February 26, 2013
FRIGHTENING: Court outlaws local advisory votes -- even expressing an opinion is illegal now
Let me say at the outset that if the voters approve "PROTECT YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE ON INITIATIVES" I-517, it will override this frightening court decision. Current state law is vague and unclear as to how to treat local initiatives -- I-517 establishes a new and clear state law saying local initiatives (and state initiatives) that qualify for a vote are guaranteed a vote.
For years, the courts have said, based on the law as it exists today, that there are certain issues the people can decide by local initiative and certain issues they cannot (red-light cameras not OK, banning local casinos OK, banning coal trains not OK, etc).
But up to this point, advisory votes on issues have occurred and been permitted because they simply let the people express a non-binding opinion that the local government can ignore or accept. Since advisory votes don't interfere with local governments' legislative power, they've been OK ... until yesterday.
In Monday's ruling by the Division 1 Court of Appeals, the justices have outlawed local advisory votes as well. That means it is now illegal for citizens to even express an opinion on certain issues (ticketing cameras in this case but the ruling applies to any topic deemed off-limits). For all who believe in freedom of expression, this is a frightening ruling that must (and we hope will) be remedied with a change in state law.
In citizen testimony before the Senate Governmental Operations committee earlier this month, it was illustrated that local initiatives, both liberal and conservative, have been bullied off the ballot by local governments and other powerful interests. Initiative 517 and Senator Ann Rivers' bill Senate Bill 5347 prohibit such pre-election bullying and guarantee a vote on qualified initiatives. Both I-517 and SB 5347 create a new state law that says if an initiative turns in the required number of signatures in the required amount of time, the people get to vote on that initiative.
Background of the Monroe case: in 2011, local citizens -- led by a small, grassroots group in Monroe called Seeds of Liberty -- did a signature drive for Monroe Initiative #1 on red-light cameras (inspired by the success of a similar initiative in neighboring Mukilteo in 2010). After months of hard work by a handful of unpaid volunteers, they eventually succeeded and turned in more than enough signatures. Nearly 2/3 of active voters in Monroe signed the petitions. It easily qualified. The city didn't like it, not one bit. Eager to protect their profitable ticketing program and their own legislative power, Monroe Mayor Robert Zimmerman and the city council decided to sue this small grassroots group in order to block the vote. Local members of Seeds of Liberty were forced to "lawyer up" to defend themselves from the city's taxpayer-funded lawsuit. The city paid the very powerful Seattle law firm of Ogden, Murphy, Wallace to sue Seeds of Liberty (as of January 1, 2013, the city has spent $83,720.46 in attorneys' fees suing their own citizens). In legal briefs, not only did the city ask the court to block the people from voting on the initiative, but they also asked that, if the city prevailed, that Seeds of Liberty be forced to pay the city's attorneys fees in addition to their own. A Snohomish County Superior Court judge instead found that the city was guilty of filing a SLAPP -- Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation -- against its' citizens. He ordered the city to pay Seeds of Liberty's attorneys' fees and found the provision requiring non-binding advisory votes on the cameras was OK to vote on, but the binding portions of the initiative were not (requiring a binding vote of the people to authorize ticketing cameras and limiting ticket amounts). Even though they won, Seeds of Liberty, at this point disbanded due to the financial exposure of its members to the city's lawsuit, offered to settle the case for a reduced amount. The city rejected their settlement offer and instead appealed the ruling to the court of appeals, driving up legal costs for both sides.
Yesterday, all three justices agreed that even local non-binding advisory votes are not allowed either. That means it is illegal for citizens to even express an opinion on certain issues. The court of appeals reversed the lower court judge's ruling and so the local citizens are forced to pay their own attorneys fees, defending themselves from the city's lawsuit.
Showing the same amount of class he's displayed throughout this process, Monroe Mayor Robert Zimmerman crowed yesterday about the city's victory over its' citizens. As reported in today's Everett Herald: "In the statement, the mayor wrote that the ruling 'reiterates that outside parties cannot co-opt or hijack the city's legislative process in disregard of the law.'"
"Outside parties" are the 2/3 of active Monroe voters who signed petitions for Monroe Initiative #1 and the now-disbanded citizens group Seeds of Liberty.
