Evan Smith on Politics: Initiative to overturn Shoreline’s plastic-bag ban faces high hurdle

Thursday, May 30, 2013

By Evan Smith

Citizens circulating petitions to overturn the ban on plastic bags passed by the Shoreline City Council face a difficult task in getting the measure to a citywide vote.

First they need to get valid signatures from 15 percent of the 35,641 registered voters in the City at the time of the last general election. That’s 5,346 valid signatures. They have to do it in a 90-day period that began May 14.

Those rules are more demanding than the rules for getting a statewide initiative on the ballot, rules that require signatures from 8 percent of the voters who actually cast ballots in the last statewide election, signatures that can be collected over a six-month period.

If sponsors do get enough signatures, the initiative would go to the Council, which would have the option of passing the proposal to repeal the ban or letting it go to voters in an election that could be a part of the November general election but would be more likely to happen in February.

An initiative to repeal an ordinance requires a “yes” vote for repeal. That’s different than a referendum, which asks voters to approve or reject the actions of a legislative body. A referendum also suspends a law, pending a vote.

The ordinance, as passed by the Council, would take effect in February. It would have exceptions for wrappings around meat, fresh vegetables, fresh flowers and take-out food. It also would ban non-recyclable paper bags.


Tom Jamieson May 30, 2013 at 5:29 PM  

We the circulators of this petition, do face a hurdle, but not for the reason stated by the author. A state initiative is logistically far more difficult to carry out. It makes perfect sense they be given less stringent requirements, than for local measures.

Actually, we intend to get this measure placed on the November ballot, so that this intrusive, oppressive, and meaningless ban never sees the light of day. And since lead time must be included for the City and King County Elections to process the petition and set up the election, we actually have only 77 days, not 90. If only the City Council had passed this ordinance on April 8, as they originally scheduled, instead of moving it out to April 29 (a whopping 12 weeks after the City Council directed its staff to draft a bag ban ordinance) , we would have had the full 90 days to petition that is allowed by law.

Moreover, publication in the City's Currents newsletter would have been possible within 3 weeks of the vote, instead of 5. Much of the public are not even aware of Shoreline's bag ban, even 2 weeks into the petition period. The petition circulators are having to do the City's outreach for them, causing much confusion for the public. This week the City's June Currents comes out, and the public will finally be informed.

The City regards the voter powers of initiative and referendum (and presumably, recall) as threats, rather than as legitimate governmental functions expressly reserved by the people in delegating powers to the agencies that serve them. And that is sad.

Anonymous,  May 30, 2013 at 5:48 PM  

I hope they can get it on the ballot. I have no objection to a charge for any kind of grocery bag, but seeing as how plastic bags actually are the least polluting of all the possible choices I don't see why they are singled out for a ban.

This study by the United Kingdom's environmental protection agency gives surprising data about which grocery bags pollute the most and which pollute the least. Disposable plastic bags are actually the least harmful of all the choices.

It's a long document, so I recommend skipping to page 59 for the conclusions. It is a government study not an industry study. Many people don't want to believe it, just as many people don't want to believe that global climate change exists. But science is what it is.


Anonymous,  June 8, 2013 at 11:36 AM  

I find this surprising: it doesn't make sense that it should be more difficult to get, in essence, a review of a local decision. It seems to me that it should be the other way around, a state-wide issue should be more difficult to reverse, as typically those matters have been reviewed by more people.

I dislike plastic bags because they're not as easy to recycle at paper bags are. As most of us know, plastic bags are gathered, and if one remembers, brought to, and crammed into typically-overflowing containers in stores, sometimes in obscure locations, such as by the manager's office. Conversely, paper bags are put in one's bi-weekly recycle container, along with other kinds of paper. Yet, as I understand it, the idea here is to charge for the paper bag.

Anonymous,  June 16, 2013 at 4:01 PM  

You can't throw plastic bags into the "bi-weekly recycling container"? Why not? It's what I do.

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