Issaquah bag-ban foe goes to court over ballot language
November 26, 2013
By Keith Ervin
A judge will decide whether ballot language on an initiative to repeal Issaquah’s plastic-bag ban is misleading and should be rewritten.
Craig Keller, sponsor of the initiative citizens will vote on Feb. 11, filed a petition Nov. 15 in King County Superior Court that objects to the wording of the ballot title and ballot statement.
Keller is chairman of Save Our Choice, the group that circulated petitions against the law, which went into effect for larger stores last March and is scheduled to be extended to smaller stores next March.
In his complaint, Keller objected to language saying the law applies only to “certain retail establishments,” bans “lightweight” bags and “encourages reusable bag use.”
In fact, Keller argued, the law applies to all retail stores.
He noted the terms “lightweight” and “encourages” don’t appear in the law, and wrote that the law and ballot language mislead voters by suggesting only heavier-weight bags are reusable.
“Their arrogance offends truth itself and thousands of Issaquah shoppers who frugally reuse their plastic shopping bags,” wrote Keller, who is acting as his own lawyer.
City Attorney Wayne Tanaka, who wrote the ballot language approved by the Issaquah City Council, said the law and the ballot language distinguish between light- and heavy-duty bags because the thin carryout bags “are not meant to be used over and over again,” whereas reuse is “the whole purpose” of heavier bags.
Ballot statements are meant to summarize an issue but aren’t required to use only words contained in an ordinance or initiative, Tanaka said.
Tanaka also said the ballot reference to “certain retail establishments” is accurate because some retailers are exempted.
The law defines retailers as any person or entity that sells merchandise, but it exempts food banks, food-assistance programs and organizations serving low-income households.
A hearing has not yet been scheduled on Keller’s petition.
Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.