Time: Tue Jun 17 14:56:11 1997
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Date: Tue, 17 Jun 1997 14:52:47 -0700
To: (Recipient list suppressed)
From: Paul Andrew Mitchell [address in tool bar]
Subject: SLS: New County Movement Threatens Establishment (fwd)

>New County Movement Threatens Establishment
>- Citizens in Washington State work to reestablish 
>primacy of local government -
>	We live in  the era of big government: huge federal government,
>big state government, even big local governments.  Citizens in 
>Washington state, however, are using a provision in the state 
>constitution to rein in government by seceding from their counties 
>and fon-nitig new counties within the confines of the old parent
>Citizens committees to form new counties have sprung up across the 
>state and are spreading like wildfire.  There are nine new counties 
>being proposed in Washington.  Four of them have gained signatures 
>from a majority of voters within their jurisdiction, which is 
>required to break away.  Five others are still collecting signatures 
>but seem poised to soon achieve their goals.
>Cedar, Skykomish and Freedom counties are being created out of King 
>and Snohomish counties around Seattle.  On the Canadian border, 
>Pioneer County is being created out of Whatcom County. The five others 
>are River (near Vancouver), Puget Sound, West Seattle and Vashon 
>(near Seattle), and Liberty County (out of Grant County in central 
>Why are they seceding?  Lois Gustafson, president of Cedar County 
>Committee, says the bid to create new counties aims "to bring the 
>government close to the people." Joe Ahrend, of Citizens for River 
>County, says "taxes are out of control.  Every time someone wants 
>to do something with their land it seems there's some endangered bug
>on it.  We have no say on how money is spent, finally we said enough 
>is enough." Amy Hansen of Skykomish County Committee says the movement 
>is about "representation, local control, less bureaucracy, more 
>responsive officials, and smaller government."
>In the view of these leaders, county govemments have become too distant, 
>too bureaucratic, too large, too meddlesome and too entrenched, and 
>have forgotten that local officials are supposed to serve the people 
>rather than other bureaucracies in Olympia and Washington, D.C.
>Many of the issues that have brought this movement into being 
>involve restriction on development and use of private property.  
>Leaders say they plan to eliminate most of the local regulations. 
>Another issue that has thrown the establishment into panic is the 
>new county leaders' stated intent to reassert local control over 
>things like law enforcement and education, which have come 
>increasingly under control of state and federal government.  
>The mission statement of Citizens for River County, for example, 
>says that the new county will accept no federal or state
>education funds.  Rather than trying to maintain an expensive 
>public school bureaucracy, they say they will actually encourage 
>alternatives like home schooling.
>Secession as a Check on Government
>It has-been said that the ultimate voting power is the power to 
>vote with your feet.  When governments become too burdensome, 
>people leave their jurisdiction.  To stem the loss of revenue 
>government then either must become less burdensome, or extend 
>its jurisdiction to make it impractical for anyone to leave.  
>This being true, the easier it is to leave a govemment's 
>jurisdiction the less burdensome that government can be.  
>The ultimate extension of this principle is the ability for small 
>communities to leave a govemment's jurisdiction without having to 
>move geographically.
>As one would expect, the political establishment in Washington 
>state does not look favorably on these movements, but supporters 
>are using a provision of the Washington constitution which seems 
>to allow for the creation of new counties on fairly easy terms.  
>Article I 1, section 3 of the Washington constitution reads:
>"New Counties.  No new counties shall be established which shall 
>reduce any county to a population less than four thousand (4,000), 
>nor shall a new county be formed containing a less population than 
>two thousand (2,000).  There shall be no territory stricken from 
>any county unless a majofity of the voters living in such territory 
>shall petition therefore and then only under such conditions as may 
>be prescribed by general law applicable to the whole state."
>What is unique about this provision is that unlike many constitutions 
>which require the permission of the old county in order to create a 
>new one; here, all that is required is a petition by a Majority of 
>voters in the territory to fon-n the new county.
>Theoretically, if you are not happy with the way your local 
>government is running things, all you have to do is get 
>together with a couple thousand of your neighbors, and 
>you can secede and start your own county.  It is never quite 
>as easy as that.  The political establishment in the state 
>has being doing everything it can to prevent the formation 
>of new counties.
>The Establishment Fights Back Although the secretary of 
>state's office has certified that the petitions have
>achieved the number of signatures needed, the new counties 
>cannot come into existence until the state legislature enacts 
>legislation specifying how these splits are to take place.  
>The legislature will divide up the assets and liabilities of 
>the old county, and set the official county boundaries.  
>Last spring, State Rep. John Koster, a Republican from the 
>district of the proposed Skykomish County, introduced bills 
>to bring into existence three of these new counties.
