Council proposed five charter amendments, but placed only one the ballot. The proposed amendment--giving the council the power to submit a referedum to the people--was strongly opposed by the major papers and good government groups. It was placed on the November 1999 ballot. (10/5/99)

First Charter Review and Amendments (1970-1971):

In 1970 Executive John Spellman in consultation with the County Council, appointed a thirteen-member charter review committee. This charter review committee met monthly beginning in August 1970, and issued a final report in August 1971. This first charter review committee broadly examined King County government under the new charter and generally concluded that it was successful. This committee recommended three charter amendments to: (1) Section 230.50 on the initiative process, (2) Section 410 on the presentation and adoption of budgets, and (3) Section 895 on mandatory inquests. Of the three, the only recommendation placed on the ballot required the County Council to adopt an annual budget for the County at least thirty days, instead of forty-five days, before the end of the year. The measure was approved by voters in September 1971.

The 1971 charter review committee also recommended that King County assume responsibility for Metro's functions and sought to encourage public discussion ". . .over the role of a reorganized County in the performance of urban services."

1975 Charter Revisions:

The charter, as it was originally drafted, required that the County Council re-examine and, if necessary, redraw the boundaries for the council districts to provide for districts of roughly equal populations. As a result of what many people thought to be a highly politicized redistricting process in 1975, the Council initiated a proposal that the redistricting process be put in the hands of an independent redistricting committee. This proposal, which revised Section 650 of the charter, was placed on the ballot and approved by the voters in September 1975.

Second Charter Review and Amendments (1976-1977):

The 1976-1977 charter review process has much earlier roots. There was a flurry of activity around the time the 1971 charter review committee issued its report. The boundaries for Metro, a special purpose agency providing sewage treatment services, had just been extended to be coterminous with the County boundaries for Metro's newly added transit function (approved by voters in 1972). A study released by the River Basin Coordinating Committee (RIBCO) suggested that Metro assume an increased number of functions including solid waste.

Shortly after the 1971 report was issued, the County Executive, the Mayor of Seattle, and the Suburban Mayors Association (now the Suburban Cities Association) formed the Metropolitan Study Commission. The Metropolitan Study Commission was comprised of eleven elected officials and seventeen citizens appointed (in an unofficial manner) by Mayor Uhlman and Executive Spellman. The Commission's mission was to examine the problems of governmental organization in King County, particularly the benefits of the consolidation of government functions.

After four years' work, the Commission released the Metropolitan Study Commission Report in 1975. The report proposed a two-tier form of government in King County and recommended a functional merger of King County and Metro. Discussions of how to implement these proposals continued after the report was issued and eventually led to the suggestion that the proposal be taken up as part of the review of King County's charter. The outcome of these discussions, led by the King County Council was to place a Metro/King County merger proposal on the November 1976 ballot. It was also proposed that a charter review committee, comprised of six members from Seattle, five from unincorporated King County, and four from the remaining cities be established. No more than half the group was to be elected officials or their staff.

In April 1976, the County Executive requested that the King Subregional Council of the Puget Sound Council of Governments review the issue of a King County/Metro consolidation. The King Subregional Council created a special subcommittee of its Organization Committee to study the issue and make a report of its conclusions for the upcoming charter review process. In about October 1976, the subcommittee's report, which supported the consolidation in principle, was approved by the King Subregional Council.

The 1976-77 Charter Review Committee was appointed in late 1976 at the Executive's initiative after consultation with the County Council and others. The membership did not follow the composition recommended by the Metropolitan Study Commission nor was the charge to the committee limited to Metro/King County consolidation.

The 1976-77 Charter Review Committee held its first meeting in December 1976 and met every two weeks through July 1977. The committee solicited comments on possible charter amendments from a variety of sources. The King County Council sent a motion to the committee proposing four charter amendments for the committee's consideration. These included: (1) lowering the minimum age for holding county office to 18; (2) returning to the commissioner form "of government with five commissioners; (3) limiting elective officers to two consecutive terms; and (4) establishing non-partisan County elective positions. The committee issued a draft report in late May 1977. During June, seven public hearings on the committee's draft report were held in locations throughout the County.

The committee issued two final reports. The first one, issued in August 1977, addressed general charter amendments proposed by the committee for the 1977 ballot and other non-charter recommendations for improving the operations of County government. In response to this report, the County Council placed on the September 1977 ballot three charter amendments: (1) reducing the age requirement of County elected officials from 21 years to 18 years; (2) deferring to State statute in the matter of political activities of County employees; and (3) requiring that appeals from land use decisions by the Executive Branch go to a hearing examiner process established by Council ordinance (instead of the Board of Appeals which now hears only property valuation appeals). All three amendments were among those proposed by the charter review committee. Of the three ballot issues, the age reduction for elected office failed.

The 1977 Charter Review Committee's second report, issued in October 1977, proposed the consolidation of King County and Metro. No further action on that proposal occurred until early 1978 when the County Council proposed the establishment of a citizens advisory committee to recommend whether or not the consolidation issue should be placed on the fall 1978 ballot. The County provided $15,000 to support this effort, which was staffed and housed independently of County government. The Citizens' Advisory Committee on United Countywide Government was directed by Council Motion 3423 to advise the Council by July 1, 1978, on whether or not a King County/Metro merger should be placed on the fall 1978 ballot. The committee's report recommended the consolidation of King County and Metro into a single governmental unit with either a nine-member council or a federated body of not more than 37 elected city and county officials to the maximum extent possible to attain representation consistent with federal constitutional requirements. The County Council put the proposal on the November 1979 ballot. It failed.

1981 Charter Revision

In 1981, voters approved a Council-initiated amendment to Section 560 of the Charter. That amendment deleted all remaining restrictions on political activities of County employees except that provided by State law. This change was prompted by circumstances in which several county employees had wanted to seek elective office, but could not because of the original Charter language.

