Sammamish to consider allowing citizens powers of referendum, initiative

September 21, 2011

By Ari Cetron

New: Sept. 21, 1: 18 p.m.

Sammamish’s City Council has done generally alright so far, according to Sam Rodabough, but that might not always be the case.

“There may come a day when the council takes an action out of step with the community,” Rodabough told the City Council at its Sept. 19 meeting.

He argued that the solution to that would be to allow the powers of initiative and referendum within the city.

An initiative is a petition-driven measure by which citizens can have a proposed new law placed on the ballot for the citizens to decide. A referendum, also petition-driven, can be used to overturn the actions of the City Council.

The state allows localities to have these powers, but they must first be adopted by the City Council. According to Rodabough, most of the city’s neighbors have already done so, but Sammamish has not.

“The city of Sammamish is the doughnut hole of direct democracy on the Eastside,” he said.

Residents from across the political spectrum came to support Rodabough’s idea, at least in broad terms.

Woody Herzog, of the Issaquah-Sammamish Tea Party said his group had unanimous support in recommending the measure.

Frank Blau, who said his own political leanings were about as far from the tea party as could be, was also in support of the idea.

Blau suggested that the powers be adopted with mandated transparency. He said that people circulating a petition should not be permitted to change the wording after someone signs it, and that the sponsors should be clearly disclosed. He also suggested that a clear system for checking abuses be put in place.

The council agreed that the idea needs discussion.

City Manager Ben Yazici said the city attorney was going to begin researching what, if any, safeguards such as those suggested by Blau, can be put in place. Once the city attorney has completed the study of how such a process might be implemented, Yazici said he will bring it to the council for further study.

Councilwoman Nancy Whitten suggested the council might want to send the idea to the Planning Commission for review. She acknowledged that the commission is generally tasked with studying land use, and that this is in no way land use, but thought the idea could use an extra layer of review and comment. If not the Planning Commission, Whitten suggested setting up a citizen commission.

Yazici said that once all the facts are on the table, it will be for the council to decide how to proceed.

Editor Ari Cetron can be reached at 392-634, ext. 233, or samrev@isspress.com.

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