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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Feel Misled by Lying Anti-Bag Fee Petitioners?

posted by on August 27 at 16:18 PM

I just received an email from Council Member Tom Rasmussen informing me that the city’s getting numerous complaints about signature gatherers for the city’s Referendum 1 campaign—the campaign to remove the 20-cent tax on disposable plastic and paper bags the city passed last month. Reportedly, petition gatherers are telling voters that the referendum would actually support a tax on plastic bags—that is, the tax that already exists—which is exactly the opposite of what the referendum would do.

If you were misled about the intent of Referendum 1 (not to be confused with Proposition 1, the Sound Transit ballot measure, also on the November ballot) and want to get your name removed from the petition, contact city clerk Judith Pippin. She can be reached by email, by fax at 206-386-9025 (if emailing or faxing, be sure to include a document, like a PDF, with an image of your actual signature) or by mail at PO Box 94728 Seattle, WA 98124-4728. Do it soon, because Pippin estimates the last day to withdraw a signature will be sometime early next week; the American Chemistry Council-funded campaign turned in 20,3000 signatures, or about 6,000 more than they needed.

RSS icon Comments



This is why I never sign sidewalk petitions.

Posted by Todd | August 27, 2008 4:22 PM


Like most Seattleites, I'm glad they p0wned you.

Posted by Will in Seattle | August 27, 2008 4:22 PM

Oh please. So many people wanted to sign this that at the very worst 1% of 1% of the signatures may have been by individuals who were misled or otherwise didn't know what they were signing.

When the bag fee repeal passes at the polls by a handy margin, will you give up on this sour-grapes BS or what?

Posted by Mr. X | August 27, 2008 4:33 PM

Are there any repercussions in the event signature gatherers deceived people in signing?

Posted by Dougsf | August 27, 2008 4:41 PM

The signature-solicitors in my neighborhood were two early-20-something African-American men in shirts and ties at a table outside the Red Apple grocery on 23rd. The front of their table was inexplicably but tantalizingly decorated with red white and blue Obama posters.

I don't doubt that early-20-somethings are incapable of being motivated to action by the bag-fee repeal, but the whole thing stank of hourly wages and deceptive set design.

Posted by David Schmader | August 27, 2008 4:47 PM

In Seattle? Repercussions? Are you kidding? The council will probably pass a nonbinding resolution in favor of honest dealing.

They SHOULD throw the signatures out. It's pretty obvious they're misleading people.

Posted by Fnarf | August 27, 2008 4:48 PM

What's misleading is the idea that this bag tax could be affordable. That's ridiculous: at 20 cents per bag, that works out to a dollar every 5 bags. Outrageous. And for what? So we can feel better when homeless people push around carts full of canvas totes. That's hardly an improvement.

There's some great information about the plastic bag fee online at

Check it out and join the plastic industry's campaign for working class tax relief.

Posted by Plasticman | August 27, 2008 4:57 PM

Gee, maybe you should read something before signing it.

I knew EXACTLY what I was signing. I went out and looked around for the guys after hearing they were out there.

So, Fnarf, please don't throw out my signature.

What, 80% of Seattle residents were against this? How is it a surprise they got more than twice the required signatures?

I will laugh so hard when it's repealed. SO F-ING HARD.

Next time you want to impose your little nanny state restrictions on the rest of us, raise taxes, and create new government bureaucracy (new full time positions just to enforce this?), TRY ASKING THE PEOPLE FIRST.


My only regret is the repeal measure is not named after Eric C*NT Barrnett. The" F-ECB Give me a bag for my stuff please" would have been a better name.

Thanks for trying, no bag people. Better luck next time!

Posted by blame who? | August 27, 2008 4:59 PM

@8: True dat.

Posted by hohoho green giant | August 27, 2008 5:01 PM


Posted by kris | August 27, 2008 5:03 PM

Look, I oppose the bag tax too. But if you're so sure you're going to get it repealed, you should maybe not rely on lying to people when you gather your signatures. We've heard reliable reports from people that they were lied to. That invalidates the whole process.

