Urban Politics #9: Initiative #16 Status – Suit Filed In Federal Court


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By City Councilmember Nick Licata.

Urban Politics (UP) blends my insights and information on current public policy developments and personal experiences with the intent of helping citizens shape Seattle’s future.

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Initiative #16 Status – Suit Filed In Federal Court

On Friday 1/10/97, Citizens for More Important Things, CMIT, filed a suit in the US District Court asking for an injunction and declaratory judgment to demand a County commitment to submit to the voters the ordinance proposed by initiative 16, should it qualify. The suit charges that the County’s authorization of the stadium bonds last Monday violates voters’ rights under the Federal Civil Rights Act.

A past State Supreme Court decision (Citizens v. Spokane) stated that “deliberate efforts by a legislative body to circumvent the initiative or referendum rights of an electorate will not be looked upon favorably by this court.” Judge Dimmick, who concurred with that decision, is the Federal Judge to whom our suit has been assigned.

Initiative 16 requires that the county stadium bonds come to a public vote. Sixty thousand signatures are needed by February 28th. During the first week 24,000 signatures were collected, setting a record for any past initiative in the county or city however signature gathering is still very Important. The day before the suit was filed, King County Ex. Gary Locke notified County Prosecutor Norm Maleng that the County’s bond counsel had determined that the stadium bonds cannot be issued until the fate of initiative 16 has been decided. His letter read “King County’s bond counsel has advised that, prior to the actual issuance of such bonds, it necessary to obtain a judicial declaration regarding the effect, if any, of Initiative 16 on their validity.” In other words, until the courts decide on the impact of initiative 16 on the bonds, the bond counsel is unable to issue an unqualified opinion on the bonds and they cannot be issued.

It seems that the financial markets recognized Initiative 16′s influence on the bonds more than the County Council did. Previously County Prosecutor Maleng had assured the County Council that it would not affect issuing those bonds.

City Council Vote – Uncovered Pollution Costs

City Council may be voting on Monday afternoon to allow the Mariners to pass on most of the traffic and mitigation costs for their stadium to the city. Although it is still possible that the Mariners will accept a letter of intent from the Mayor to that affect without an actual vote of the council. One key Mariners demand that Mayor Rice has not addressed that was part of the new Mariner’s demands, was for the city to be responsible for any pollution liability for the stadium site. Since this site has been zoned for commercial use, it is conceivable that upon excavation there may be some pollution clean up costs incurred. Unless city requires the Mariners to be liable, the city could be facing a very large clean up bill that could easily run into millions of dollars.

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