"PROTECT YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE ON INITIATIVES" I-517, on the November ballot unless passed by the Legislature, contains a critical provision that ensures this never happens again. Section 4 of I-517 creates a new state law that reads:
GUARANTEEING THE PEOPLE'S RIGHT TO VOTE ON INITIATIVES THAT SUBMIT SUFFICIENT VALID VOTER SIGNATURES
NEW SECTION. Sec. 4. A new section is added to chapter 29A.72 RCW to read as follows:
Any state or local initiative for which sufficient valid voter signatures are submitted within the time period required must be submitted to a vote of the people at the next election date. The people are guaranteed the right to vote on any initiative that obtains the required number of valid voter signatures in the required time frame. Government officials, both elected and unelected, must facilitate and cannot obstruct the processing of any initiative petition and must facilitate and cannot obstruct the public vote of any initiative. For local initiatives, government officials must, in all circumstances, strictly comply with the requirements of this act for any initiative regardless of its subject matter. The term "local legislative authority" must be construed to include the people via local initiative regardless of the measure's subject matter. Citizens have just as much right with initiatives to vote on and decide public policy issues as government does. This section may not be construed in any way to impede the right to legal review of the sufficiency of valid voter signatures or post-election legal review; however, under no circumstances may an initiative be prohibited from submission to the people for a vote if sufficient valid voter signatures are submitted.
The bullying that happened in Monroe of a local initiative by its government was not an isolated incident. Here is the testimony of 9 local citizens who strongly support Initiative 517 because of their experiences sponsoring local initiatives that were blocked or attempted to be blocked from a public vote:
1) Stonewall Jackson "Stoney" Bird, Bellingham, No Coal! Initiative, 360-647-6696, firstname.lastname@example.org
"I never thought that I would support a Tim Eyman initiative -- I've never voted for one before -- but this one deserves the support of everyone in the state!" His complete statement is available upon request -- just ask and I'll email it to you.
2) Jared Karstetter, Edmonds, initiative to shrink size of King County Council, 206-396-9742, email@example.com
"For our initiative that had qualified for a vote, the Corrections Guild was forced to spend over $150,000 in attorneys fees to defend the people's right to vote on it." His complete statement is available upon request -- just ask and I'll email it to you.
3) Randy Elmore, Bellingham, LET THE VOTERS DECIDE ON RED-LIGHT CAMERAS IN BELLINGHAM, 360-303-1876, firstname.lastname@example.org "Our Bellingham initiative qualified. If I-517 had been the law then, we would not have been forced to waste precious time and money on lawyers fighting against powerful corporate lawyers defending the people's right to vote." His complete statement is available upon request -- just ask and I'll email it to you.
4) Larry Patella, Vancouver, 2013's Stop Light Rail Initiative and a 2001 initiative and a 2003 initiative, 360-750-0209, email@example.com
"Our initiative is the first one in 10 years. They don't happen often. But when they do, the law should require officials to let the people vote on initiatives that qualify." His complete statement is available upon request -- just ask and I'll email it to you.
5) Tim Sutinen, Longview, LET THE VOTERS DECIDE ON RED-LIGHT CAMERAS IN LONGVIEW, 360-270-5670, firstname.lastname@example.org
"It was sad to watch lawlessness by the same people who are supposed to be upholding the law. Our 17 year old son Josh, who had spent hundreds and hundreds of hours over the preceding months on this effort, was heartbroken and cried." His complete statement is available upon request -- just ask and I'll email it to you.
6) Stuart Avery, Renton library initiative, 425-894-2649, email@example.com "Since the landslide (mandate) results of the library vote, mysteriously all of the legal problems the city administration and majority council members claimed were the reasons the people petition was illegal, are now 'no problem'... Hmmm." His complete statement is available upon request -- just ask and I'll email it to you.
7) Beth Asher, Renton library initiative, 425.557.7770 ext. 7, firstname.lastname@example.org "Although the council 'did the right thing' in the end, only the threat of a lengthy civil rights suit changed their minds." His complete statement is available upon request -- just ask and I'll email it to you.
8) Matt Erickson, LET THE VOTERS DECIDE ON RED-LIGHT CAMERAS IN WENATCHEE, 360-601-7235, Matt@MonetaryLaws.com
"I and the other petition sponsors had no funds whatsoever to hire an attorney. Therefore, I was forced to make the difficult decision to either fight in court pro se or continue to collect petition signatures. I could not do both. So it was me, a hot dog vendor, against two government attorneys, two corporate attorneys, and one association attorney. In the end, I lost the case. Not only did the judge sign an order preventing the initiative from appearing on the ballot, his order prevented me from even turning in my signatures. Our city charter guarantees the right to initiative but without I-517, no Wenatchee citizen will ever have access to it." His complete statement is available upon request -- just ask and I'll email it to you.