Posted by Fnarf | August 27, 2008 5:04 PM


A few people saying they were misled invalidates the whole process? Utter nonsense, both from a practical as well as a legal standpoint.

Posted by Mr. X | August 27, 2008 5:25 PM

Yeah, the tax is stupid. If the city really wanted people to not use plastic bags they would charge $5 a bag or better yet, just ban them outright. It is a stupid Nickle and dime tax that is hurting small business and hurting us all in the long run (against globalization? then support small business any way you can.) Silly, silly, silly Seattleites. Stop seeing things in black and white, dem vs. repub, liberal vs. conservative and maybe you will regain your common sense.

Posted by smp | August 27, 2008 5:28 PM

Let's just do the math from a shopping trip to Fred Meyer I did last night.

Ended up with 30 plastic bags to clean up dog poo and line my garbage cans with.

At 20 cents a bag, that's $3.00 MIDDLE AND LOWER CLASS TAX you want to impose on me.

Nuh uh.

Go tax parking instead.

Or ... let's impose a $1000 tax on Incumbent City Council Members Who Try To Get The Public To Pay THIER Fines!

Posted by Will in Seattle | August 27, 2008 5:30 PM


They actually get paid by the signature. And lots of Democrats oppose this fee, so spare us the usual "if you disagree with the Stranger agenda you are a Republican" crapola.

Posted by Mr. X | August 27, 2008 5:32 PM

I absolutely love how freaked the Stranger is about this referendum getting on the ballot.

"People voting on a new tax?! B-B-B-but that's not fair!"

Posted by burgin99 | August 27, 2008 5:35 PM

paid by the signature and they potentially lied to get more signatures? but why would they do that? i mean, what do they have to gain?

Posted by infrequent | August 27, 2008 5:37 PM

i don't know if put to a vote the bag tax would pass or not. some of you people seem really confident. but as fnarf says, if there are so many people, why lie to get signatures. it stinks. and if the person explaining it to you lies it doesn't matter if you read it... the spin is effective.

they are not asking for all signatures to be thrown out, just those that are contested via a process few will actually follow.

because of that, yes, i think the entire results should be thrown out. i'm still hoping the tax is approved with a vote, though. i'm not sure all you anti-bag taxers are right about how many agree with you... and having to lie to get signatures doesn't really back up your story.

and fnarf! what will it take to convince you? look at the people who are against this! do you want to be grouped with them? okay, that's not fair, or an effective argument, i know. i know...

Posted by infrequent | August 27, 2008 5:42 PM


If 80% of Seattle is selfish Republican asswipes, how does our liberal city council keep getting re-elected? Your thinking doesn't add up. If this 80% is about to show up at the polls in November, why don't they throw the council out? Does not add up, does it?

And I don't think this bag tax is worth opposing or supporting, considering how little effect bags have. Now if they wanted to ban plastic bottles, I'd be nanny stating right up your ass, you betcha.

Posted by elenchos | August 27, 2008 5:44 PM

Grow up, ECB.

What's the news value in endlessly "exposing" that a plastics interest group is funding the petition drive against added fees on its product and livelihood? Why aren't you equally hot and bothered enough to break the news that construction trades very logically employ fulltime lobbyists to promote Sound Transit contracts for their own benefit? How about cramming your panties up your butt about Vulcan's army of paid lobbyists behind all the ripoff schemes for hundreds of millions in direct taxpayer subsidies for Paul Allen's private interests -- say, for the deceptive ad campaign that rigged up petitions for a statewide special election to ensure that taxpayers paid for most of Paul Allen's (not the public's) Seahawks stadium.?

Posted by Kaypro | August 27, 2008 5:45 PM

Is that Plasticman website satire? If so, it's pretty funny.

I agree that tax is a bit silly. Not the End Times scenario some of these comments are making it out to be, but a little dumb still. If the city doesn't want them, just ban them.

And seriously #8, if a plastic bag tax is all it takes for you to call a woman a cunt, you've got some shit to work out.

Posted by Dougsf | August 27, 2008 5:54 PM

Go go voters! Why do you goddamn duck-squeezers have such a problem with the people voting on an issue? If you think that people believe in your cause, why do you care if it's on the ballot?

