Opponent’s plastic bag ban repeal fails to qualify for ballot
July 31, 2012
By Warren Kagarise
The effort to repeal the Issaquah ban on most retail plastic bags did not qualify for the ballot, although the organizer behind the effort said the fight could continue.
The development came days after the city attorney declared the issue closed, after repeal organizers failed to gather enough signatures from Issaquah voters to force a repeal measure.
City officials had asked repeal organizer Craig Keller to provide at least 2,458 signatures for the measure to be sent to King County Elections for validation. Organizers submitted 2,178 signatures — including 124 names determined ineligible and crossed out before organizers submitted the petition sheets — to the city July 5.
But Keller cited a provision in state law that he said allowed the repeal effort another 10 days to gather signatures after the initial deadline. The city received 2,458 signatures from the repeal campaign July 20 — too late to send to the elections office, officials said.
City Attorney Wayne Tanaka said the signatures submitted then from Keller’s group, Save Our Choice, did not meet the threshold to send the signatures to King County Elections for validation.
The additional 10 days mentioned in state law apply “only if the initial petitions submitted within the correct time period have a total number of signatures equal to or in excess of the minimum,” Tanaka continued in a July 20 letter to Keller.
“In that case, the city would proceed to further validation to determine if the signatures were valid,” Tanaka continued. “After such check, if the number of valid signatures fell below the required minimum, then and only then would the petition circulators have an additional 10 days to collect additional signatures.”
Keller said Save Our Choice is pursuing a legal challenge against the city, although he did not offer specifics. Keller said city officials did not observe state law throughout the process.
Ordinance goes into effect next year
Meanwhile, city officials said the matter is closed, and notified the council about the petitions.
In a 5-2 decision, City Council members passed a plastic bag ban June 4 after gathering input at numerous public meetings. The ordinance goes into effect March 1, 2013.
Keller claimed the ban amounted to “nanny” legislation and set out to gather voter signatures to put the measure on the Nov. 6 ballot.
In addition to limiting most plastic bags, the legislation requires retail stores to collect 5 cents for each paper bag provided to customers. The fee is meant to help offset the changeover cost as retailers eliminate plastic bags.
The ordinance includes exemptions for numerous everyday uses, such as plastic bags to carry dry cleaning and newspapers.
Keller also led the unsuccessful effort to repeal the Seattle plastic bag ban. The ordinance in Seattle — a model for the Issaquah legislation — entered into effect last month.
“It was the same person who led the campaign to try repeal it in Seattle, so I feel like when he failed there — he isn’t an Issaquah resident — he just showed up in Issaquah solely for his own agenda,” said the lead plastic bag ban proponent, Issaquah Councilman Mark Mullet. “He’s not someone who lives here or represents the citizens here.”
Save Our Choice representatives canvassed neighborhoods throughout the city and solicited signatures at high-traffic shopping centers.
Mullet, a pizza restaurant owner in addition to a councilman, encountered a Save Our Choice representative at a resident’s door in the Issaquah Highlands as Mullet delivered a pizza.
“The information I heard him saying at the door was that the council was passing this without getting the voters involved,” he said. “Obviously, I thought that was completely false.”