The Freeholder Movement, King County, Washington: a case study of reform methods and techniques

The primary purpose of this paper is to make a study of local government reform methods and techniques. The King County Charter Movements of 1952 and 1968 allow a unique opportunity to study the techniques used and tools available to reformers in their attempts to change existing forms of government. Whenever there is an attempt to change an existing form of government, there are conflicts. As Wallace S. Sayre and Herbert Kaufman stated in Governing New York City: [E]very modification of the existing state of affairs --of the rules, of personnel, of governmental or administrative structure or procedure, or of public policies and programs--entails the fear of cost for some participants as well as the hope of gain for the proponents. Any proposed increase in dollar costs . . . stirs up the revenue-providing nongovernmental group and their allies .... Proposals to change regulatory policies arouse quick opposition .... Curtailed service angers those served and alarms [those] whose status, jurisdiction, and jobs are threatened .... [E]xpanded service alerts those who must pay the dollar costs as well as those who are competing for dollars to be expended for other purposes. Robert H. Salisbury, in "The Dynamics of Reform: Charter Politics in St. Louis," stated this same principle. Referring to disputes over reform, he stated: Disputes over broad reform of the local governmental structure uncover certain durable antagonisms in the community. The contestants line up along what are essentially class lines, and the conflict thus defined is resolved according to the remarkably unchanging strength of the two groupings. Although the above-mentioned authors are concerned with the city, these same problems arise in any attempt to change an existing political structure. King County, Washington, has been no exception. A secondary purpose of this study concerns the conflicts that arise in any reform movement, using the conflicts that grew out of the 1952 Charter Movement and the subsequent 1968 Charter Movement as case examples. In their book, Governing New York City, Sayre and Kaufman made the following observation: The proponents of any change emphasize only the benefits of the change, simplify the goals of the proposal, and ignore the adverse consequences for some participants. The opponents stress the costs of the proposal, impute complex, partisan, or obscure goals to the proponents, and ignore the advantages the plan might have. The above observation falls perfectly into H. D. Lasswell's perspicuous definition of Propaganda and the acts of the Propagandist. As Lasswell stated: If we state the strategy of propaganda in cultural terms, we may say that it involves the presentation of an object in a culture in such a manner that certain cultural attitudes will be organized toward it. The problem of the propagandist is to intensify the attitudes favorable to his purpose, to reverse the attitudes hostile to it, and to attract the indifferent, or, at the worst, to prevent them from assuming a hostile bent. An additional secondary purpose of this paper, then, is to study the uses of propaganda by both the proponents and opponents of the 1952 and 1968 Charter Movements.