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Key state, county and local issues on ballot | Editorial
A number of important issues are on the Nov. 5 ballot. Two statewide issues have drawn strong pro and con arguments. In addition, important votes will be cast on two countywide issues and one local issue. Here is our take on all five.
I-517: Initiative gathering
Our state has the initiative process to make sure that the public has a way to propose legislation that it finds necessary, but that the Legislature won't consider. It works well here. I-517 adds elements that not only aren't necessary, but also would be costly to cities and counties.
The measure tries to make the case that people are at risk from attacks or retaliation for seeking signatures on petitions and would make doing so a crime. That's hardly the case. In fact, former Secretary of State Sam Reed said most of the complaints his office handled involved signature gatherers being overly aggressive.
I-517 would make that worse by letting people gather signatures in any public space, like Safeco Field, Century Link Field, or even at a local high school basketball game.
Equally bad, the initiative would force cities and counties to put an initiative on the ballot even if its already been ruled illegal. Taxpayers would be stuck with the bill for counting ballots for something that never could become law.
I-522: Genetically engineered foods
Both the state and federal government are charged with keeping our food safe. I-522 would go beyond this by forcing our state to impose labeling requirements on genetically engineered foods.
Proponents say the public has a right to know what foods have been genetically modified. The problem? Not all genetically engineered foods would have to have the label.
Despite the scary sound of "genetically engineered food," most of the food we eat is exactly that. And the federal Food and Drug Administration and most scientists say it's entirely safe. In fact, many farmers who grow organic crops use genetically modified resources.
Nevertheless, I-522 would mandate new labels for thousands of products while at the same time allowing thousands of other GMO foods to remain unlabeled. Supermarkets would be required to have GMO labels on food, but not restaurants. Food from foreign countries also would be exempt.
So much for safety.
University scientists, former heads of the state Department of Agriculture, president of the Washington Farm Bureau and many others oppose this initiative.
Many initiatives written by the public are poorly drafted and ineffective. That's the problem with I-522.
King County Charter Amendment No. 1: Creating a county department of public defense
Our Constitution says that people accused of a crime are entitled to a lawyer even if they can't afford one. To meet this standard, King County has contracted with private, non-profit corporations to act as these public defenders. Because the non-profits were seen as independent contractors, they didn't receive county benefits even though the defense they provided was paid for by the public.
A class-action settlement made these defenders county employees.
This proposition creates the actual department of public defense. It would be within the executive branch, as are other county departments.
There is no formal opposition to the measure.
King County Proposition No. 1: Medic One
Even if you've never had to use it, you know the county's Medic One program is a lifesaver. In fact, it is recognized as one of the best emergency medical service systems in the world.
Proposition No. 1 keeps this in place by replacing an expiring property tax levy with a new one for the next six years.
The tax rate would be $0.335 or less per thousand dollars of assessed value. That's just $100 a year for a house with an assessed valuation of $300,000. That's actually less than what the average homeowner paid in 2008 for these same services.
Any way you add this up, it's a bargain.
East Bellevue Community Municipal Corporation Proposition No. 1: Community Council
When the East Bellevue area annexed to Bellevue back in 1969, residents also approved a hyperlocal community council that had the power to approve or disapprove ordinances and resolutions passed by the Bellevue City Council that affected land, buildings and structures within the East Bellevue area.
The community council was seen as protecting the area from decisions made by the City Council that could adversely affect the area.
We are not sure if it was really necessary then. It certainly isn't now.
The Bellevue City Council has been remarkable over the years in its even treatment of local neighborhoods. Community improvement funds are fairly rotated year-by-year around the city and residents themselves vote on the improvements they actually want and need. Police protection is uniform and police sub-stations are in place in the Crossroads and Factoria areas. Parks and open space are available to everyone in all parts of the city.
While we don't have a complaint about any actions the East Bellevue Community Council has taken, we question spending taxpayer dollars towards maintaining something that is an anachronism of Bellevue's earlier days.
This vote is up to the residents of the East Bellevue Community Council area. Voting against the proposition would free up money better used for the benefit of all of Bellevue's neighborhoods, and the city as a whole.
– Craig Groshart, Bellevue Reporter