During its meeting on Tue., Oct. 26, the Port of Olympia Commissioners expressed its intent to move forward with a five-member ballot proposition.
In a presentation, Port of Olympia General Counsel VaLiesha Brown shared that at the joint meeting of Port and Thurston County Commissioners on July 21, it was agreed that if the county surpassed its 300,000 population mark, it would move forward with a ballot measure to redraw the district boundaries and increase the number of commissioners from three to five.
The agreement also ensures inter-agency collaboration for cost-sharing and voter clarity by establishing a redistricting committee which includes members of the Port and the County. Brown explained that the ballot measure would ask voters whether they would like to increase the number of commissioners.
She also clarified that while the county commissioners wanted a five-member commission, “in the event...that Thurston County doesn’t get 300,000, we [the Port] would go alone.”
Port considers alternatives
Port Commissioner Bill McGregor suggested that if the county does not move forward with aballot proposition, the Port can still increase the number of commissioners without having to go through a redistricting process. McGregor shared that the Port can maintain the three district boundaries but add two more positions to the commission which residents can vote at large. “That means everybody would be voting for those two in addition to one of their own districts,” McGregor said.
“I’m a little concerned on keeping those options open on the table,” Commissioner Zita commented regarding the Port moving forward without the county commission. She shared that it is both inefficient and confusing for voters. “I think we have lost clarity at this point...I don't believe this is ready for primetime,” Zita said.
McGregor, however, believed that it is necessary to begin the process, “there’s a lot to think about here but at some point in time, we need to go to a five district...commission.” He continued, “I certainly think that representation from some of the other parts of the county is long overdue.”
Port Commission Chair Joe Downing also provided his input, “I prefer five districts as opposed to three districts with two at large just because it guarantees a little bit more representation.” He continued, “I’m just personally hoping that the county makes it to 300,000 by next April, and if they don’t I guess we will re-evaluate from there.”
The Port is still awaiting the results of the 2021 census data which will be completed in April 2022 to begin the redistricting process with the county.
Photo Caption: Port Commissioner Bill McGregor provided new suggestions to the proposed ballot measure which would increase the number of Port Commissioners from three to five.
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