To the editor:
On June 12, during its regular business meeting, the Bainbridge Island City Council will vote to amend current codes in order to allow citizens to put initiatives and referenda on the ballot for voters.
Claiming that his motivation is a “vote of confidence in the community,” Councilman Peltier has pushed the code modifications under the pretense of implementing direct democracy at its most fundamental level on Bainbridge Island.
Indeed, many of Washington’s largest cities such as Seattle, Tacoma, Bremerton and Spokane have adopted the powers of initiatives and referenda through their city charters. Yet, most smaller cities (fewer than 50 of the 281 incorporated cities) in Washington do not have these powers available to their citizenry.
As a community of 25,000, we are fortunate that our city council makes themselves available to hear citizens’ voices not only in the council chambers, but also at regular ward meetings, through email and letter writing, and in our regular interactions as island neighbors. What Councilman Peltier has proposed is simply not necessary for Bainbridge Island.
In fact, in the wrong hands, it is a dangerous device that will undercut our council-manager form of government. Complex issues facing our community will be distilled to a quick “yes” or “no” vote under the guise of “letting the voters decide.” Those wealthy enough to pay signature gatherers will be able to play an outsized role in dictating policies for Bainbridge Island and special interest groups will seek to divide us with misleading information campaigns.
The most important democratic act is not forcing the people to decide and debate every small issue, rather it is the selection of representatives who can make thoughtful and informed decisions for our island.
Councilman Peltier’s proposal threatens the progress we have made as a city and will further distract from the most pressing issues facing Bainbridge Island.