Third Charter Review and Amendments (1987-88)

A 15-member commission (plus two alternates) was appointed by King County Executive Tim Hill after consultation with the King County Council in April 1987. After considerable debate over Commission funding, $20,000 was appropriated by the King County Council, with the commitment for up to $20,000 in additional funds if the Commission needed it.

The 1987-88 Charter Commission was appointed amid a resurgence at both the State and local levels of concern over how regional and local services should be delivered in response to rapid growth in unincorporated areas of Central Puget Sound counties. At the State level, the State Legislature appointed the Local Governance Study Commission in 1985 to study local government organization and make recommendations for improvements to the Legislature by the end of 1987. At the local level, the Seattle Chamber of Commerce initiated the formation of a private, 35-member citizen's group--the King County 2000 Committee--to address concerns about financing regional capital projects and to assess regional governance issues. The King County 2000 Committee issued its final report in November, 1987. Two members of the King County 2000 Committee were also on the 1987 Charter Review Commission.

The 1987-88 Charter Review Commission began its work in April 1987 with a three part-mission:

  • To review all existing provisions of the Charter and develop recommendations for any technical amendments to improve the operation of County government;
  • To review all existing provisions of the Charter and develop recommendations for any necessary structural changes to improve the organization of County government; and
  • To assess King County's role as a regional government and to recommend improvements in the County's ability to deliver regional services.

The Commission spent its first four months hearing from elected officials and others regarding their concerns about King County government. At the end of this period, the Commission had compiled a list of more than thirty issues for its consideration. In August, the Commission members divided into three working committees--Regional, Structural, and Technical--and assigned each issue to a committee. The committees worked on their assigned issues until February 1988 when the full Commission began to review and take initial action on the committees' preliminary recommendations. In late April and early May, the Commission requested public comment on its preliminary recommendations. It issued a newsletter summarizing the key issues and including a comment/request for Information form. It also held a series of six public meetings held throughout the County to take public comment. There was very low public response to these opportunities. Following the public comment period, the Commission reviewed all issues again and took final action on them as described in this report.

The Commission adopted a rule requiring that in order for a recommendation to be approved, it had to receive approval of a two-thirds majority of the total members at two separate meetings. In fact, the Commission operated by consensus. Of the 39 specific recommendations voted on by the Commission, 14 involved Charter amendments, 8 involved administrative or other actions by the Executive and Council, and 4 involved management of regional issues. Thirteen other recommendations were considered by the Commission, but it did not take further action on them. An additional 16 formally identified issues were initially considered by the Commission, but were not carried forward for a variety of reason.

The County Council put five of the recommended charter amendments, some with modification, on the ballot:

  1. Requiring the appointment of a citizens commission to conduct the Charter review at least every ten years.

  2. Clarifying the role of the County Auditor and strengthening the independence of the office.

  3. Changing the responsibility for appointing the Judicial Administration Department Director from the Executive to the Council.

  4. Clarifying status of exempt Career Service and less than half-time positions.

  5. Changing the value of work that can be performed by County employees from $15,000 to $25,000.

All five proposed amendments were approved by voters in 1988.

1989 Amendment:

In 1989, in response to state and local concerns about campaign spending as well as some particular circumstances, the County Council proposed a Charter amendment to establish a system for limiting campaign contributions and expenditures. The amendment was approved by voters.

1992 King County/Metro Merger Amendments

The 1992 King County/Metro merger amendments occurred amid the convergence of two issues which had been surfaced druing many regional issues debates of the past, but had retreated into the background when resolution was not achieved.

One critical background issue, going back to the early 1970's if not earlier, was the sometime contentious debate over who should pay for what regional services and what those regional services should be. The focus of these debates was primarily on specific high volume, high costs services provided by King County for most of the cities on a contractual basis including public health, adult detention and district court. These were services that cities were required to provide, but generally had no practical way to do so but to contract with the County. As the population in King County grew and the unincorporated areas adjacent to cities became more urbanized, the issue expanded into a debate on who should provide local services such as water and sewer as well as police and land use. While the King County/Metro merger has addressed some concerns, this continues to be an undercurrent in many regional issue discussions.

As noted earlier, the issue of consolidating King County and Metro had been a background issue almost beginning with Metro's creation, occasionally surfacing as a regional discussion and than subsiding. In 1990, the issue of merging King County and Metro was forced on the regional agenda when the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of several King County citizens, initiated a court challenge to the constitutionality of Metro's governance. Metro was governed by a federated council consisting of the King County Executive and Councilmembers and City of Seattle Mayor and Councilmembers officials by virtue of their elected office, suburban elected officials appointed by the cities or caucus of small cities, sewer district commissions appointed by a caucus of sewer districts, and citizens appointed by the County Council who had a majority of their district in unincorporated King County. This body, at the time of the challenge, had grown to 41 members from the original 16 (in 1958). Each member of the federated Council had the same voting power (except that the Sewer District representatives did not vote on transit matters.)

The ACLU's action stimulated the County Council to initiate what was called a "summit" process for a renewed discussion on the regional/local services issues and the King County/Metro merger. The summit meeting were attended by seven members each from King County, the City of Seattle and the Suburban Cities Association. On September 6, 1990, U.S. Western District Court Judge William Dwyer found that Metro's governance needed to meet the one-person/one-vote rule and that Metro's federated council did not meet that requirement. He set an April 1992 deadline for revising it. Judge Dwyer's decision was handed down the day after the first summit meeting and had the effect of immediately focusing the discussion on the merger issue. The Summit I process, as it later came to be called, resulted in a package of agreements for charter changes which included expanding the County Council from nine to thirteen members, creating intergovernmental council committees to replace the Metro Council and a change to non-partisan county offices (except for the Prosecutor which would require a change to the State Constitution).

