- Ritchie and Ross trade heated text messages
- The legislative committee failed to get the required three votes for a proclamation
- Discussion on the plastic bag ban postponed
The dysfunction of Sammamish City Council reached new levels over a proclamation in support of Senate Bill 5323 that calls for a state-wide plastic bag ban and a 5 cents tax for paper bags.
Plastic bag ban: a long-time controversial issue
The plastic bag ban has come before the previous city council on March 7, 2017. Several citizens voiced a different position on the bans, including the Sammamish Chamber of Commerce that supported the ban but opposed a tax on paper bags.
Then-Mayor Don Gerend directed the City Manager to schedule a study session and encouraged both pro and con groups to provide the city scientific evidence. The study session has not been scheduled and it has been sitting on the council’s long term calendar since.
Council Member Jason Ritchie is a supporter of the plastic bag ban and of SB 5323. His Facebook page shows several instances of paid posts supporting banning plastic bags. In December, Ritchie announced his plans to introduce a Sammamish plastic bag ban ordinance.
During the March 20 legislative committee meeting, Ritchie proposed that the full council discuss a proclamation in support of SB 5323. Council rules specify that adding an item to the preliminary agenda can be done by the support of three council members–which Ritchie did not have.
Nevertheless, the draft proclamation ended up on the April 2 council meeting’s agenda – not as a formal agenda bill but as an item related to Council Member Ramiro Valderrama’s report on the legislative committee meeting, circumventing council rules.
When the meeting got to the Draft Proclamation on SB 5323, Council Member Tom Hornish moved to table (postpone) any discussion to a later time. The council voted 4-3 in favor. Hornish’s motion was premature given that the Draft Proclamation was not a formal agenda item and Ritchie has not yet moved to propose it.
The council erupted in a long discussion on proper procedure, including the real-time reading of council rules, consulting with the City Attorney and City Manager about the proper procedure, and on a new motion by Ritchie to consider his proclamation as part of the agenda. The new motion appeared that it could have remedied the procedure breakdown. However, Ritchie withdrew it before the council had a chance to vote on it. Ritchie then moved to have the proclamation be discussed in a study session but no one seconded.
Ritchie accuses fellow council members; Malchow responds
Later that night, in an unpreceded move by a Sammamish Council Member, Ritchie posted the following message on his Facebook page and paid Facebook to promote it as an ad:
In response to Ritchie, Mayor Christie Malchow posted her own Facebook post, countering Ritchie’s:
“After that meeting it has been stated that 4 members attempted to stifle discussion, but that is not accurate as the topic was tabled (which means it will be discussed later) and it was tabled due to what most of us viewed as procedural error.Mayor Christie Malchow
The issue wasn’t raised at the time it was moved to table, rather that came later & then ultimately the motion to discuss it was withdrawn 𝒂𝒇𝒕𝒆𝒓 I turned the decision over 𝕥𝕠 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕓𝕠𝕕𝕪 𝕥𝕠 𝕕𝕖𝕔𝕚𝕕𝕖 on whether or not we should allow the topic to come forward
Again, the 𝒎𝒐𝒕𝒊𝒐𝒏 𝒕𝒐 𝒅𝒊𝒔𝒄𝒖𝒔𝒔 𝒘𝒂𝒔 𝒘𝒊𝒕𝒉𝒅𝒓𝒂𝒘𝒏 by the Councilmember that made it, so there wasn’t the opportunity to debate any subject matter.
In a written statement to the Comment, Ritchie disputed Malchow’s recollection of the events:
“I made a tabling motion at the end to bring back CM Ross’s motion on political speech and my plastic bag discussion to a later meeting, specifically our next study session, attempting to follow the Roberts Rules.”Council Member Jason Ritchie
Ritchie’s version-disputed motion can be seen here: https://youtu.be/sRpCcKf0TLs?t=3460
Ritchie’s withdrawal of his motion can be seen here: https://youtu.be/sRpCcKf0TLs?t=4272
Name calling and threats over text messages
A public records request filed by The Sammamish Comment reveals angry text messages the following morning between Ritchie and Council Member Chris Ross over Ritchie’s Facebook post:
When reached for comments, Ritchie pointed a finger at Ross, saying that “during our last meeting, espoused virulent and personally offensive views of myself and CM Stuart. He crossed a line and we are owed a personal apology”.
Both sides did not want a debate
The Comment obtained the audio recording of the March 20 Legislative Committee meeting, attended by Valderrama, Pam Stuart, and Ritchie. The recording reveals that indeed Ritchie sought support from the entire council to add his proclamation to the formal agenda – but didn’t receive such support, with the exception of Stuart.
Valderrama warned the others that the issue is controversial and reminded the committee of past discussions, where Sammamish citizens, some who claim to be experts on the subject, offered different opinions.
One of those citizens is Todd Myers, who is the Environmental Director of the Washington Policy Center. Myers opposes the plastic bag ban.
While Ritchie supported scheduling a study session, he opposed having Myers participate:
“I agree. Let’s have a conversation. Let’s bring in preferably not people partisans like Todd Myers. I don’t think that’s the right person, but I do think there are reasonable people on both sides that can see an issue and discuss it.“
Ritchie also insisted that the vote on the proclamation moves forward immediately before a study session – even though it was clear it has no chance to pass.
“Ramiro, I support the idea [of a study session], but I’m gonna press a little bit harder on the proclamation. I’d like to bring him to the floor before we get to the idea of a study session.”
Stuart voiced disdain to a study session on the subject: “if you can send me one article that says plastic is good for the environment than I’ll entertain [a study session].”
In the end, the three voted unanimously to recommend a study session on the subject and voted 2-1 to bring a draft proclamation to the council, with Valderrama dissenting.
In response to the Comment’s question on why insisting on bringing to a vote an issue that clearly didn’t have the support of even three council members, Ritchie told the Comment that he believed Malchow would be supportive of the plastic bag ban, to the extent that she placed the issue on the long term agenda’s “parking lot”.
Further reading: the full text of Ritchie’s comments to this article.