Jan. 24, 2015: The Sammamish City Council agreed at its retreat today at the Suncadia Resort in Roslyn (WA) to ask its citizens whether the right to initiative and referendum should be adopted by the City.
The Council will formalize its consensus approval at the Feb. 3 City Council meeting. No formal, legally binding action could be taken at the retreat, including appointments of Council representation to regional committees.
The advocacy group Citizens for Sammamish (CFS) has been pressing the City Council to adopt an ordinance granting the right. Council members have been reluctant to approve the initiative/referendum process because of what they view how the state process became abused by Tim Eyman, who makes a living at filing state initiatives; and the increasing dominance by “big money” interests rather than the original intent of power to the people.
“I’m glad to hear that,” said Harry Shedd, chairman of CFS, when told of the Council’s action. “I’m a little perplexed in that I am already well into my schedule for my votes for the petition. If they approve this, it would save me time and money.”
Council members told me at the retreat that if voters for Yes for the initiative, the council will adopt the ordinance. If they vote No, they won’t.
Redmond, Lynnwood, Issaquah and Bellevue were surveyed by staff whether their initiatives/referendum process has been used. In three of the four cities, it’s been used once in 15-20 years and not at all in the fourth case.
An initiative/referendum election would cost Sammamish about $40,000. If there were a court challenge to rejecting an initiative, or one about an issue being placed on the ballot, a typical cost to defend the City would be between $10,000-$20,000, said the City Attorney.
Saturday morning was principally dedicated to appointments to regional committees. The only ones that really drew some controversy were assignments to the board of the Eastside Fire & Rescue District, which serves Sammamish and several other jurisdictions, and the Legislative Committee.
EF&R has been a controversial topic in the City for several years, with Sammamish Council Members threatening to pull out of the consortium if costs to Sammamish weren’t cut and other changes made. Ultimately a compromise was agreed, but Member Kathy Huckabay remains hostile to EF&R and some on the Council are said to want to figure out how to leave the District before the end of the seven year contract that binds Sammamish from last year.
Huckabay and Bob Keller were named to the EF&R Board, with Ramiro Valderrama named as the alternate.
The Legislative Committee, which meets as required and which has responsibility to interact with Legislators, historically has been filled by the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and a third Council Member. Last year this was Tom Vance (Mayor), Huckabay (Deputy Mayor) and Don Gerend.
Endorsements by Vance and Huckabay of Democrat Matt Isenhower over incumbent State Sen. Andy Hill (R), chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, caused a split among Council Members who thought an endorsement of any kind unwise. Hill was reelected district wide with 53% of the vote and in Sammamish with 55% of the vote despite the endorsements of Isenhower by Vance, Huckabay and Council Member Tom Odell.
Council Member Nancy Whitten argued for a replacement for Huckabay because of the endorsement. She was overruled, and Vance, Huckabay and Valderrama (who endorsed Hill) were selected to be members. Gerend is an alternate.
These committee memberships, and all others, will be ratified at the Feb. 3 meeting.
Whitten complained that appointments to all the committees were “stacked,” agreed to prior to the retreat. However, when offered chances to be alternates, she turned down each offer.
The council is not truly in support of the process. I recall Tom Odell saying if the citizens don’t like what we do they can vote us out. True, but it would be easier if they just approved the process and moved on with things. Does it have to go to a vote of the people to determine if they support it and then does it again have to go to a vote to approve by the people? I thought the council could just act on it.
If the advisory vote passes, the council will pass an ordinance enacting the initiative.
I find it interesting to learn that some Council members are opposed to moving the initiative process forward because big money interests could improperly influence the outcome. Couldn’t the same argument be made as regards the election of Council members? Sammamish has a highly educated and involved citizenry who make informed decisions on many issues of importance to our City, including the election of our Council members. I don’t believe big money is influenced the election of Council members. Likewise I don’t believe it will be influencial in the outcome of any initiative put to a vote by our citizens.
Scott, thank you for all of your time, resources, interest, and tenacity to independently report on subjects which are of direct interest to the citizens of Sammamish. You are a excellent example of Democracy In Action. We look forward to the right of Initiative and Referendum in Sammamish.
Thanks, Bob, for your kind words. The local papers aren’t going to do any of this.
I’m a bit taken back by the council’s about face on this topic. At least 1 had overtly expressed (directly to CFS) they did not support it. Others were openly critical of it (roll tape on that council study session). While I’m hopeful that the opportunity for their constituents to make the call on this will net the rights of I/R to the citizens of Sammamish, and the same time I’ll be watching with a critical eye of the literature that gets pushed out of city hall on the topic. I’m hoping the information disseminated to voters will be balanced and fact-based.
I was surprised at the about-face as well.
The information should come like the annexation data and voters pamphlet: pro and con statements. Once this topic is approved for election, the city isn’t supposed to take an advocacy position.
Pingback: Election year for Sammamish: key dates ahead | Sammamish Comment
Pingback: Should Sammamish have the right to Initiative and Referendum? | Sammamish Comment
Pingback: Initiative/Referendum: Whom do you trust? Council waffles on Retreat consensus it would respect citizen vote | Sammamish Comment
Pingback: The City’s stealth campaign against Citizens for Sammamish, leader Shedd | Sammamish Comment