When the package of charter amendments and merger ballot measures came before the County Council, one of the five members of the nine-member Council who had supported the change to non-partisan offices, withdrew support and the change was deleted from the package of measures that went to the voters in November 1991. As a result, many cities officials (whose positions are non-partisan) opposed the merger. State statute required that a proposal to merge King County and Metro be approved by a dual majority of voters--those within the City of Seattle and those in the balance of King County. The merger passed in Seattle, but failed in the balance of the County and did not achieve the required "dual majority" to be enacted.

The 1992 Legislative Session considered proposals to restructure the Metro Council to meet the one-person/one-vote requirement, but no proposal was approved. Judge Dwyer set a new deadline of April 30, 1993 for the governance issue to be resolved or, failing that, for the court to do it.

The summit process participants reconvened in what became known as Summit II. Under considerable pressure to meet a short deadline, the participants came up with a package that included expanding the Council from nine to thirteen members; creating three new regional committees covering water quality, transit and regional policies with membership from the County Council, the City of Seattle and the Suburban Cities Association; establishing an Institutional Initiative which would allow the cities to initiate ordinances of a regional nature for Council consideration; and an unincorporated area only initiative which would allow ballot measures for the unincorporated area only (up until that time, ballot measures could only be county-wide). The issue of non-partisan County elected officials was not included. On November 2, 1992, King County voters approved these Charter amendments as well as providing the dual majority for the merger of King County and Metro. The implementation of the merger was phased in. The Charter amendments took effect in January 1993.

Merger Implementation

Implementation of the merger package varied by measure. Metro continued to operate as a separate governmental jurisdiction through 1993. The ballot measure merging King County and Metro required that Metro be brought into King County government as a separate operating department virtually without change beginning January 1, 1994 and prohibited substantive changes to Metro's organization until January 1, 1996. The purpose of this delay, which is not an uncommon approach when governmental jurisdictions are consolidated, was to minimize disruption of services to the public and allow time for an orderly and effective examination and consolidation of similar administrative functions and reorganization of services.

The merger implementation was closely monitored. The Municipal League of King County and the King County Leagues of Women Voters were particularly interested in the three regional policy committees--Transit, Water Quality, and Regional Policy. In August 1994, the Municipal League issued a report that was highly critical of the first year's performance of new regional committees, particularly the Regional Policy Committee.

In May 1993, a citizen committee, the Consolidation Advisory Committee, was created to advise the County Executive and Council on the implementation of the merger. The Consolidation Advisory Committee issued a number of letters and reports covering a wide range of merger issues including overhead allocation, boards and commissions, an overview of the unincorporated area, and the Regional Policy Committee's second year performance. When the Consolidation Advisory Committee sunsetted at the end of 1995, it passed the oversight baton back to the Municipal League and League of Women Voters. It was also expected that the next Charter Review Commission would carry on at least some of the Consolidation Advisory Committee's issues.

1996 Amendments

In 1996, the Council placed two charter amendments on the ballot. Both were approved by voters.

One Charter amendment changed the position of county sheriff from director of the Department of Public Safety under the Executive branch to a directly elected sheriff as it was before the Charter was adopted. The change was proposed in response to Council concerns that as an appointed director the sheriff was not able to establish an independent budget in response to community public safety needs. While there was considerable opposition to the measure by good government groups and newspaper editorials, there was no organized campaign against the proposed amendment which was quietly supported by law enforcement officers and agencies.

The other Charter amendment changed the frequency of redistricting from every five years to every ten years.

1996-97 Charter Review Process and 1997 Amendments

The Environment: The 1996-97 Charter Review Process began during the first year of a major reorganization that consolidated or realigned many former King County and Metro functions and services. This included an major effort to downsize County government as promised to voters during the merger ballot debates. The Leagues of Women Voters, the Municipal League and an informal group of interested individuals discussed seeking a change in County elected offices from partisan to non-partisan County offices. This was not pursued partly because of the difficulty of trying to get such a measure past the partisan County Council as well as recognition that a charter review commission would be appointed within the next year or so. In spite of the anticipated appointment of a charter review commission, the County Council placed two charter amendments on the November 1995 ballot, both of which were approved by voters. In the larger context, the County Executive was running for governor as was the King County Prosecutor and the Seattle Mayor. The more urbanized unincorporated areas continued to incorporate or annex. It was with this setting and with a substantial legacy of reports and issues on King County government, the 29-member 1996-97 Charter Review Commission began meeting in November, 1996.

In early 1997, two charter amendment proposals were initiated by councilmembers. One was to give the council the authority to refer ordinances to voters for enactment. The other one was to require that the issuance of bonds over a certain amount be subject to voter approval. Both amendments were proposed following a contentious debate concerning baseball stadium financing. Neither were pursued by the Council.

Appointment and Review Process: The Charter (Section 800) required that there be at least 15 members and that there be at least one member from each geographic council district. The Executive widely sought nominations for the commission about 300 individuals and organizations as well as requesting nominations from the County Council. The commission was supposed to have started meeting in May or June 1996. Between the Executive Locke's campaign for governor and tardiness in submittal of names to him, the 1996-97 Commission was late in getting appointed. The 26-member commission that was finally appointed in late 1997 was very diverse on many levels, politically savvy, knowledgeable about King County government or government issues in general, well-known and well-regarded within their spheres of work and community activity, and highly committed to the Charter review process. (The commission members were confirmed by the Council in 1998 although they were, by ordinance allowed to act in an official capacity without formal council confirmation.) The charge to the mission was to:

  • Review all existing provisions of the Charter and develop recommendations for any technical amendments to improve the operation of County Government.