9) Scott Harlan, Redmond, LET THE VOTERS DECIDE ON RED-LIGHT CAMERAS IN REDMOND, email@example.com
"We collected enough signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot (in 2011). The city received our signatures but rather than submit them to the county for validation as required by law, they stuffed them in the city vault to gather dust (they're still there nearly 2 years later). Our campaign had to engage a lawyer to defend itself and to appeal this extraordinarily unilateral decision. That appeal is currently in front of the state Court of Appeals and we are waiting for a decision." His complete statement is available upon request -- just ask and I'll email it to you.
Here are several others who are ready and willing to talk about their support for I-517 due to the troubles they had with their local initiatives:
10) Mike Wallin, Longview, LET THE VOTERS DECIDE ON RED-LIGHT CAMERAS IN LONGVIEW, 360-560-3636, firstname.lastname@example.org
11) Debbie Peterson, Vancouver, Stop Light Rail Initiative, 360-254-8785, email@example.com
12) Kevin Stoltz, Mukilteo Initiative #1 "Put City Hall Here," 425-344-1071, firstname.lastname@example.org, "I can't tell you what a relief it is to know there's an organized effort to right this wrong."
13) Lisa McShane, Bellingham, Mercury Initiative, "This is the first Eyman initiative I'll be voting for," McShane said.
14) Brian Kohn, Monroe, LET THE VOTERS DECIDE ON RED-LIGHT CAMERAS IN MONROE, 206-898-7431, email@example.com
15) Nick & Tiffany Sherwood, BANCAMS.COM, 253-261-3998, firstname.lastname@example.org
16) Johnny Weaver, Bellingham, LET THE VOTERS DECIDE ON RED-LIGHT CAMERAS IN BELLINGHAM, 817-713-6880, email@example.com
The most important thing that I-517 does is it ensures that initiatives that turn in the required number of signatures in the required amount of time get put to a vote.
Regards, Tim Eyman, firstname.lastname@example.org, 509-991-5295
More here at our website.
Posted by Tim Eyman at February 26, 2013
05:50 AM | Email This
1. What's the problem? Just shoot them out.
2. Ivan: You are so infantile! Nobody wants to "shoot anyone out" except maybe you.
3. And by way of clarification, I mean maybe you are the one who wants to "shoot" someone, since that was your immediate response.
My dear Katomar:
There are remedial reading classes widely available for adults, even for retarded adults. I wasn't suggesting shooting anyONE, but the red light cameras. What's a little civil disobedience, when our liberties are at stake?
5. Ivan: Perhaps your reading comprehension could use some work too! The subject was not red light cameras per se, but the legal right to use the initiative process in the state of Washington.
I wasn't suggesting shooting anyONE, but the red light cameras. What's a little civil disobedience, when our liberties are at stake?
Posted by ivan at February 26, 2013 09:10 AM
Your Democrat party are the ones who predominantly back up the red light cameras - as they comprise a majority of those city councils. You are sounding like a conservative or maybe you just had a senior moment.
Tim, don't you get the irony here? In 2006 a judge blocked an initiative that declared "Tim Eyman is a Horse's Ass"
. The reason: it was "outside the power given the people".
You are wrong to say "it is illegal for citizens to even express an opinion on certain issues". Citizens just can't use the initiative process to express opinions, because our constitution intends the initiative process to be for making laws (according to the people charged with interpreting the consitution) -- RESPONSE FROM EYMAN: the Monroe initiative created a law that required advisory votes on cameras.
Similarly, my cat can't run for president, even if he gets enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. The presidential election isn't intended to let us express our opinions about cats, and the initiative process isn't intended to let us express our opinions about things we don't get to vote on.
Your new initiative, I-517, seems unconstitutional to me;
RESPONSE FROM EYMAN: local initiatives are subject to state law, not the state Constitution and I-517 creates a state law that allows voters to vote on local initiatives that collect the required number of signatures in the required amount of time.
if you want to change the constitution, you need to pass a constitutional amendment, not a law. But of course a law is easier, and even if it has no effect, it still keeps you employed for a while. Anyway, I can see the attraction of creating a class of initiatives that let the people express non-binding opinions. But it's an awfully expensive way to run a democracy.
RESPONSE FROM EYMAN: local initiatives are very rare so we're not talking about a vote on everything just on those issues where the local citizenry collects the required number of signatures in the required amount of time as required by current law.
People already get to vote for elected officials, write letters, make phone calls, send emails, write blogs, etc. And their views on major issues are pretty well known through polls. Forcing taxpayers to pay for votes on non-binding opinions, especially in a time of economic challenge, seems like an inefficient way to run society.