>The bills faced the united opposition of Democrats in the state 
>legislature, but Republicans have a majority in both houses. 
>Nevertheless, Republican support for the new counties proved 
>lukewarm.  Only the one bill to create Skykomish County was 
>actually brought up for a vote in the House, and passed.  
>Pressure from Democrat Gov. Gary Locke prevented any such bill 
>from being considered in the state Senate, despite its Republican 
>control.  One of the staffers on the committee handing the creation 
>of new counties said he believes the passage of the Skykomish
>County bill through the House represented a sop thrown to supporters 
>of the new counties rather than any senous, commitment from most
>The official creation of the three counties remains in limbo 
>until next year, when the state legislature can resurrect
>the measures.  But supporters of the new counties insist that 
>they will never rest until the new counties come into existence.
>The other proposed county with enough signatures, Cedar County, 
>is pursuing a slightly different route.  The Cedar County committee 
>has maintained that the petition process constitutes a special
>The committee has filed suit with the state Supreme Court, asking the 
>court to order the secretary of state's office to certify the petition 
>process as an election.  They feel that if the process is certified as 
>an election, the legislature will have no choice but to pass legislation 
>bringing the county into existence.  John Stokes, one of the founders of 
>the new county movement, has taken an even more creative approach.  
>In a move which is controversial even within the new county movement, 
>Stokes has filed a petition with the United Nations Human Rights 
>Commission arguing that "the right of self-determination and 
>self-government. . . are being denied by the state of Washington." 
>Supporters hope the complaint will embarrass Gov.  Locke enough to 
>get him to drop his opposition.
>While the opposition of the political establishment may delay the 
>creation of new counties, it has done nothing to dilute the ardor 
>of the new county movement.  If anything, such resistance has 
>energized the movement even more, and has shown the need for more 
>representative government.  Citizens for River County started their 
>movement in the summer of 1996 and in less than a year the committee 
>has collected more thatn 4,000 signatures - about a third of the 
>total needed.
>Success Stories
>While secession has always been opposed by existing establishments, 
>there have been a couple of notable successes in recent years.  
>In 1983, through a petition process very similar to that being 
>used in Washington, the northern half of Yuma County, Ariz. broke 
>away to form the new county of La Paz. The political establishment 
>in Arizona apparently was caught off guard by the move and was 
>unable to stop it.  Nevertheless, after La Paz came into existence 
>and it appeared that other counties might also break apart, 
>the state changed its law to make county secession much more difficult.
>Another success story in progress is the secession of the San Fernando 
>Valley from the city of Los Angeles.  Los Angeles has a population 
>larger than many states, and larger than many countries; it is a huge, 
>sprawling city.  The size and population of the city has meant that 
>local government does not really exist in the ordinary sense of the
>word.  For years the population of San Fernando has sought to break 
>away from Los Angeles and become its own city, but the Los Angeles 
>city council has had veto power over loss of any section of the city.
>Finally, this spring, because of public outcry, the city of Los Angeles 
>has dropped its veto of the new proposal and is accepting a compromise 
>bill in the California legislature, which will remove the veto power 
>of the city council.  Senate bill 176 and assembly bill 62 sailed 
>through committee and seem ready to pass the full legislature, to be 
>signed by Gov.  Wilson.  This proposal will allow San Fernando to 
>secede from Los Angeles with a majority vote of the Los Angeles
>That vote is not assured, but supporters feel that they finally have a
>real chance.
>Secession of any sort has never been easy.  The American colonies fought 
>a long war for their independence.  Madison remarked in Federalist 14 
>that one of the advantages of the American federal system, provided for 
>in Article 4 Section 3, was that when states became too populous for 
>effective self-govemment they could divide and form new states.  
>Jealousy among states for representation in the Senate, and the desire 
>of established governments to keep as many subjects as possible, has 
>prevented this from happening.  Nevertheless, on the local level we are
>beginning to see a revival of the old idea that self-government means 
>local government.
>At a time when politicians are increasingly moving towards large, 
>centralized government, citizens are finding an effective tool in 
>returning to smaller, more local government.  The United States was 
>founded on the idea of self-determination and local control - 
>just maybe we have a chance to get back to it.
>Paul Clark is chairman of the Coalition for Local Sovereignty, 
>and tracks citizen efforts to gain more local control over their 
>affairs.  For more information on this burgeoning movement or 
>related issues, contact Clark at 58 Crescent Road, Suite B, 
>Greenbelt, MD. 20770, or call (301) 982-1360.

Paul Andrew Mitchell                 : Counselor at Law, federal witness
B.A., Political Science, UCLA;  M.S., Public Administration, U.C. Irvine

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