  • Review all existing provisions of the Charter and develop recommendations for any necessary structural changes to improve the organization of County government; and

  • Assess King County's role as a regional government and to recommend any necessary amendments to improve the County's ability to deliver regional services.

The Commission first met in November 1996 in an unofficial meeting for the purposes of getting to know each other and to get some background on the Charter. Commission members essentially dispensed with the planned agenda and moved to addressing how to organize themselves and the review schedule, and set up a committee to develop a public involvement program. The public involvement committee met before the first formal meeting of the Commission in December 1996.

The review schedule was the pivotal issue for the Commission. The schedule hinged on whether they should target their work for the 1997 and/or 1998 ballots. The Commission's mission as assigned to them by the Executive was to make recommendations in time for the 1997 ballot, however, that deadline with the expectation that the Commission would start meeting in mid-1997. The 1997 ballot was attractive because about half the County Councilmembers would be running for re-election, but the Commission's late start meant that the review process would have to be condensed into a fairly short period of time. The 1998 ballot was attractive because it would give the Commission more time to review the charter and more time for the Council to consider the Commission's recommendations. The Commission decided to target the1997 ballot and committed to a condensed, intense schedule which would allow them to transmit recommendations to the Council by the end of June 1997. They also decided to review their progress in April 1997 to determine whether there were any issues that they all agreed could not be addressed within this schedule and which they all would commit to working on during the balance of 1997 for a 1998 ballot recommendation. In April 1997, they determined that there were no such issues. decided not to extend their substantive work past June 1997. Additionally, in response to Council concerns about the amount of time they would have to review the Commission's recommendations, the Commission agreed to shorten their schedule by several weeks.

The Commission conducted an issue scoping process in February 1997, including a mailed brochure with a mail-in comment card and four public meeting throughout King County. Considerable information about the Charter, the Commission, and charter issues was posted on King County's Internet site with the address made widely known. Additionally, the Commission held a public comment period on it preliminary recommendations in May 1997 which included two public meetings, one in Seattle and one in East King County and mailings. Both processes generated considerable comment, most of which came from comment cards, e-mail, and a telephone hot line. In addition to the Public Involvement Committee, the Commission organized itself into three issue committees--Regional, Structural/Organizational, and Technical/Operations--in which most of the substantive issue review work was done as well as an Executive Committee and several ad hoc committees as were needed. The 1996-97 Charter Review Commission members attended a lot of meetings in a very short time. Between December 1997 and May 1998, the full Commission met 11 times, the Public Involvement Committee met four times, the Regional Issues Committee met nine times as well as meeting five with Regional Committees of the Metropolitan King County Council, the Structural Issues Committee met nine times, the Technical Issues Committee met 11 times, an ad hoc committee working on unincorporated area governance met six times as well as having three meetings with community groups on this topic, there were two or three meetings with the Council's Committee for Unincorporated Areas, and an ad hoc strategies committee met four times. In between, there were six public meetings and about 20 meetings with special interest groups including the Suburban Cities Association and the city councils of Seattle, Bellevue and Renton.

While the Executive and Council allowed and encouraged the Commission to function as independently as possible, there was considerable interaction between the Commission and the Executive and the Council. The Executive Sims, who was appointed to replace Executive Locke when he was elected Governor, met with the Commission twice in lively debate with Commission members. The Council chair and several members of the County Council met with the Commission as well as attending various issue committee meetings to share views. The County Council's Committee-of-the-Whole met eleven times on the Charter and the full Council acted on Charter matters in two meetings. During most of the Council's meetings, Commission members' views were sought out and then debated among Councilmembers.

The Recommendations and Ballot Results: The Commission's work is summarized in a report entitled Final Report and Recommendations, June 1997. Two additional reports were issued to provide background on the regional policy issues (Regional Committee Report and Recommendations) and the unincorporated area governance issues (Unincorporated Area Issues Report and Recommendations). In June 1997, the Commission transmitted it recommendations to the Executive who transmitted them to the Council. The Commission's recommendations were as follows:

    Charter Amendments:

    • Establish an initiative process to amend the Charter.

    • Modify Regional Committee procedures

    • Create an independent Ethics Board.

    • Establish whether the Executive, Council and Assessor positions should be partisan or nonpartisan.

    • Establish procedures for interim Assessor, Sheriff, and Executive until statutory process can be carried out for replacement.

    • Increasing the monetary value of public works projects carried out by county work forces.

    • Establish Assessor qualifications.

    • Allow biennial budgeting.

    • Clarify the method for determining the number of signatures for unincorporated area initiative and referendum petitions.

    • Authorize revisions to laws enacted by initiative or referendum after two years.

    Ordinances Changes

    • Create a teak force to develop a Charter amendment proposal for an unincorporated area legislative body and to revise the method of electing the county council for placement on the 1998 ballot.

    • Create subarea planning commission for unincorporated areas.

    • Extend the amount of time for initiative and referendum signature gathering.

The Council sent six charter amendments to the ballot--five Commission initiated and one Council-initiated that proposed changing the age for holding elective office in King County government to age 18 years. Of the five Commission-initiated amendments, the Council, as expected, adopted language that differed from the language originally proposed by the Commission. In the case of four of the amendments, the differences were either minor or the council selected one of the alternative approaches considered by the commission to achieve the same end sought by the Commission. In the case of the ethics board proposed amendment, Commission members and Councilmembers disagreed with the level of detail that should be contained in the Charter. The Commission wanted more detail; the Council wanted less detail with a commitment to adopt the detail in an implementing ordinance the following year. In the end, a Charter amendment with less rather than more detail about an independent ethics board was put on the ballot.

