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    October 31, 2021
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To study Washington County or not to study? That is the question. By Kathleen Hondru When Washington County voters go to the polls on November 2nd, in addition to voting on the traditional elective offices and judge races, they will have the opportunity to vote on a bal- lot initiative, which asks voters whether a commission of their peers should study the county's current governing structure to determine if improvements can be made to how Washington County government works. To help voters make sense of this ballot initiative, all the county's chambers of commerce held an educational webinar on Octo- ber 20th to help break down the facts. For anyone interested in learning more about the ballot initiative, the webinar is archived and free for viewing at www.washcochamber.com. "The ballot initiative is a two-part question to voters," explained Deborah Grass, a webinar panelist and owner of Grass Root Solutions, a municipal consulting firm. "The first part asks voters if there should be a study to review how Washington Government is working. Essentially, do vot- ers want to find out if their county government is operating in an optimal fashion. If they think it is a good idea to review the county's governing structure to determine if there is room for improvement, then voters should vote YES. A negative vote im- plies that they are satisfied with the status quo - they don't be- lieve a review would provide any benefit or identify any oppor- tunities for improving how Washington Government works." Washington County Courthouse man of the Luzerne County Government recommended by the commission - or if recommendations are ultimately ap- proved by the voters. A YES vote pro- vides the rare and valuable opportunity to evaluate how things are working. Study Commission. In summary, YES is a vote to review and determine if there are areas of opportunity to modernize and improve how Wash- ington County government works. NO is a vote for the Status Quo. The second part of the ballot initiative comes into play once the voter decides if they want to study the government. "What many do not realize is that the de- fault structure of Pennsylvania county gov- ernments pre-dates the birth of our country and was only marginally updated by a state law from the 1960's. It's an outdated and one-size-fits-all approach, which for many counties is not delivering modernized, ef- ficient, professional, and ethical govern- ment. This was certainly the case for Lu- zerne County when in 2009 the plurality of county voters chose YES to review our cur- rent government operations." "For Luzerne County," concluded Hag- gerty, "it was a chance to review our op- erations and make recommendations for improvement. The voters approved those recommendations and in just 10 years, we have realized dramatic im- provements. In addition, we were able to streamline operations to improve efficiencies and service delivery, while significantly reducing the damaging and negative influences of politics in our day-to-day operations." "Voters then have the opportunity to select the people that would conduct the government review, regardless of if they vot- ed to study the government or not," shared Melanie Ostrander, Elections Director for Washington County. "There are 51 Washington County residents whose names will appear on the November 2nd ballot as part of the Ballot Ini- tiative. These people have gone through a process to have their names appear on the ballot as a candidate for Govern- ment Study Commission." In short, after a two-year review, the Luzerne County Government Study Commission rec- ommended changes to update their gov- ernment structure and operations. Luzerne County residents ultimately voted to accept those recommendations and implemented changes, such as imposing term limits, in- tegrating certain elected offices and opera- tions, and moving from a three Commission- er structure to an 11-member council with a Ostrander noted that this is a volunteer, non-partisan commis- sion and more information about the ballot initiative is avail- able in the Elections section of the Washington County web- site (www.co.washington.pa.us), including sample ballots that list the 51 candidates. Voters can select up to 11 representatives from the list of 51 candidates. Sponsored content brought "Voters should know that if they vote YES on November 2nd, hired, professional manager. they are not voting to change our current government struc- ture. There is some confusion on this point. YES is a vote to study the current government structure." to you by "The opportunity to review government op- erations to determine if it's delivering optimal results is a unique opportunity," shared Hag- gerty. "The vote to review does not pre-de- termine what, if any, changes are actually Washington County's chambers of commerce To help put the ballot initiative into context, webinar panelist James Haggerty shared his experience as member and Chair- To study Washington County or not to study? That is the question. By Kathleen Hondru When Washington County voters go to the polls on November 2nd, in addition to voting on the traditional elective offices and judge races, they will have the opportunity to vote on a bal- lot initiative, which asks voters whether a commission of their peers should study the county's current governing structure to determine if improvements can be made to how Washington County government works. To help voters make sense of this ballot initiative, all the county's chambers of commerce held an educational webinar on Octo- ber 20th to help break down the facts. For anyone interested in learning more about the ballot initiative, the webinar is archived and free for viewing at www.washcochamber.com. "The ballot initiative is a two-part question to voters," explained Deborah Grass, a webinar panelist and owner of Grass Root Solutions, a municipal consulting firm. "The first part asks voters if there should be a study to review how Washington Government is working. Essentially, do vot- ers want to find out if their county government is operating in an optimal fashion. If they think it is a good idea to review the county's governing structure to determine if there is room for improvement, then voters should vote YES. A negative vote im- plies that they are satisfied with the status quo - they don't be- lieve a review would provide any benefit or identify any oppor- tunities for improving how Washington Government works." Washington County Courthouse man of the Luzerne County Government recommended by the commission - or if recommendations are ultimately ap- proved by the voters. A YES vote pro- vides the rare and valuable opportunity to evaluate how things are working. Study Commission. In summary, YES is a vote to review and determine if there are areas of opportunity to modernize and improve how Wash- ington County government works. NO is a vote for the Status Quo. The second part of the ballot initiative comes into play once the voter decides if they want to study the government. "What many do not realize is that the de- fault structure of Pennsylvania county gov- ernments pre-dates the birth of our country and was only marginally updated by a state law from the 1960's. It's an outdated and one-size-fits-all approach, which for many counties is not delivering modernized, ef- ficient, professional, and ethical govern- ment. This was certainly the case for Lu- zerne County when in 2009 the plurality of county voters chose YES to review our cur- rent government operations." "For Luzerne County," concluded Hag- gerty, "it was a chance to review our op- erations and make recommendations for improvement. The voters approved those recommendations and in just 10 years, we have realized dramatic im- provements. In addition, we were able to streamline operations to improve efficiencies and service delivery, while significantly reducing the damaging and negative influences of politics in our day-to-day operations." "Voters then have the opportunity to select the people that would conduct the government review, regardless of if they vot- ed to study the government or not," shared Melanie Ostrander, Elections Director for Washington County. "There are 51 Washington County residents whose names will appear on the November 2nd ballot as part of the Ballot Ini- tiative. These people have gone through a process to have their names appear on the ballot as a candidate for Govern- ment Study Commission." In short, after a two-year review, the Luzerne County Government Study Commission rec- ommended changes to update their gov- ernment structure and operations. Luzerne County residents ultimately voted to accept those recommendations and implemented changes, such as imposing term limits, in- tegrating certain elected offices and opera- tions, and moving from a three Commission- er structure to an 11-member council with a Ostrander noted that this is a volunteer, non-partisan commis- sion and more information about the ballot initiative is avail- able in the Elections section of the Washington County web- site (www.co.washington.pa.us), including sample ballots that list the 51 candidates. Voters can select up to 11 representatives from the list of 51 candidates. Sponsored content brought "Voters should know that if they vote YES on November 2nd, hired, professional manager. they are not voting to change our current government struc- ture. There is some confusion on this point. YES is a vote to study the current government structure." to you by "The opportunity to review government op- erations to determine if it's delivering optimal results is a unique opportunity," shared Hag- gerty. "The vote to review does not pre-de- termine what, if any, changes are actually Washington County's chambers of commerce To help put the ballot initiative into context, webinar panelist James Haggerty shared his experience as member and Chair-