Oh right beacuse you'll fucking LOSE.

Posted by Jimmy J | August 27, 2008 5:55 PM


The City of Seattle did that poll, and then disregarded the results. Now they get to reap the whirlwind.

If circus animals and a parking lot for Rick's lost Heidi Wills and Judy Nicastro their jobs, who's to say that this issue - which simply embodies a growing discontent among many Seattle residents about a number of decisions the Council has made that squeeze working and middle class households - may not still resonate next year?

This brings us back to my previous point - lots and lots of Democrats oppose the bag fee, not just the 30% or so of the Seattle voters who are Republicans.

Posted by Mr. X | August 27, 2008 5:56 PM

...upon second thought, knock the number of Republicans in Seattle down to 20-25%. Still, that just means that even more Dems were part of the 80% that were polled who opposed the bag fee...

Posted by Mr. X | August 27, 2008 6:00 PM


What, 80% of Seattle residents were against this?

Some proof, please. Council members got nothing but support when the law was first proposed.

How is it a surprise they got more than twice the required signatures?

Oh wait, you're just a moron:

American Chemistry Council-funded campaign turned in 20,3000 signatures, or about 6,000 more than they needed

My bad.

Posted by keshmeshi | August 27, 2008 6:01 PM


We're just lucky ECB was evidently on vacation when all of the small restaurants who will be impacted by this (in my opinion, more so than grocery stores) ran full page ads for a couple of weeks in the NW Asian Weekly. We're talking a 20-megaton conniption fit, here...

Posted by Mr. X | August 27, 2008 6:03 PM


And yet council members got no complaints while they were considering the proposal. Apparently, most people don't give much of a fuck one way or another. Why do you care so much about something that is so unimportant? And, if you do care so much, why are you here and not marching in the streets against the evils of a 20-cent tax?

Posted by keshmeshi | August 27, 2008 6:06 PM


From Danny Westneat 7/9/2008-

"That's what you suggested, in a poll the city did last winter. By 67 to 32 percent, people said "no fees on bags." By 87 to 11 percent, you said "try having stores do this voluntarily."

Bag fee supporters who attended public hearings and lobbied for this proposal were basically a well-to-do bunch with time on their hands. The poor and working class folks who will (and they WILL) feel the impact of this fee, not so much.

See ya at the polls!

Posted by Mr. X | August 27, 2008 6:11 PM

Moochin' war widows...

Posted by gillsans | August 27, 2008 6:16 PM


I want to see that poll. I want to see the question and the answers. Westneat goes way to far on goodwill, handwaving, and credit, in my opinion.

But then again, Mr. X, if you get spanked at the polls, will you get a clue and fuck off? Or make more excuses?

I still don't actually care about this bullshit.

Posted by elenchos | August 27, 2008 6:20 PM

BTW - I'm working class and I don't care that they banned plastic bags where I live. If they taxed them, it technically wouldn't make a difference to my bottom line, since I don't get any plastic bags for free regardless. Adding a tax seems a bit passive aggressive though ("SURE you can have ALL the plastic bags you want, but you're going to get charged for them."), there's certainly better solutions than a tax.

Mr. X, is your complaint that you can't get plastic bags for free, or that you think the stores should make their own policy? What solution do you recommend to curtail this waste?

Posted by Dougsf | August 27, 2008 6:57 PM


If the fee is upheld by a public vote, I will gleefully STFU. Hell, I'll STFU after it's overturned.


Despite what supporters say, this will in fact cost a significant number of people an amount of money that is significant to them. The first group quoted in opposition, you might recall, were the good people at Solid Ground, who know that this will cost poor people (say, who ride the bus, and realize they need milk for the kids but forgot a bag. There are real people in the real world for whom the $1.50 for a quart of milk is a significant cost, and adding .20 to it actually matters to them) more that those of us who have the luxury of leaving a bunch of bags in our car do.