1997 Charter Amendment Ballot: The six Charter amendments shared a crowded November 1997 ballot which produced many unexpected outcomes including for the Charter amendments. Of the six Charter amendments on the ballot, three failed. It is worth noting that the three that failed has opposing statements written by citizens who, in response to a required public notice, had volunteered to write on any ballot measure. Each of the measures had supporting statements. The proposed charter amendment to change the method for calculating unincorporated. area petition signatures failed by a vote of about 54.3 percent. The proposed Charter amendment to mandate in independent ethics board failed by a vote of about 51.1 percent. The proposed Charter amendment to allow 18-years old to hold county elected office failed by a vote of about 66 percent. The three passing amendments had favorable votes from about 64 to 78 percent.

1998 Council Follow-Up: In October 1997, the County Council passed Motion 10337 which set out a schedule for Council consideration of Commission recommendations that the Council had not had time to act on during 1997. This was unprecedented action in the history of the Charter review process.

The 1996-97 CRC process was unusual in that while the funding and staffing largely ended in September 1997, work on Charter matters continued into 1998. The CRC's existence formally ended December 31, 1997 so when the Council resumed working on some issues in 1998, there was neither staff nor an official group to work with. At a February 1998 meeting, a number of former CRC members met with former CRC staff and Council staff to discuss the logistics of working with the Council as it took up outstanding Charter amendment recommendations were discussed. The process was that the Council would work through the issues in their normal processes and the CRC members interacting with the Council as would any other citizen. A small core group of the CRC members continued to follow the Council's work.

In February 1998 (shortly after the above meeting), the Council Committee for Unincorporated Areas discussed the CRC's unincorporated area governance recommendations. As was expected, the committee did not act to approve the recommendation.

In March 1998, the Regional Policy Committee (RPC) considered the CRC recommendations regarding the RPC roles and functions. Former CRC members Lois North and Bob Roegner met with the RPC and suggested, among other things, that the proposed charter amendments be implemented as trial measures. The RPC took up the suggestion and in May 1998 agreed to try for one year two procedural changes in the Council's rules which would:

  • Provide for adoption, rejection or amendment by the Council of a regional committee recommendations with in 90 days of action by the committee--or, after return to the Committee and subsequent amendment and resubmission to the Council, the Council would have 30 days to act.

  • Provide for delegation of topic-specific vice-chairmanship responsibility to members of the Regional Policy Committee executive committee.

These changes were adopted by Ordinance 13239 in July 1998.

1999 Charter Amendment Proposals

In September 1999, several of the Republican councilmembers introduced five charter amendment proposals.

  • Allow the council to introduce and adopt additional or amended appropriation ordinances.

      The Charter provides that only the Executive can initiate appropriation ordinances.


    Allow the council to refer ordinances to voters for enactment (and these would not be subject to executive veto or referendum by the people).

      Section 230.40 gives referendum power only to the people.

    Require council that appointments to citizen boards and commissions be made by ordinance.

      The Charter provides that the Executive nominates citizens to county boards and commissions and the council confirms. As of this update, King County Code 2.28.003((Ord. 11319 § 3, 1994) provides that the citizen may exercise power of their office within 30 days after the Executive's letter of appointment is filed with the clerk of the council. The council confirms by motion. The council has the right to reject the nomination after that date. Under the proposed amendment, appointees could not sit on the board or commission until the appointment was approved by ordinance.

    Require council confirmation before an appointed official can exercise the powers of office.

      Currently, Executive appointees (e.g. department director) can exercise powers of office in an acting capacity while awaiting county approval.
      Allow the council, by motion, to rescind executive policies, procedures or orders and, also by motion, to provide notice requirements for executive policies, procedures or orders subject to certain public and council review.

      Executive orders, policies and procedures are, for the most part, administrative directives intended to carry out adopted. This would be an additional power granted to the Council under Section 240. Motions.

Reduce the number of affirmative votes required to override an Executive veto from a minimum of nine to eight (out of 13 councilmembers).

    It takes a simple majority of seven votes to approve an ordinance or motion.

The pro and con arguments focused on whether the Charter effectively balanced powers between the executive and council or whether changes were needed to correct imbalances that put the council at a disadvantage. Generally, the package of proposed amendments was perceived by the media and good government groups as an attempt to secure additional powers at the expense of the executive in response to differences between the council and Executive Ron Sims. It was observed that, in the past, the executive's powers had not always been fully exercised, but that Executives Locke and Sims had done so which was frustrating some councilmembers.There was some criticism that, not only was the Council proposing the amendments at the last minute, the Council was not subjecting the proposed charter amendments to a citizen review process since they were substantive changes to the Charter. Public participation was through the Council's usual public comment process as part of the council's normal proceedings. Note that while the Charter requires that a citizens review committee be appointed at least every ten years, there is nothing to prohibit the appointment of such a group more often.Of the six proposed amendments, only the power of referendum had been previously raised as a charter amendment. The main argument in supporting the proposed amendment were that the freeholders had erred in not providing this power to the people. The people can enact state law by referendum and they should be able to enact county ordinances by referendum. The main argument against the proposed charter amendment was that the orignal decision by the freeholders was still the correct one. The freeholders had specifically not included this power in the charter because they wanted to hold the council accountable for its actions rather than allowing the council to abbrogate its decision-making authority by deferring to the public. The 1998-97 Charter Review Commission had reviewed the referendum issue and concluded that this issue did not need pursuing. Additionally, the freeholders had given the public the power to enact new laws through initiative (except in a few matters including amending the Charter) and to repeal laws by referendum. One of the arguments favoring the referendum to the people amendment was that the process for repeal by referendum provides for a very short time after council approval of an ordinance to collect enough signatures to place a referendum on the ordinance before the voters. The council did not propose amendments to modify this process.All but the proposed referendum charter amendment failed to secure enough votes to be put on the November 1999 ballot. Voting was strickly on partisan lines. The referendum to the people amendment was passed by the council and placed on the ballot only because of a single cross-over vote.The amendment was strongly opposed in newspaper editorials. There was one organized group against the measure. At the November 2, 1999 ballot, 56.01 percent of the voters rejected the proposed charter amendment.

