At today's Seattle City Council meeting, President Richard Conlin will introduce a bill that retroactively ratifies the city's decision to sue proponents of a ballot measure. And now Elizabeth Campbell, the leading defendant named in that lawsuit and the sponsor of Initiative 101, says Conlin has gone too far.
At noon, Campbell and members of Seattle Citizens Against the Tunnel will file a recall petition intended to extract Conlin from City Hall. Arguing that Conlin has overstepped his authority, the petitioners would need approximately 57,000 signatures to qualify for a citizen election, Campbell says, but that's manageable for a group that has already gathered move than 30,000 signatures to put a tunnel measure on the ballot.
"I am always serious about what I do," says Campbell.
But realistically, Washington State law sets a high threshold for recalling an elected officiall, requiring a petitioner to prove malfeasance or an illegal act.
Campell says Conlin crossed that line when he signed off on a Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the proposed deep-bore tunnel, which was arguably in the mayor's purview, and again when he requested that the city file a lawsuit to keep a tunnel referendum off the ballot. (A judge found earlier this month that neither the city attorney "nor does Mr. Conlin have the authority to authorize the lawsuit on behalf of the city..."). Campell is particularly irritated that Conlin has deferred taking council action on the tunnel initiative for weeks while the lawsuit remains unresolved. Meanwhile, Conlin was recently warned that he may have violated ethics rules by writing an anti-referendum blog post on the city's dime. The bill today, which is an attempt by Conlin to justify a lawsuit against Campell's initiative, was the final straw.
"At this point Conlin is apparently twirling out of control," Campbell says. "He is so obsessed with the tunnel that he's exceeding his authority."
But it's also unclear how many people are frustrated with Conlin—or even know who he is—particularly while Mayor Mike McGinn has been the favorite pinata of anti-bicycle activsts, downtown business lobbies, and the Seattle Times.
"If I was doing it against McGinn, I would probably have a lot easier time," Campbell says.