Initiative 6 Update: The ongoing battle to get it on the ballot

by Anne Wagner for Citizen Review Online

Clallam County, WA - Sept. 3, 2001 - Citizens in Clallam County gathered enough signatures to put Initiative 6 - Repeal of the Critical Areas Code - on the ballot for the people to vote upon, and the issue was thrown into the court by County Commissioner Steve Tharinger (D), backed by Commissioner Mike Doherty (D). Only Commissioner Mike Chapman (R) tried to have the other two comply with what the county constitution called for, only to be overruled.

Bob Forde, one of the signers - and the only individual named in a lawsuit to have a "declaratory judgment" filed to keep the matter off the ballot - is fighting to get it on the ballot for November's election.  The commissioners have asked the court to determine that the "proposed initiative to be beyond the scope of the initiative power of the people."

The initiative power of the people, according to the home rule charter and the state constitution, only limits the people's authority when it comes to "expenditure of funds for an existing activity or of any funds for a new activity."  Initiative 6 does not fall within those parameters.

The state constitution, Amendment 7, Article 2.1, states that "the people reserve to themselves the power to propose bills, laws and to enact or reject the same at the polls, independent of the legislature, and also reserve power, at their own option, to approve or reject at the polls, any act, item, section or part of any bill, act or law passed by the legislature."

Forde has most recently filed a "writ of mandamus" with the court, which essentially asks the court to tell the county commissioners and the county auditor to "do their job".  Their "job" in this case, is to follow the Clallam County Home Rule Charter, and proceed with getting Initiative 6 in front of the voters, for the people's decision. That hearing will be heard on Sept. 14.

Meanwhile, on July 7, the court will be hearing several matters on Initiative 6 at the Superior Court District 1 - Judge George Wood presiding. They will include:

- Forde's initial request to the court to throw the entire lawsuit out, on the grounds that he alone was served, rather than the almost 3,800 individuals who signed the petition in addition to him - and that this is a political issue, not a legal one.

- The request of two environmental organizations - one local, one statewide - to be allowed into the court case on the side of the county. Protect the Peninsula's Future (PPF), well-known for instigating lawsuits, (the latest creating a loss of approximately $75,000 to the taxpayers of Clallam County), and 1000 Friends of Washington.

- Originally, PPF and 1000 Friends were to be heard in court on August 24 as to whether they would be allowed into the court battle; however, at the hearing, Forde pointed out to the judge (pro-tem Judge Gary Sund) that there was a possible conflict of interest in that he (Sund) was a former business partner of the prosecuting attorney, Chris O. Shea.   Sund immediately recused himself.  It was a minor victory for the voters, in that the motion Forde had filed called for the two organizations to be held over until the regular hearing on Sept. 7.

- The request of the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) to be allowed into the court case on the side of the voters of the county.

Forde says the county should be allowing this matter to go to the voters, according to the Home Rule Charter and the county code.  The county code states that a declaratory judgment action can take place when a proposed ordinance is on the ballot.  "This proposed ordinance is not on the ballot yet, since Commissioners Tharinger and Doherty stopped it from going there," Forde said.

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