2001 Charter Amendments

2001 Charter amendment – religious freedom

In July 2001, a council-initiated ordinance (14206) was placed on the November ballot. The amendment was presented as correcting an oversight in the Charter, i.e., the fact that the charter did not explicitly guarantee the right of individuals to practice their religion. Specifically, they proposed amending Article 8 of the King County Charter to "guarantee the free exercise of religion and absolute freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment, belief and worship to every individual within King County."

At the time the amendment was proposed, there was a lively land use controversy as suburban churches wanted to expand by relocating to less expensive land in rural unincorporated King County, but were running into to conflict with county land use regulations limited the size of development in rural areas. The amendment was criticized as a thinly veiled attempt to allow churches to get around the development laws. It was also criticized as being unnecessary given that religious freedom was guaranteed by the Washington State Constitution (Article, Section 11, the Bill of Rights (Amendment 1 to the U.S. Constitution), and many federal and state laws with the effect being that the proposed charter amendment would result in no change in county laws. There was no organized support or opposition to the proposal. The amendment was approved by voters (57.14% approved; 42.59% rejected). After passage, the land use issues were resolved through the normal county land use decision processes.

2003 Charter amendment – biennial budget process

In 2003, in a bi-partisan effort, seven King County Council members proposed a charter amendment authorizing the council to adopt an ordinance providing for a biennial budget cycle for any and all county funds. This was not a new idea. The 1996-97 Charter Review Commission had recommended a charter amendment to allow biennial budgeting, but the council did not include that among the four recommendations that were placed on the ballot.

The council argued that a biennial budget would provide for a more effective budget process in terms of both cost savings and higher quality program review and budget decisions. It was also argued that the amendment would only authorize, not require, a biennial budget process. If implemented and found lacking, the process could be returned to an annual process. Arguments against the measure included concerns for loss of accountability, the fact that a biennial budget process could be implemented administratively without amending the charter (the council's reasoning in not placing this on the ballot when recommended by the 1996-97 Charter Review Commission), and that this action pre-empted a blue ribbon citizens commission which was studying King County's governance at the time. The measure (Ord. 14758) was approved by voters at the November 2003 ballot by a vote of 55.63% in favor and 44.37% against.

2004 Charter amendment – reducing the council's size

The year 2004 presented voters with a confusing set of charter amendment choices in what was the most dramatic change to the charter outside of the amendments merging King County and Metro into a single government. Included in the group of 1992 merger amendments was one which increased the size of the county council from nine to 13. The proposal to reduce the council's size from 13 to nine had its origins in the 2002 budget process. Due to serious revenue shortfalls, many programs experienced reductions below the previous year's funding including the budget for jail guards. In response, the King County Corrections Guild sought to reduce the council size from 13 to nine arguing that if programs and services had to be cut, the council should be cut as well. Undaunted by past legal opinions and a court case that the charter could not be directly amended by citizen initiative, the Guild proceeded to just that. The Guild drafted a petition and gathered sufficient signatures on Initiative 18 (I-18) to have it placed on the ballot. The King County Prosecutor challenged I-18 in Superior Court arguing that the county charter gave sole authority for charter amendment proposals to the council.

The issue of how the charter should be amended was debated by the charter freeholders and has been considered by past charter review commissions and good government groups usually in connection with debate about whether to change the council and other county elected officials from partisan to non-partisan. Several proposals to make the partisan-to-non-partisan change have been proposed to the county council which has refused to consider the matter. The charter freeholders had specifically given citizens the rights to make law by initiative and to repeal law by referendum – rights which are not available to citizens of non-charter counties. Believing that the charter was a fundamental document that should not be changed easily. the freeholders specifically decided not to permit the charter to be amended by citizen initiative. Other county charters which provide for an elected charter review commission permit those commissions to directly place charter amendments on the ballot. The appointed King County citizen charter review commissions have consistently felt that, although the power to be able to directly place measures on the ballot was very appealing and although it is frustrating to have to depend on the council to put amendments on the ballot, the benefits of debate and review of proposed charter amendments generally result in better ballot measures than would be likely through a citizen-to-ballot process.

At the time the King County Corrections Guild's initiative to reduce the size of the council was presented, the commonly held view was that charter gave the power to place charter amendments on the ballot solely to the council. In order for citizens to directly amend the charter, a charter amendment would be required to give them that power . . and the council had consistently refused to consider this matter. Consequently, it was not a surprise when the King County Superior Court found in favor the county prosecutor's arguments against I-18, but it was bewildering to many long-time charter watchers when the King County Superior Court was overruled by the Washington State Supreme Court in September 2003. The well-written ruling will, no doubt, be reviewed for issues related to the process for amending the charter through citizen initiative.

Although the legal challenge process was expedited, it created an unexpected problem. If I-18 had gone on the ballot in November 2003 as had been expected by the Corrections Guild, the language in the initiative would have allowed about a year for the redistricting process in 2004 with elections for the reduced number of newly drawn district to be held in 2005. However, because of the delays caused the by legal challenges, the date specific nature of I-18 forced a greatly accelerated schedule for redistricting from about a year to about six weeks (mid-November 2004 to January 2005) for the elections to be held in November 2005. In July 2004, the county council approved an ordinance which amended the initiative–effectively a substitute initiative. The proposed changes moved the redistricting process to 2006 with elections for the redistricted council to be held in 2007 and reduced the size of the three regional committees from 12 to six (50 percent King County Council and 50 percent cities) to reflect the reduced county council size. While these changes were supported by the King County Corrections Guild, the lead consultant hired by the Guild to secure the signatures departed from the Guild on this change and went to court over the issue of whether the council could place a substitute ordinance on the ballot. In September 2004, the Snohomish County Superior Court ruled that both the original I-18 which would be referred to as Charter Amendment 1-A and the substitute charter amendment referred to as Charter Amendment 1-B, should be placed on the November 2004 general election.