RESPONSE FROM EYMAN: interesting that for some being fiscally frugal is limiting the people's right to vote on initiatives; excessive government spending? that's totally fine.
It's ironic that you, who claims to want a smaller, more efficient government, would want to allow this new category of expense. Then again, initiatives are your livelihood.
RESPONSE FROM EYMAN: initiatives are very strongly supported by the people and we hope they recognize the assault that it's under right now by the vagueness of current law with regard to local initiatives and will welcome the chance to create a clear state law that requires a vote on initiatives that collect the required number of signatures in the required amount of time
KDS @ 6:
Opposition to the surveillance state is not a partisan issue, and nothing you say or think or feel will make it one. Large segments of both parties come down on both sides of this issue. Some of the most liberal and the most conservative members of the House in Olympia have teamed up on a bill that would restrict spy cameras severely.
"PROTECT YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE ON INITIATIVES"
Yes, otherwise known as the "Horse's Ass" initiative. Maybe we can finally put that one to a vote.
Tim, regarding the responses that you inserted in my comment #7:
I will assume you're right that local initiatives are defined in state law rather than the state constitution. In that case, your proposed I-517 would be constitutional. I still think it's a dumb use of public funds to hold an initiative just to get a nonbinding opinion from the voters.
RESPONSE FROM EYMAN: the vote will be taken on a qualified initiative and it will be binding (just like a state initiative) unless opponents choose to challenge it in court and convince a judge the initiative was illegal.
You say "initiatives are very strongly supported by the people" but I doubt that voters very strongly support an initiative that doesn't actually accomplish what it says it will accomplish. If the initiative were worded to say it's a nonbinding opinion, at least it would be honest.
RESPONSE FROM EYMAN: I-517 allows votes on qualified initiatives (see above) -- it's what it does.
Of course no one likes "excessive government spending". People just don't agree on what is excessive. Anyway, how does wasting money on expensive nonbinding opinion polls solve excessive government spending?
RESPONSE FROM EYMAN: the point is some people, maybe you're not one of them, only seem to complain about the costs of people voting rather than government spending. The cost of letting the people vote in miniscule when weighed against the benefit of the people having the right to vote on local initiatives on issues that local citizens care enough about to collect the required number of signatures in the required amount of time.
Geez, Tim, if you can't interpret a court decision then hire someone who can. You make it sound like this decision restricts free speech. It doesn't. It's nothing more than a statutory interpretation of an RCW that, according to the court, delegates authority to set up red-light cameras to municipalities in a manner that preempts local initiatives. All the court said is the initiative is invalid. They didn't take away your soapbox. You can still rail against red-light cameras all you want to! You also have the option of trying to change the state law by initiative.
RESPONSE FROM EYMAN: changing state law is exactly what I-517 does. It creates a state law that clearly allows the people to vote on local initiatives that collect the required number of signatures in the required amount of time.
interestingly, local initiatives are twice as difficult -- state initiatives require 8% of active voters to qualify, local initiatives require 15%+. if a local initiative qualifies, it's because ALOT of local citizens care about that issue and deserve a vote on it (again, if it qualifies).
How about an initiative renaming the 520 bridge to the
Tim Eyman Toll Bridge?
13. @11 That's fine, Tim, and I might even vote for it. But this court decision did NOT make expressing an opinion illegal. It said nothing more than a local initiative can't overrule a municipal legislative body on this specific issue.
How about an initiative renaming the 520 bridge to the Tim Eyman Toll Bridge?
Posted by MikeBoyScout at February 26, 2013 07:54 PM
Why ? That makes absolutely no sense.
First off, I am neutral on the new initiative Tim mentions. I am not sure it is needed, but also not sure what harm it may do, also. I will give this one time to digest. <Opinion>Most likely, though, since Tim's name is attached, I will be voting no, even if it is a good idea. Tim, you have blown your credibility (at least with me) regarding initiatives and by having your name attached may cause people to vote against initiatives whether they are good ideas or not. </Opinion>
Second, I do not like the trend Tim is setting regarding comments, where he in-lines the response. It is hard to determine for sure which are responses and which are original text. I think it is better, Tim, to have a separate comment back and quote the original text your are referring to. Also, you can use the <i>italics</i> HTML tag to set off quoted material.
16. I don't believe this restriction of posting on topics is helping this blog. lo siento mucho! :(
Tim@10 writes: "The cost of letting the people vote in miniscule when weighed against the benefit of the people having the right to vote on local initiatives on issues that local citizens care enough about to collect the required number of signatures in the required amount of time."
