Thursday, October 09, 2014

3 reasons why I wish I could tell you to vote for none of the above in the Clerk race, but I won't

1. For the love of Pete, would someone return a damn email?

I know I'm not anyone that important, it isn't like I contribute money to that many (if any campaigns). But, I emailed both campaigns months ago about what I consider to be a pretty big issue. And nothing. Not even an "I got your email, I'll get back to you later" or a "No, this isn't that big of a deal."

Just silence.

2. Could you make the race any less relevant to voters?

This race is so damn insular, the one time (one time!) I ever received any communication about this race from anyone connected to the campaigns, it highlighted an issue so low and degrading, that I would never repeat it here. Suffice to say, this race has been issue free.

Even the one difference that the campaigns bring up publicly is about an internal court system. Really? An internal office data management system? Wow. Killer stuff.

Here's a better issue to chew over.

3. I feel like I shouldn't even be voting in this election.

This post is starting to become a trip around my own favorite issue, but be patient with me. Yes, I feel that public access to court records should be easier than it is and that county clerks should serve the public in this regard.

And, when I poked around, the Whatcom County clerk provided the best answer to why he makes court records free and searchable online:

We wouldn't charge for someone to come into the office to look at a file. If they chose to make copies, there would be a cost and staff time. I believe it actually saves money by freeing up staff time to do more important tasks. We have had significant reductions in force over the past several years. Further, it provides equal access regardless of financial resources.
The difference here is that the clerk in Whatcom county is appointed, while the clerks here are elected. I'm not sure it makes sense, but that means an appointed clerk is more willing to provide for the public than an elected one.

The only reason this makes sense to me is that an appointed clerk would possibly see their role as providing services to the public and the county as a whole. While, an independent, elected clerk would be interested in protecting their own budget and the structural power of their office. So, a creaking and old document management system that doesn't serve the public, but rather charges them for public documents, possibly makes sense.

So, I suggest you vote in this election and vote for Linda Enlow. At the very least, she seems like she's willing to change the office.

But, what we really need is a clerk that is willing to go out on a limb like the Whatcom County Clerk. And, we need to change the law that allows clerks to charge crazy fees for public documents.

But, in the end, support a Home Rule effort for Thurston County. This would allow us to rewrite how Thurston County government operates. And, if we decided to change the clerk position to an appointed one, we could do that.


TVDinner said...

Thank you for covering this, Emmett. So often with a democracy the rubber meets the road with the seemingly-dull, quotidian details of local government. These day-to-day issues of basic access to government work are crucial. I hope someone in the Clerk's race wakes up and responds to your questions.

Anonymous said...

I'll look into the latest home rule effort. Our old constitutionally driven courthouse structure can be improved upon.
-- Curt Pavola