  • King County Charter Amendment No. 1A proposed to reduce the number of King County Council districts from 13 to nine. Redistricting of council district boundaries would commence on or around November 17, 2004 and be completed by January 15, 2005. Elections for all nine council positions would occur at the November 2005 general election.
  • Proposed King County Charter Amendment No. 1B proposed to also reduce the number of King County Council districts from 13 to nine. This proposed charter amendment would also reduce the size of the three regional committees of the council (Transit, Water Quality and Regional Policy) from 12 to six members. Redistricting of council district boundaries would commence January 2006 and be completed by January 15, 2007. Elections for all nine council positions would occur at the November 2007 general election.

In the public debate over the measures leading up to the vote, the Corrections Guild was widely criticized for its initiative which, by its own admission, was in retaliation for budget cuts affecting its membership. The initiative was also criticized for being largely symbolic since the actual fiscal impact from reducing the council was a very small percentage of the total county budget. However, supporting arguments by government watchdog groups were equally thin and equally a reactionary response, this time to general dissatisfaction with the council's performance. The proposal to expand the council from nine to 13 was part of the 1992 King County/Metro consolidation amendments. Government watchdog groups had, for the most part, generally supported the expansion as a means to increase voter access to their county council representatives by decreasing the ratio of citizens to their elected councilmember. After being frustrated with perceived problems with the expanded council's performance, that argument was apparently set aside and instead it was argued that the council size should be reduced because incorporations and annexations had reduced the scope of King County responsibilities. Those opposing the reduction argued that while the unincorporated area had been reduced in size, other regional responsibilities had grown. Additionally, the county was still the local government for nearly 30 percent of the county's population and that reducing the size of the council would reduce the access of those citizens to their local government.

In November 2005, voters were faced with two questions. First, should the size of the County Council be reduced from 13 to nine? Second, regardless of how the individual voter answered the first question, the voter was asked to select between the Guild's original initiative forcing a rapid redistricting process or the Council's alternative with a longer schedule. If the results of the first question was "no," the results of the vote on the second question would be irrelevant. If a majority of voters answered "yes" to the first question, then the option in the second question getting the most votes would be implemented. By a vote of 56.48% in favor and 43.52% against, voters said "yes" to the first question – a reduction of the council size – and barely favored the Guild's original initiative language forcing accelerated schedule by a vote of 50.62% to 49.38%.

The redistricting process was more difficult than past redistricting processes. Not only was there the usual struggle for power in drawing boundaries for partisan advantage – a struggle which produced misshapen and obviously gerrymandered boundaries in the first redistricting process which resulted in the 1975 charter amendment requiring an independent redistricting commission – the struggle was also between incumbents who found themselves campaigning for re-election against each other in the same newly redrawn district. There was considerable debate over how to apportion the unincorporated areas – was it best to create fewer districts but with more unincorporated area for a more homogenous service area or to spread the unincorporated area population among more districts to, in theory, give them a larger voice on the council. The final boundaries essentially split the difference.

2005 Charter amendments – Land use and elections . . . almost

The year 2005 has proven to be as turbulent as the last few years for King County with the county's second referendum attempt, and spikes of interest in two different charter amendments.

Referendum on Critical Areas Ordinances ( CAO). In 2004, the King County Council approved a three-part package referred to as the Critical Areas Ordinances ( CAO) which addressed environmentally sensitive areas, clearing and grading, and storm water management in unincorporated King County. The laws took effective January 1, 2004. There was strong opposition to the CAO because of restrictions on property use.

The 1992 package of charter amendments for the Metro/King County merger included amendments which provided for an initiative and referendum process for ordinances effective only in unincorporated King County. In November 2004, a citizens group initiated a referendum process to put the King County CAO on the ballot. Almost immediately, the referendum was challenged in court on the question of whether this was allowed by the state's Growth Management Act (GMA). To the great frustration of the property rights group that had initiated the referendum, both King County Superior Court and the Washington State Supreme Court concluded that provisions in the state's GMA supersedes the right to overturn local laws implementing the GMA.

In retaliation to the unsuccessful referendum effort, the property rights groups proposed a county-wide initiative to change the county elected offices from partisan to non-partisan (except for the Prosecutor which the state constitution requires to be partisan). This was watched closely as there had long been interest in changing the county elective offices to non-partisan and very strong opposition to the idea by the local parties. The initiative effort was not moved forward.

Elections: In 2005, elections process issues at both the state and local level peaked, or so it is hoped. The long battle over the state's primary election system was decided although the final chapter in that saga has probably not been written. The race for governor was so close and so fraught with problems that the final determination of the election was made in court. In response to the problems identified in the last few elections with King County's procedures, there have been several high profile citizens groups created to address these problems and in early 2005, a councilmember introduced a charter amendment to return the county auditor function to an elected position. This measure has not been pursued.

History in the Making

As evidenced in the last few charter amendments, the charter can be affected by social, political, and economic issues. In the years since the last charter review, a great deal of turmoil on several fronts has created challenges for King County government. These fronts include growth management, tax payer revolt, transportation, and the economy – the impacts of which have yet to be fully realized.

  • Land use controls required by the Growth Management Act (GMA) of 1990 frustrated citizens in unincorporated areas and spurred local control initiatives in two directions.

