Sammamish needs initiative ordinance
September 28, 2011
It is an unusual but easily fixed oversight. Sammamish citizens do not have the power to run ballot initiatives or referendums.
The City Council is beginning its review of how they might allow these powers. The process should be thorough, yet speedy. Sammamish citizens should have these rights.
Yes, both initiatives and referendums can be annoying to those who disagree with what’s in them. Yes, they can create conflicting priorities that make it difficult to govern. Yes, they can be used by a small but vocal minority as a means of protest when something doesn’t go their way.
Still the City Council needs to share its power with the citizens. In Sammamish, where there is no executive branch wielding a veto power over the City Council, these powers can act as the check and balance integral to a functioning democracy.
Initiatives and referendums have become a staple of government. They are permitted by the state, but must be formally adopted by each local government before citizens can use them. Sammamish has yet to do so.
The fact that no one has brought up the need for the new legislation generally speaks well of the City Council. People have likely not felt aggrieved enough to want to place something on the ballot in the past.
As members of the public brought up, there should be some safeguards in place to ensure that any petition drive is transparent — voters will want to know who is behind the measure, and who is funding the effort.
Councilwoman Nancy Whitten called for a citizen committee to review the idea. Why?
These are well-understood powers in effect for decades in cities across the state. It shouldn’t take much scrutiny to adopt the initiative or referendum legislation of other similar size cities. Let’s not reinvent it.
Not allowing these powers is an oversight (kudos to Sam Rodabough for catching it) that can and should be corrected quickly.
The council should take action on this measure without delay.