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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Why the City is Appealing I-87

Posted by on June 21 at 17:07 PM

But first, a little background.

Initiative 87, put forward by the Seattle teachers’ union, the Seattle Education Association, came about because the union failed to convince the Seattle City Council to write them a no-strings-attached check for $25 million a year. As I wrote late last year, most members of the council were “wary of getting involved in public education. Without more details (not to mention a funding plan that doesn’t suck up half the city’s [$55 million] surplus), ‘it’s just not going to happen,’ council member Peter Steinbrueck said.”

In other words, the council told them no. So they’re going to the voters. I-87 and its companion initiative, I-88, would raise property taxes and mandate that the revenues from higher taxes go toward reducing class sizes, providing all-day kindergarten, and restoring arts and music programs to all Seattle schools. All admirable goals. But…

City Attorney Tom Carr appealed the initiative two days ago, on the grounds that state law delegates city budgeting authority to cities, not voters. In other words, citizens are not allowed to write city budgets by initiative. In a statement, Carr said that while funding for schools is important, “so is funding for police officers, fire fighters, homeless services, library hours and the many other good things that our city does. The state legislature provided a specific process for making these tough choices. In that process, it did not include the use of the city initiative.”

Although I, unlike my colleague Josh, did support the $167 million Families and Education Levy, Carr’s argument against this levy-by-initiative seems solid. We hire a mayor and council members to do many complicated things; one of their duties is writing city budgets. The council opted not to write this open-ended check the first time. Why should the Seattle Education Association be able to use campaign ads to turn its loss at the council into a win at the polls?

CommentsRSS icon

because they can?

now, if we have a giant hole in our constitution that we think we should fix, someone should propose a constitutional amendment to fix it, and have it pass thru both the state house and senate and then go to a vote of the people.

but until then, legal is as legal does.

oh, and I would have posted a link to the Seattle Weekly blog (blogwash?), but they don't have comments enabled, nor do they have this story.


Tthe only giant hole in our constitution coming to mind for me at the moment is the provision for initiatives and referenda for any purpose. We should make representative democracy work better by closing the back door called "direct democracy" that undermines the legislative process and by doubling the pay of our legislators. Now that's one initiative I'd support!

Worse than Initiatives and Referrenda are the ballot measures like monorail, sound transit, etc. put out there that give them unlimited taxing rights that never can be pulled back even if the projects turn out to be overpriced, of marginal utility, and poorly executed. That is the aspect of "direct democracy" that is abused by a self-interested few to the great disadvantage of the many.

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