Plastic bag ban appeal gets enough signatures
September 10, 2013
By Peter Clark
An appeal to the Issaquah bag ban is now in King County’s hands.
Save Our Choice, a volunteer organization working throughout the Seattle metropolitan area in opposition to bans on plastic bags, submitted well over the requisite number of signatures to seek a citizen referendum on the six-month-old ordinance Aug. 30. An as-yet-unverified 3,400 signatures were given to the city, which then passed them to the county elections department.
Save Our Choice Co-founder Craig Keller, who has gone door to door since the inception of the effort March 1, said he was not celebrating yet. Although the organization turned in more than the 2,549 needed, he said he would still collect signatures in case the county invalidated any of the ones already collected.
“We’re still collecting signatures just in case we need any,” he said. “I’m not worried that we’re going to get enough. It’s a relief.”
He was positive about the message that sent to the city and citizens.
“Throughout this time of signature collections, I have found the voters of Issaquah to be courteous and discriminating,” Keller said. “They simply have been deprived the opportunity to vote their collective wisdom in judgment of an experimental regulation that continues to drive sales away from Issaquah. Our role is to empower that voice all the way to the ballot box.”
The circulated petition does not call for a reversal of the ordinance, but rather a chance for Issaquah residents to vote on the measure that passed the City Council on June 4, 2012. Keller believes citizens should decide on whether a ban remains in effect.
The ban exists for larger scale retailers, but would go into effect for all stores beginning March 1, 2014.
“It would have been ideal if we could have had it on the August ballot,” Keller said. “It would have saved the city money from holding a special election.”
King County received the signatures last week. Community Specialist Barbara Ramey said the department would begin validating the signatures Sept. 11. She expects the process to take a week and a half to complete. Should invalidated signatures drop the total below the stipulated threshold, Save Our Choice will have 10 days to submit additional petitions.
“The state law says the signature on the petitions sheet must match the signature on file on the Washington voter registration,” Ramey said. “There’s no state requirement that says how long we have to do it.”
State Sen. Mark Mullet (D-5th District) led the charge for the ordinance and restated his belief that the public was instrumental in the process for creating the ban.
“I think it went through the process,” he said. “And look at all the bags that have been saved.”
He maintained that it was a net positive gain for preserving the landscape and environment.
“I think that people should vote it based on the merits,” Mullet said, should it come to a vote. “I think it’s a big plus for the environment and that the benefits outweigh the costs.”
Should the county approve the signatures, Issaquah will hold a special election for the referendum, which might coincide with Klahanie-area residents voting on prospective annexation.
“Issaquah is hoping it could be on the February ballot,” Ramey said, referring to the Feb. 11 vote. She added the timetable for the signatures would fall in line with that date. “They are in plenty of time for that.”
“I have talked to literally hundreds of people who say that they have stopped shopping as much in Issaquah,” Keller said. “I have no stake in this other than wanting a county and a country that affords more freedom to the consumer.”