One direction was initiatives to form new counties from existing ones – mostly separating the urban and rural areas freeing the rural areas from GMA controls. The Washington State Supreme Court ended efforts to create a new Cedar County out of the portion of unincorporated King County east of the urban growth boundary failed (Cedar County Committee v. Munro, 134 Wn.2d 377, 950 P.2d 446 (1998)). A similar effort to create Freedom County out of portions of Snohomish County was ended in 1999 by the Washington State Supreme Court. Interest in new county creation continues at various levels of intensity throughout Western Washington.

The second direction was a flurry of incorporations and annexations also for local land use control (and in some cases based on the misunderstanding of the extent to which this would provide an avenue of escape from GMA). The last major incorporation within the urban growth boundary of King County took place in 1999 when voters approved the creation of the new city of Samammish. Smaller scale annexations continue, some of them even sought by King County to divest itself of pockets of unincorporated area which are difficult for the county to serve well or cost effectively. Through incorporations and annexations, the unincorporated area has been reduced in both area and population as well as becoming increasingly rural which has forced a rethinking in how the county balances its regional roles and responsibilities against those of being the local government for the citizens of unincorporated King County.

  • The loss of area to annexation and incorporation combined with a bad economy and a taxpayer revolt has had a serious impact on the County's revenues. An economic downturn which significantly reduced sales tax revenues and the actual and projected loss of revenues due to state-wide voter approved initiative reduce property and other taxes created a revenue crisis at the state, county and city levels forcing significant changes in not only how services are funded, but whether they are funded at all. A most visible (to the public) example of this that King County's decision beginning in 2001 to severely reduce its parks and recreation programs and to close down a significant portion of it parks system entirely. In order to keep facilities available to the public, King County has negotiated transfer of ownership of many park areas within cities to those cities.
  • Economic problems also impacted the cities and exacerbated the always-strained financial relations between counties and cities over contracted services and competition over smaller pots of money and growing service demands. All of this making problems with local and regional governance structure and funding very glaring and even more difficult to made badly needed changes. King County has had to contend with changing city-to-city relationships as subregions continue to develop unique needs and perspectives and the suburban cities themselves grow and change. Most significantly, in early 1999, the City of Bellevue decided to leave the Suburban Cities Association raising questions about power, relationships and responsibilities among the cities possibly including the three regional committees established by the Charter.
  • In November 1999, voters approved state-wide Initiative 695 which, if it had not been found unconstitutional, would have replaced the motor vehicle excise tax with a $30 license tab fee, and required voter approval of all future tax and fee increases. However, the 2001 Legislature amended statutes to replace the state-imposed motor vehicle excise tax with a $30 fee. The impact of this was to reduce revenues to cities and counties.
  • In November 2000, voters approved state-wide Initiative 722 which had a number of provisions including invalidating certain past tax increases, limiting property tax increases, and limiting increase in regular levies of taxing districts. It was never implemented due to a preliminary injunction placed on the initiative before it went into effect. In September 2001, the initiative was found unconstitutional by the Washington State Supreme Court .
  • Also in November 2000, voters rejected state-wide Initiative 745 which proposed that 90 percent of transportation funds, including transit taxes, be spent for roads.
  • In November 2001, voters approved state-wide Initiative 747 which now limits property tax increases for all regular levies of property tax districts including cities, towns, counties, the state, fire districts, public hospital districts, port districts, and library districts. The impact of this initiative is slowly beginning to be felt in the form of reduced revenues.
  • The 2002 Legislature approved the creation of the Regional Transportation Investment District (RTID) consisting of a three-county effort to identify transportation projects of regional significance and submit to a list of projects and funding to voters. The RTID members have struggled to developed consensus on a project list and funding proposal amid rapidly changes transportation issues and financing.
  • At the November 2002 ballot, voters approved state-wide Initiative 776 which requires license tab fees to be reduced from a percent of vehicle value to a flat $30 per year for motor vehicles, including light trucks. In February 2003, the King County Superior Court found Initiative 776 to be unconstitutional and unenforceable. In October 2003, it was upheld by the Washington State Supreme Court.
  • Also on the November 2002 ballot, voters rejected Referendum 53 which was placed before voters by the Legislature and which proposed to raise the statewide gas tax by nine cents from 23 cents to 32 cents failed. The 2005 Legislature, faced with undeniable transportation needs beyond the ability of local governments to manage, approved a phased gas tax increase. An initiative (Initiative 912) to repeal the increase was promptly filed and will be on the November 2005 ballot
  • The impact of the serious of ballot decisions by voters to limit property tax increases, reduce the motor vehicle excise tax and licensing fees, and oppose gas tax increase have reduced funding to make transportation improvements while the challenge to manage traffic congestion only gets worse with every year. Funding, or lack of sufficient funding, is only part of the problem. At all levels, from citizens to government agencies, there is frustration with the failure to see any improvement in spite of all the transportation talk and work. It is all the more confusing because of the mix of state, regional and local issues and agencies. The list of problems and projects and players is getting longer. There are currently discussions about critical segments of the regional transportation infrastructure that need replacing at great cost. There is increasing discussion of creating or reorganizing for a truly regional approach which will certainly involve King County in some way.
  • In this period of political-social-economic turmoil, the King County Executive and Council have separately and together have sought the involvement of citizens through a number of commissions and task forces. Among them are the General Budget Advisory Task Force, Metropolitan Parks Task Force, Commission on Governance, Government Budget Advisory Task Force, and Task Force on Regional Human Services. These groups looked at many aspects of King County including structural changes to King County government. Their well-regarded work will provide background for the next charter review commission.

2008 and Beyond

The 2007-2008 Commission recommended twelve amendments to the King County Charter. Read more about this charter review's background and process in the Commission's final report. More information about the Commission’s recommendations can be found in the report, and a summary of the amendments can be found at http://www.kingcounty.gov/exec/charter/issues.aspx.