Plastic bag ban goes to citizens for February vote
October 29, 2013
By Peter Clark
Voters will ultimately decide the fate of Issaquah’s plastic bag ban.
In a unanimous decision, the City Council approved a resolution to hold a special election Feb. 11 to ask voters whether a ban on plastic bags should continue.
“Over 60 percent of the citizens that contacted me were in favor of that ordinance,” Councilman Paul Winterstein said, defending his vote in favor of the original ban. “And I followed that duly and I take that very seriously. But we’re also a city of laws. I’m in favor of putting it in front of a vote, and I can accept whatever outcome that comes.”
The motion was in response to a King County petition submitted to the council by Save Our Choice, a West Seattle-based volunteer organization. The petition left the council with two options: the council could adopt the petition calling for a reversal of the bag ban or the petition could be directed to a vote of the people.
State law mandates 15 percent of registered voters, or 2,549, are needed for a valid petition. Save Our Choice collected 4,258 signatures on the petition; 2,626 were validated by King County Elections as registered voters in Issaquah.
The cost for a special election remains undetermined.
“King County Elections has indicated the estimated cost for the special election to be $43,000 to $47,000, plus $2,100 to $2,800 including voter’s pamphlet costs, which are optional,” according to an agenda bill attached to the resolution.
While all council members voted for the measure, some voiced consternation at the initiative process and the intervention from an organization outside the city.
“I fully support public involvement,” Councilman Joshua Schaer said. “But it strikes me as disproportionate that a petition led by interests outside our community can gather signatures from just 7 percent of our total population, causing us to spend $50,000 on a ballot measure. This experience might make us reflect whether the use of an initiative code is reasonable.”
Councilwoman Stacy Goodman concurred.
“I, too, was instrumental in delaying the vote because I felt it hadn’t had enough time to be out there in the public,” she said about the initial ordinance. “During those two months, I kept track and it was about 60 percent who supported the ban here in our community and not from other cities far away.”
A February vote would not overlap with a Klahanie annexation vote as only residents in that area would vote on the annexation and only Issaquah residents would vote on whether to continue the bag ban.