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City Council obligated to listen to public on library | Letter to the editor
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Here is the entire statement Stuart Avery wrote in response to certification by King County Elections of the library petition.)
I was informed this morning by Bonnie Walton, City Clerk for the City of Renton that King County Elections have validated an appropriate number of signatures and will issue a certificate of sufficiency for the Initiative Petition. Attached are KCE's statistics for the entire signature campaign which began in September 2011 and concluded on the final submission March 12, 2012. Guidelines for non-charter code cities indicate the city council is to be presented with the certified initiative petition, and then has 20 days to make a determination to either adopt it as worded, or to place it on a ballot for public vote. Putting the issue to public vote would require the petition request be reworded into the form of a question to voters. The city clerk has informed me the council will address the certified petition during the April 2nd council meeting, and that the council agenda will be posted on the city web site later this afternoon.
Recent publications of the memorandum from the city attorney to the Mayor and Council dated March 5th, and subsequent public comments made by some city staff might indicate the city is posturing to declare the petition invalid, and an effort to discredit the petition and petitioners may already be underway . Although I find it concerning the city waited until early March to request the city attorney to formulate his own opinion on the petition given the high level of attention the issue has generated over that time; the lack of attention echoes some of the frustrations expressed to me by residents throughout the signature campaign, concerning the deaf ear they feel the city has provided.
In view of the apparent haste in which the city council will address the certified petition, and the apparent likelihood the city may attempt to invalidate it rather than embrace it, petitioners signed a legal representation agreement with Attorneys At Law Groen Stephens & Klinge LLP, who's offices are in Bellevue. The scope of the representation will be to review the city attorney's memorandum and determine if his conclusions can be argued. In an effort to pay for legal council, the petitioners (whom have worked without donations and strictly out of pocket thus far), will register with the PDC and have asked supporters to send donations to cover legal expenses. Meanwhile a public rally is being planed in support of the initiative petition at the downtown library at 6PM April 2nd. Supporter will then make their way to City Hall to attend and participate in the council meeting. (EDITOR'S NOTE: The rally has since been moved to City Hall.)
There have been some public comments in the media recently which would imply that petitioners are a vocal minority, or have mislead signers. These sort of comments are baseless and irresponsible. Petitioners gained 6383 validated signatures from registered voters within the city of Renton. That is 15% of all registered voters. There are still countless others that could have and likely would have signed, had there been enough volunteers to reach all of our city residents. This is not a vocal minority. Any statements made that would suggest any one of the petition signers has agreed with anything beyond the clear and unambiguous language of the petition, would be misguided and very inappropriate.
It's time for city leadership to listen, embrace and work from a position of goodwill. Representative government only works when the public has a part in the process. The initiative and referenda petitioning process is the publics only tool when elected representatives stray from their responsibilities of accounting for and listening to public opinion. Their sworn oath for office is their contract to the citizens of this city, and should be upheld higher than any other contract for which they have entered.
Spokesperson for: Citizens for the preservation of the Cedar River Library.