Initiative/Referendum: Whom do you trust? Council waffles on Retreat consensus it would respect citizen vote

Sammamish City Council members have declined to reaffirm statements at January retreat they made indicating they would honor citizen vote in the Advisory Ballot April 28 on whether to grant voters here the right to Initiative and Referendum.

By a 5-2 majority, members of the Sammamish City Council currently oppose giving the right of Initiative and Referendum to the voters of our City. It was a split vote to even put the issue to an Advisory vote on the April 28 ballot. Council Member Tom Odell voted against putting the issue to the voters.

With only Members Nancy Whitten and Ramiro Valderrama on record in favor of granting the right, other Members informally said at the City’s January retreat they would honor the citizen outcome on the Advisory ballot. But last week, only Whitten and Valderrama responded in the affirmative to an email inquiry I sent to each council member asking whether they will honor an approval vote from citizens. Odell and Don Gerend declined to state their position “for the record” in advance of the vote. Bob Keller said he is reserving his decision until the result. Mayor Tom Vance and Deputy Mayor Kathy Huckabay did not respond to the inquiry.

  • See my post from the January retreat. At this retreat, Council members told me that if voters for Yes for the initiative, the council will adopt the ordinance. If they vote No, they won’t
  • See a Sammamish Review article on the topic. The paper reported, “While the April vote will be a nonbinding advisory vote and Mayor Tom Vance made no promises, he did say he believes the council will go along with whatever voters decide. He added he just couldn’t see any member of the council going against voter wishes.”

This ambiguity now raises the obvious question of whether a majority of the Council will endorse an affirmative vote of citizens, even if the outcome is a narrow 50% plus one or an overwhelming majority.

Fundamentally, the issue comes down to trust. Opposing Council Members have been clear they don’t trust the initiative process or our citizens to handle this right, which is provided under the 1912 State Constitution.

These opponents fear a “Tim Eyman” character will flood the City with costly Initiatives and Referendums. Although history of these in suburban cities proves the fears unfounded, at least to now, this attitude nonetheless is pervasive: our City Council as a whole doesn’t trust our citizens to have this right.

If one asks this question of the Council, then the questions Citizens should ask is, can/should the Council be trusted without this recourse?

Council Members might retort there is recourse, at the regular Council elections every two years. Of course, it’s very difficult to defeat an incumbent and in recent elections, poor or no candidates have stepped up to run against incumbents.

The Initiative/Referendum as an additional check-and-balance is an extra tool for citizens.

The Sammamish Review endorsed adoption of an Initiative/Referendum. I laid out my reasons for supporting it in this post. I had previously been quite ambivalent.

Ballots should be in voter hands now. They must be postmarked by April 28.


5 thoughts on “Initiative/Referendum: Whom do you trust? Council waffles on Retreat consensus it would respect citizen vote

  1. Does the Council have sole control of the language that will describe the issue? If so, they will have a lot of influence over the results.

  2. Pingback: Klahanie annexation, Initiative win | Sammamish Comment

  3. Pingback: Four council members declare support for Initiative | Sammamish Comment

  4. Pingback: Sammamish Initiative and Referendum effective | Sammamish Comment

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