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Sequim City Council Votes to Deny Voters a Voice

Sequim City Council Votes to Deny Voters a Voice

September 9, 2014

The Sequim City Council claims they want more civic involvement from local residents, but when residents dare to get involved, the city council will spare no expense and use any excuse to deny local residents the ability to vote on a local initiative.
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At the Sept. 8 Sequim City Council meeting, the members voted unanimously to deny residents the right to vote on increasing transparency or allowing worker choice in the city.

While the city's leaders have a long history of stifling the voice of local citizens, it was still unfortunate that they chose to ignore the law and defy the more than 650 voters of Sequim who signed the initiatives once again.

The City of Sequim adopted the local initiative process as part of their municipal code, but the council apparently doesn't believe residents should actually be allowed to use the local initiative process. Actions clearly speak louder than words.

Unfortunately, the city has prioritized the suppression of any effort by voters to pass local initiatives as they proved in 2006 after fighting a 10-year legal battle to overturn a local citizen initiative passed by the citizens in 1996. In that case, the voters of Sequim wanted the ability to vote on any revenue bond debt which the council wanted to burden local taxpayers.

Threatened by any voter review of their actions in that case, the city of Sequim, after losing most of the legal challenges, managed to get the citizen initiative overturned on a technicality.

This proud tradition of denying citizens the right to even use the local initiative process continues. At this week's city council meeting, this decision was strongly supported by the MoveOn.org protesters bused in from Port Townsend.

MoveOn.org bussed these protesters from Port Townsend, and helped provide appropriate signage

MoveOn.org has prioritized opposing transparency and worker choice, and it was able to corral and bus in about 20 out-of-town protesters for the event. They were also able to organize some pre-council chants like "Union Busting is Disgusting" as part of the warmup act on the sidewalk.

Supporters of the two initiatives—including at least five residents who actually gathered the original signatures to get these initiatives on the ballot—were present. Some congregated across the street from the MoveOn crew showing their support for the local initiatives and their desire for the Sequim City Council to let the voters decide. 

Dueling Signage faced off on the sidewalks.   The effort to end secret meetings was endorsed by the initiative supporters

No chants were made on their side.

One of the leaders of the MoveOn protest group, self-confessed communist Tim Wheeler, crossed the street and made an effort to harangue his neighbors for daring to participate in the political process.  While the harangue wasn't very neighborly, at least Mr. Wheeler is open about his formal affiliation with the Communist Party.

Once the council meeting started, there were two interesting changes from the previous council meeting on the initiatives. First, the council had the wisdom to invite all the speakers to testify early in the process.  Seven people signed up to speak and 14 actually decided to speak.

Twelve of the speakers spoke about the initiatives with five clearly supporting them and seven opposed.

The council also read a letter of support for the initiatives sent by a local resident.

Wheeler, the primary organizer for the protest, was the fourth person to speak and the first to speak against transparency and worker choice. He had calmed down from his verbal assault on the sidewalk from earlier in the evening, and he had some interesting irrelevant historical comments about 100-year-old private sector union work with coal miners, loggers and steel workers.

He also talked about the evils of the Freedom Foundation. 

Self- identified Communist Party leader Tim Wheeler led the MoveOn.org protest against transparency and worker choice in Sequim.

Union leader Sam Woods spoke against the initiatives and said he trusted the council to do whatever it thought best. He also advised the Freedom Foundation to convince bigger cities than Sequim to adopt these initiatives, as well.

Norm Turner, too, recommended the Sequim City Council trust its attorney  and also recommended the Freedom Foundation get these initiatives on the ballot in Olympia and Seattle.

This seemed to be a common theme among the anti-transparency and no-worker-choice crowd.

This might have been motivated by the hassle of busing in sign-waving activists by MoveOn.org, and their preference to have the initiatives closer to larger concentrations of their activists.

There were some interesting comments from people confused about where their tax dollars go.

One local resident seemed to think the school district was affected by these initiatives (nope—different entity), and some local PUD linemen seemed to think their work wasn't appreciated.
Again, not one city worker—the people actually affected by the initiatives—showed up to speak either for or against them.

Another common theme was the fear of government transparency. This is a new trend, as historically both the liberal and conservative side of the political spectrum usually agreed that more government transparency is good. For some reason, it now appears that some leftists are adamantly opposed to transparency and fear it could lead to people "looking over the shoulder" of the politicians.

However, regardless of the effort by MoveOn.org or the work to put these two initiatives on the ballot by local voters—the Sequim City Council decided to ignore the law and go to court.

This continues the trend by local government all around Washington State to defy the will of the voters and do everything in their power to restrain the ability of citizens to have a direct voice in the process. This way the bureaucrats can run the show, and the citizens can never constrain, provide oversight or even have input on how their government functions.

With a history of overturning citizen initiatives in Sequim, taxpayer funded attorney Craig Ritchie ensures job security

In Sequim, this will provide job security for the attorneys, but it will take a legal battle to let the people decide for themselves. The saga appears to have just begun, and at least for now, the city Council of Sequim has shown its true colors and by denying the right of the voters to decide these issues for themselves.

When you can't debate the issues, attacking the Freedom Foundation is always the next best alternative.

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