As a practical matter, I recycle plastic bags or use them as garbage bag liners, so I find it ironic that I'll be put in the position of needing to buy garbage bags, but that's not going to be a big economic hardship to me. I will wind up paying occasionally for to-go bags in restaurants, I suppose, along with that obscene stadium sales tax they add on. I can't say I'm thrilled about that, and most of the restaurant owners and staff I've talked to sure aren't.

For me, it is more that this is just the latest of a lot of feel-good high-handed BS that is coming down from our local elected officials had has the real day-to-day effect of making life for working people in Seattle more onerous and expensive.

It's the .20 cent straw that broke the camel's back, if you will. And I'm far from the only person who feels this way - including a lot of longtime Democratic party types and others who aren't anti-tax Republicans by any stretch of the imagination.

Posted by Mr. X | August 27, 2008 8:25 PM

@31... Right on.

WIS @ 14... Uh, is that 'Canadian Math' you're using?

BTW... 30 bags for a trip to Fred Meyer? WTF you shopping for that needs 30 bags?

You want that extra wrapping for each item to protect them from what?

(Wait... I don't want to know the answer to that.)

Posted by drewl | August 27, 2008 10:30 PM

For every person who says they were mislead into signing this petition, I will go and recruit five signatures of people who don't like the tax.

For free, even.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | August 28, 2008 12:54 AM

ECB, do you really think that the evil chemists have devised a scheme to get Seattleites to sign a petition thinking it's for MORE taxes, while they're unwittingly signing a petition that actually LOWERS taxes? Was this outside of some hash bar or something?

There must be a law. What did the police report after confronting these hooligans? I never got the alert from Rasmussen; I wish you had printed more details.

BTW, as the ordinance says over and over again, "Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to deem any fees required under this chapter to be a tax." Maybe they should have an ordinance abolishing the use or possession of the word "tax" in Seattle. Hell, I'd sign that one, too.

Posted by Colleen | August 28, 2008 3:00 AM

To those who think that they have a right to throw out the signatures, I really hope you understand the significance of what you are suggesting. You are suggesting that a referendum based on thousands of voters who signed a legal document is thrown out because there is a possibility that some of those who signed the petition failed to read it before signing. It does not matter if the petitioners were promising free candy and puppies, if you sign a legal document without reading it, you have to pay the consequences. If this referendum is thrown out, any initiative or referendum could be thrown out.

But let's not pretend that this is some subversion of the democratic system if signatures are validated. The worst thing that could happen is that it will go to a vote. The purpose of the referendum is to determine if an issue has enough public interest to justify the costs of putting it up for a vote. The petitions themselves don't decide that. I have signed many petitions that I have opposed because I have felt that the issues discussed were important enough to justify being voted on. I certainly think that the bag fee issue has sparked enough interest that it deserves a vote. There is nothing wrong with that at all.

Posted by bzishi | August 28, 2008 5:09 AM

Ugg. Word swap: "The purpose of the *petitions* is to determine if an issue has enough public interest to justify the costs of putting it up for a vote."

Posted by bzishi | August 28, 2008 5:12 AM

citizen initiatives can GFY. they are such a waste of time and effort. representative democracy get rid of those initiatives.

hopefully, if it is overturned, the council will just turn around and ban the bags outright.

Posted by blah blah blah | August 28, 2008 8:17 AM


You can thank citizen initiatives for the fact(s) that Pike Place Market wasn't replaced by a parking garage and office towers and the RH Thompson and Bay Freeways were not built.

Posted by Direct Democracy rocks! | August 28, 2008 11:24 AM

How much do you want to bet that both Plasticman and Mr. X work for the plastics industry and are getting paid for their BS rants right now?

Posted by ecogal | August 28, 2008 12:54 PM

@ecogal: Mr. X may work for the plastic industry, I dunno, I don't recognize his name. But I, theplasticman, have hardly hidden my agenda or who I represent. The name of my website is "Plastic Bag Makers for More Plastic Bags." There's no need for conspiracy mongering about a hidden agenda when the agenda of the plastics industry is in plain view, from setting up websites to helping finance signature gathering.

We in the plastics field have interests at stake here, and it's our job to represent those interests. That's how democracy works. If you don't like it, go declare your tree-sit a sovereign territory or something.

