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Husum-Bz Nixes Council Election

Challenger questions move

Citing the uncertainty related to the process, the Husum/BZ Corner Community Council announced last week that it will not be holding its council elections this fall.

In a notice issued by the council on Oct. 10, Community Council Secretary Jim Fritchey explained that the suspension of the election this year is related to the county's recent move to an exclusively vote by mail system.

"The Husum/BZ Corner Community Council is unable to hold its annual election this year, due to the county converting the general election process to completely vote by mail," read the council's notice. "In addition, earlier this year, the county redefined our planning area boundaries to include many more residents in the Loop Road area."

The council has two seats up for election, and three candidates had announced their intent to run for the positions. Incumbent council members Jim Fritchey and George Mersereau were seeking new three-year terms, and Husum resident Jim Tindall had signed up to compete for one of the seats. The top two overall finishers win.

The council's move effectively maintains the status quo: Incumbents Fritchey and Mersereau will continue to serve until there is a determination on how to proceed with the voting process.

Candidate Tindall said he was taken by surprise by the action.

"I'm disappointed," Tindall said. "I would rather have heard this news directly from the Husum-BZ Community Council. Communication that aids candidates filing and being informed clearly is not a goal of this elected body. My idealism for the democratic process is still present, but I do feel a little wiser from this lesson I have been taught. At least the election has been suspended, not canceled. I remain a candidate."

Members of the Husum/BZ council met with the Klickitat County Commissioners on Oct. 9 in an effort to resolve how to handle the council voting process, but no significant progress was made.

"All concerned are now working on a solution, but it will take time," the notice from the Husum-BZ council continued. "In the meantime, there can be no regularly scheduled election in November. This means that two council positions will be vacant after Dec. 31, 2007. Those positions will be temporarily filled by appointment early in 2008, pending a subsequent election."

The notice pointed out that the Klickitat County Auditor's Office cannot assist the community councils with their board elections.

"The council cannot `piggyback' or in any way be a part of the general election ballot, as conducted by the county Auditor's office, because it is not a junior taxing district," the notice explained. "This means the council must conduct its own election, separate and apart from the general election, as either a vote by mail or physically at a polling place as before. Either method suffers the logistics problem of now defining the actual residents within the new planning area boundaries, especially now that it extends across portions of three precincts. Either election process must first determine the actual, physical residents that are qualified to vote. The Auditor's office has available names and addresses of registered voters, but those are listed only by precinct. This means that those residents within and without a given planning area precinct must be determined. The Auditor, by law, can't do that work for the council, and the council has no budget from the county for the same reason."

However, Tindall questioned the council's move to suspend the November election process. He cited RCW 42.30.010 -- the Open Meeting Law of Washington -- which reads in part: "The Legislature finds and declares that all public commissions, boards, councils, committees, subcommittees, departments, divisions, offices, and all other public agencies of this state and subdivisions thereof exist to aid in the conduct of the people's business. It is the intent of this chapter that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly."

Tindall said there was no public meeting regarding suspension of the election.

"I don't figure how the Husum-BZ Community Council was able to act within the law and suspend the election outside the framework of a formal business meeting," Tindall said. "I guess I have a lot to learn about politics in my neighborhood."

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