What precisely is that benefit -- which you claim is much greater than the substantial public cost -- if we already know that the initiative will not do what it says it will do (e.g., ban red-light cameras)?
RESPONSE FROM EYMAN: in the cities we did initiatives, we forced a vote and in those cities, officials got the message and got rid of them (Bellingham, Longview, Mukilteo, Redmond, and Monroe in July). The benefit of the vote is the people's voice is heard and officials ignore that vote at their own electoral peril.
The only thing frightening is that anyone is expecting Puget Sound leadership to solve problems or offer any real value beyond enriching their own coffers. It iss hard to name any big spend that has been a real success or moved the needle on any major issue facing Puget Sound.
For example, I-5 traffic is pretty much the same as it has always been despite billions spent on new interchanges, light rail and those fancy connected LED speed limit signs. The new 18 flyover to I-5 South backs up almost as bad as it ever did when it was a cloverleaf, although does improve Southbound I-5 slightly, only to come to a standstill again in Fife because lane cutoffs are the ultimate issue, just like Northbound as one approaches downtown Seattle. Funnels do not work. And Northbound, the I-5 off ramp to 18 has not changed, and backs up like it always has. Millions spent for little change.
And it goes like this with nearly everything. On a positive note, the new Nalley Valley crossing Westbound and flyover does appear to have removed most of the backup on I-5 South, and alleviated it a little going North, but it still backs up to 56th or so often. And it is much safer now.
About the only really good project that really moved the needle was creating a new Tacoma Narrows second span. That eliminated that bottle neck entirely. But that is being funded by actual users of the bridge, as opposed to the entire light rail disaster which has done nearly nothing to alleviate traffic or improve anything, but that we all pay for regardless of whether we use it or even know anyone who uses it.
Just keep voting Democrat for more billions spent for almost immeasurable gains.
19. Most likely, though, since Tim's name is attached, I will be voting no [on the initiative], even if it is a good idea.~ tc
Way to put those critical thinking skills to use, tc. You're almost living up to Pres. Obama's standards of how to run gov't.
i.e., focus on being the problem and not part of the solution.
20. Suck it, Eyman! And suck it, the rest of you Tea Party droolers. The Supreme Court just handed you your ass.
Ivan, be nice. Now Tim will probably try to make the change the constitutional way, via an amendment, and he may succeed -- who likes taxes? And an amendment would be harder to change or override than a law.
Anyway, it's all good for Tim. If the 520 bridge builders make a mistake, they rightfully get pilloried, but if Eyman makes a mistake, he gets paid to do the job a second time, because his funders will do anything to keep their taxes low.
No Constitutional amendment will get a 2/3 vote in either house, and Inslee is not the gutless Gary Locke; he wouldn't sign it.
RESPONSE FROM EYMAN: constitutional amendments don't require a governor's signature, it's just the legislature and the voters that must approve it.
The right-wing morons who infest this blog need to understand two things. (1) There is no free lunch. You want good schools, good roads, good bridges, a good infrastructure that helps businesses to operate and prosper and create jobs, and a social safety net that treats people like human beings, pay for it, or get the hell out of here. (2) Eyman knew this was unconstitutional, and he did it anyway to make money. In other words, he took all you retards for a ride, and he'll do it again, if you're dumb enough to let him. I'm betting that you are, and that he will.
Go suck on a lemon, Ivan. Repeat your tirade to your statist emperor Nero on Steroids Obama. He does not care about decreasing our deficit nor improving infrastructure and no it is not all the Republicans fault - maybe part, the Democrats get more blame because they control 2/3 of the Exec and Legislative branch. He is all about demagoguery and bulls**t with no solutions that will help the common people.
You are dead wrong - there are too damn many free lunches in the form of Food Stamps, Disability from this corrupt tail wagging the dog White House. Your party is running this country into the ground !
Eyman was off the rails here as he goes periodically, but that is very small potatoes compared to what is happening in our Federal Government. Try taking your head out of the sand for a change and pay attention to the real picture, instead of your alternate universe, then maybe there can be a dialogue - when pigs fly ?
24. Micks hiding under the blessed Margarets skirt ! He still says though " yooose are aw still cheats " ...... Mick only joking mate ! But on a serious note there is still time to save yourself ... do it Mick go on , go on , come over to the enlightened side , leave the dark side Mick , come on , don't listen to them look at the myths , half truths and fairytales they have told you , Mick there's still time ... save yourself Mick .... before it's too late .