City council declares local initiative 'invalid' - won't place measure on the ballot for a public vote

Arena foe senses a conspiracy - Sharon Nelson wanted to watch Everett's broadcast of its March 6 city council meeting, but it wasn't on the public access channel.

By Theresa Goffredo
Herald Writer

EVERETT -- When Sharon Nelson tuned in Thursday to watch the videotaped version of Wednesday's Everett City Council meeting on Channel 28 she was surprised to discover the program wasn't on.

Nelson tried again Friday, Saturday and Sunday. But all four times when the video was scheduled to be broadcast, Channel 28 aired the Legislative session in Olympia instead.

What happened to the broadcast of the council meeting?

Nelson has her theory.

She believes that the city didn't want to show the videotape because what the council did during that meeting would have put them in a bad light.

The council unanimously voted to declare invalid a voter initiative to prevent the proposed Everett Regional Special Event Center from being built on historic Hewitt Avenue.

In declaring the initiative invalid, the council declined to put the measure on the April 23 ballot for a public vote.

"They were either going to follow the charter or make up their own rules, and they made up their own rules," said Nelson, who believes the city charter provided for a vote on the initiative.

But after investigating the problem Monday, city spokeswoman Dale Preboski said the Channel 28 technicians were still trouble-shooting to try and find out what happened. Preboski speculated that it was a wind-caused power outage, but admitted she didn't get a good answer from the technicians.

The tape of the March 6 council meeting will be broadcast tonight and Wednesday at 7 p.m., Preboski said.

The city wasn't aware the channel was having technical difficulties until Monday morning. Channel 28, which is paid for by the city through a variety of different departments, is a low-budget operation that isn't staffed on weekends, Preboski said.

An employee will be monitoring the broadcasts to make sure everything goes smoothly. If there is an interruption of service, viewers are asked to call Preboski at 425-257-8687.

The city passed a resolution in October 1995 that established government access Channel 28 to videotape council meetings and other civic events to broadcast them throughout Everett city limits. Preboski said the city is in total support of Channel 28.

"It's an important vehicle for those who can't attend the city council meetings and who want to keep up with what's going on," Preboski said.

Michael Cox, spokesman for Citizens for a Better Arena, would agree with that. Cox called it an "unfortunate coincidence" that Channel 28 had problems broadcasting such a significant council meeting as March 6.

Members of the Citizens for a Better Arena filed the voter initiative Feb. 8 to stop the city from building the event center on Hewitt to save historic buildings. Nelson is a member of that group.

A pending lawsuit between the city and the Everett Public Facilities District, which will operate the $62.5 million event center once it's built, still has to be resolved by a Snohomish County Superior Court judge. The citizens group will intervene in the lawsuit. The judge's decision could still mean the people might get a chance to vote on the initiative.

Cox said even he received a number of phone calls and e-mails from people who wondered what happened to the Channel 28 broadcast.

"This is a valuable link for those who cannot make it to the city council meetings, like those seniors who are shut in and like to stay involved and on top of what is happening," Cox said.

But as far as Nelson is concerned, she doesn't buy the wind theory. If it were just the wind, the whole channel would have been out, she said.

"One night maybe, but not for four days."

Nelson was pleased, however, that the city will try again to air the council meeting.

"I do feel better," Nelson said. "I feel some integrity has been restored there."

Follow this issue at Citizens for a Better Arena.


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