For the facts, visit

Posted by the plasticman | August 28, 2008 2:25 PM


You are so wrong it boggles the mind.

I suppose the 67% of Seattleites who opposed the fee outright and the 87% of Seattleites who thought voluntary measures should be tried first were all just evil industry flacks too.

(and elenchnos, that poll was commissioned by the City to vet an idea that the City itself supported, so trashing the results because you assert that it must have been a push poll doesn't exactly wash).

Posted by Mr. X | August 28, 2008 3:07 PM

Does the Stranger really think we shouldn't even be allowed to vote on the bag tax? So those of us who think it's a bad idea should just, what, go jump in the Sound?

Posted by Stinky | August 28, 2008 5:43 PM

Hey bitter environmentalists, I collected 1000 signatures. This was the easiest petition to collect since the lap dance referendum. I am sick and tired of people who assume that because they have an opinion it must right or corect and if someone else disagrees they must be wrong and shouldn't be heard. The Keith Olbermann syndrome. This belief is so fascist. Get out of your frickin bubble. I heard that I dont sign petitions, that it is why we elect representatives.

First of all the Bill of Rights allows us to dissent and in the FIRST AMENDMENT "Congress shall make no law...abridging...the right of the petition the Government for a redress of grievances." So the 20,300 signatures are people exercising thier first amendment rights to dissent from thier elected government and to have thier grievances heard in public through a vote.
Now why is this so wrong?

I guarantee you that in every petition collected someone will be misled or confused. Nothing is perfect. When people vote there will be those who will be misled or confused by politicians. If it was willfull and callous then it is criminal and those should be punished. With so many people asking to sign and with so much publicity it wasnt hard to explain. I mean if you see someone with reusable bags then about 90% didnt sign. If someone was using plastic or paper disposable bags, then about 75% signed. So how confusing could it be. Not a hard sell at all. Just sour grapes by environmentalists. Effectively a signature on the petition states you want a public vote on the ordinance. Technically your view could be of either side. Some people I came across believed the ordinance and were open minded to have a public vote since everyone in the city will be affected by the fee. From children to the elderly, from poor to rich.
I use reusable bags however I think 20 cents is punishment for forgetting your reusable bags. I think 5 cents would achieve the same goal. The ordinace is too anal.

When people asked who paid, I wasnt afraid to say "the Plastics and Chemical Industry, that's rather obvious" Most wouldnt sign because I knew those are loaded questions trying to bait you to feel "guilty". You know the strip bars paid for the strip bar referedum and guess what 65 percent of the people agreed with them. Planned Parenthood makes millions off performing abortions, does that make liberals less inclined to support pro choice causes.
The referendum process occurs because politicians who are out of touch with thier constituents who elected them do not represents thier views. So an avenue was created WHEN THE GOVERNMENT cannot or will not legislate in the interest of the
people. The people have the right to take the legislative process into thier own
Without this right the people can only suffer oppression,
supression or revolution....

Posted by I collected 1000 signatures | August 30, 2008 5:48 PM


" So the 20,300 signatures are people exercising thier first amendment rights to dissent from thier elected government and to have thier grievances heard in public through a vote.
Now why is this so wrong?"

It is wrong because not everyone who signed was accurately told what it was going to be used for. I am sure you did a great job of being clear, but not everyone gathering signatures was like you. I strongly support the bag fee, and I signed the petition because the signature gatherer I spoke to convinced me that the only way to get the bag fee was to put it on the ballot, even after I mentioned that I thought the proposal had passed through the city.

"I guarantee you that in every petition collected someone will be misled or confused. Nothing is perfect."

You are absolutely right. So the question becomes: exactly how many people were mislead or confused by unclear language, and was it more than usual? One percent of people signing? Ten percent? Until we know that, we simply do not know how many of those 20,300 people actually supported the bag fee.

If as many as 30% of people who signed thought they were supporting the bag fee, then whether they were intentionally mislead or not, the petition's validity is questionable. So, was it that high? How do we find out?

Posted by sorry I signed | September 2, 2008 3:21 PM

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