Urban Politics #13: Update: Lobbying Ord. and I-16, Getting Results


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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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CONTENTS:

  • Update: Lobbying Ord. and I-16, Getting Results
  • Lobbying Ordinance
  • Initiative 16

Update: Lobbying Ord. and I-16, Getting Results

Knowledge is power. Those that know how governments work exercise power. Urban Politics works to disseminate that knowledge so that citizens may participate in shaping our democracy and not feel powerless. Here is an example.

UP # 12 on the City’s Proposed Lobbying Ord. directly influenced the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission in voting last Friday (2/21) to kill a proposal that would have required volunteers representing nonprofit groups to register as lobbyists.

In particular, Seattle Times columnist Jean Godden called me after receiving UP #12 saying she had not heard of the ordinance. She led off her Wednesday night column with a critique of it and publicized the 2/21 public hearing before the Commission. Don Willis showed up at the hearing holding a copy of her column saying that he would not have come to testify against the ordinance as written, if it hadn’t read it in Godden’s column.

Also Thursday morning, P.I. Reporter Neil Modie wrote a piece on the proposed ordinance and quoting email messages sent to the Commission criticizing the ordinance from two UP readers, John Fox and Peter Hurley.

Lobbying Ordinance

Although progress was made, the proposed ordinance still contains a provision which requires volunteer groups to file a financial statement once a month with the city if they spend $200 or more on a public program that intends to influence legislation. The net cast by this ordinance is cast so wide as to catch every small fish in the sea. The ordinance should be written to focus on those individuals and businesses who would gain financially from a city government decision not the myriad associations which have no paid staff or only one, and are lobbying for better services for their members.

Unfortunately the ordinance would still define a lobbyist as any person who received any compensation, in any form, who tries to influence city hall regarding legislation. It would appear that means that a community council president who is compensated for postage or mileage must file as a lobbyist. Good legislation encourages citizen participation and informs the public on how their government is making decisions. The ordinance is hindering the former in attempting to accomplish the latter. The Commissions next public hearing will be on April 2, at 4:00 P.M. in Rm. 221 of the Municipal Building, 600 4th Ave. For more information on the proposed ordinance call the Commission at 684-8500.

Initiative 16

With one final push Initiative 16 should obtain 60,000 by 2/28. If anyone has initiatives, have them mailed in no later than 2/25. The address to send them to is on the initiative. However, every signature may be needed. The County appears to be continuing its effort to fight the initiative through its bureaucratic rules.

Recently 21 petitions were rejected by the County because they were numbered 1 through 21 by the person collecting the signatures. The County ordinance reads that the petitions cannot be defaced. The numbering of these initiatives obviously is not defacement and cannot logically be construed as having negated the validity of all signatures on those petitions.

But that is what the County is saying. Such enforcement of obscure bureaucratic regulations was something we used to read about occurring in Eastern Europe behind the “iron current” where faceless state officials carried on a Kafka-esque paper war against insurgent democrats who tried to follow the rules and open up their government. Who is responsible for this decision at our county level? Contact County Executive Ron Sims (email: ron.sims@metrokc.gov ; phone: 296-4040) and ask him?

And if you do write or talk to Sims, ask him why is it that politicians (including Ron Sims) have for years been able to pass out literature in the Kingdome parking lot before events but when one of our signers was collecting signatures there before a Kingdome event the guards (one’s name tag read Roy S.) informed him that the County did not allow political activity on its property!

The petitioner would have to stand on the sidewalk, which is owned by the City. Either the Kingdome security guards need to be better educated or there is a selective application of this rule – for politicians it’s OK but not for your average citizen.

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