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Date: Fri, 18 Jul 1997 13:01:21 -0700
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From: Paul Andrew Mitchell [address in tool bar]
Subject: SLS: New County Movement Threatens Establishment (fwd)

>The following is from the 4th of July issue of the Modern Militiaman, #6,
>edited by : W. K. Gorman <nitehawk@nethawk.com> 
>The rest of the issue (still under construction) is at:
>If anyone is unable to access the web, or wants a complete copy of the
>issue, just email me. 
>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 forming new counties within the confines of
>the old parent counties.
>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 Washington).
>Why are they seceding? Lois Gustafson, president of Cedar County Committee,
>says the bid to create new counties aims "to
>bring thegovernment 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
>government 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
>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 majority 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 form 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 members.
>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 than 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 residents. 
>That vote is not assured, but supporters feel that they finally have a real
>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-government 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. .
>Unsub info - send e-mail to majordomo@majordomo.pobox.com, with
>"unsubscribe liberty-and-justice" in the body (not the subject)
>Liberty-and-Justice list-owner is Mike Goldman <whig@pobox.com>

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

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