Sammamish Council ends discussion on initiative and referendum

Sammamish won't be changing its rules regarding initiative and referendum anytime soon.

Sammamish won’t be changing its rules regarding initiative and referendum anytime soon.

The City Council voted to indefinitely postpone discussion about the initiative and referendum process at its Dec. 11 meeting.

“I just don’t understand what is to be gained by formalizing an initiative referendum process which we’ve seen abused at the state level,” said Don Gerend, who has been on council since the city’s incorporation in 1999.

Sammamish is classified by the state as a non-charter code city, with a council-manager form of governance. The powers of initiative and referendum are available to all code cities, but the city must first adopt these powers.

Initiatives usually begin at a grassroots level with a petition, whereas a referendum is the right of the people to have an ordinance that has been enacted by the city or charter county council submitted to the voters for their approval or rejection.

Only two councilmembers, Ramiro Valderrama and John James, supported the addition of initiative and referendum.

James, who pushed for council review of the topic, said he hopes that it can be discussed again at another time.

“When this came by the first time, it was almost viewed an oversight,” he said. “Now, we’ve gone full circle and said, ‘no it wasn’t just an oversight, now intentionally we’re not going to allow it.'”

Attorney Sam Rodabough, also a Sammamish resident, first brought the initiative and referendum discussion to the council in September 2011. Then, Rodabough said Sammamish is the “donut hole” of direct governance on the Eastside, noting surrounding cities have the measures.

“How can we work together to bring these rights to Sammamish?” he asked.

Mayor Tom Odell spoke strongly against the idea of initiative and referendum at this month’s council meeting.

“We were elected as representatives of the citizens of Sammamish to perform certain tasks,” he said. “I’ve watched the initiative referendum process in this state and I do not view it as being constructive. In fact, I view it as being destructive.”