YAKIMA, Wash. — This week’s heat didn’t slow down some of Yakima’s most hyperbolic on the political left and right, who accused the city of playing politics in how it filed a ballot proposition with Yakima County for the November general election.
Unlike in past years, Yakima City Council didn’t vote to send the proposition, which would require a supermajority of at least five of seven council members to raise city taxes, to the county elections office, which prints ballots and runs elections in the area.
Critics said the city used a legal sleight-of-hand so City Council members who rejected a nearly-identical measure earlier this year, wouldn’t have to vote to put a citizen-submitted proposition on the ballot.
But the answer is much drier and much more technical, according to Jeff Cutter, Yakima’s city attorney.
There is no point — and no legal requirement — for the council to rubberstamp a citizen-submitted proposition that qualifies for the ballot, Cutter said.
“The proposal is not of the council, it is of the citizens,” so, why involve council? Cutter said. “I thought I was doing something to help move the citizen ballot proposition forward.”
The only time City Council needs to weigh in is if citizens submit a proposition when no election is already scheduled. In that case, the council has to approve paying for a special election, which costs tens of thousands of dollars.
In the past, Yakima County has always required City Council to pass a resolution to get a citizen-submitted proposition on the ballot. That last happened in 2011, when the council rubberstamped a citizen-submitted proposition to elect all City Council seats by district.
Cutter said he has always thought that was unnecessary according to his reading of state statutes and the city charter.
After confirming that intrepretation with Washington’s attorney general and secretary of state, the county stopped requiring the council resolution, Yakima County Auditor Corky Mattingly said.
• Dan Catchpole can be reached at 509-759-7850 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/dcatchpole