To: Everett Districts Now Volunteers and Supporters
From: Greg Lineberry and Everett Districts Now Board
Friends of Everett Districts Now,
Everett Districts Now, the group collecting petitions to elect Everett City Council members by districts and improve representation for all City residents, was recently notified by the City of Everett that the City set July 5th as a cutoff date to have our petitions turned in for the November 7th general election. This date is much earlier than what we were planning.
In their letter the City of Everett said that they needed signatures by July 5th in order to have them validated by the county, create an ordinance or resolution to direct the county to place the matter on the ballot, and then get that ordinance or resolution to Snohomish County by August 1. Snohomish County has a deadline of August 1st to have ballot issues presented to them for the November 7th general election.
The July date proposed by the City of Everett came as a surprise to Everett Districts Now. Our group submitted the petition proposal to the City well before we started to gather signatures. No dates were suggested by the City when they responded, and no discussions have occurred since then.
Significantly, the date the City proposes does not match the timelines established in the Everett City Charter. The Everett City Charter is the law that governs this process, and Section 16.2 of the Charter clearly states that in regard to petitions to amend the Charter, the signatures of qualified electors must be submitted and the petition filed no less than 45 days in advance of the general or special election in which the electors want to see the proposed amendments submitted to the voters:
Whenever a petition, signed by qualified electors, in number equal to twenty percent of the votes cast at the last general or special municipal election, be presented to the Council accompanied by a proposed amendment to the charter, requesting that such proposed amendment be submitted to a vote of the people at the next general or special municipal election occurring forty-five (45) days or more after such petition is filed... (Everett City Charter 16.2).
As a result of the letter from the City of Everett the board for Everett Districts Now met and discussed how we want to proceed. We heard from representatives involved in our effort, and we were reminded how important this effort is to our community and how badly we need fair representation. With 6 of our 7 council members living within a 1.5 mile radius of one another, that leaves 86% of the area of the city represented by only 1 council member. The impacts of that disparity, particularly to the residents in central and south Everett, are clear. Therefore, following that discussion, we want to let you know that we are going to continue moving forward with our effort! We are going to keep meeting with citizens, keep collecting signatures, and keep raising funds to support our cause!
For our purposes, should we decide to submit this matter for consideration at the November 7, 2017 election, and in accordance with the law as established in the City Charter, we have until September 20th to file the proposed amendments with the City Council to meet the 45 day deadline.
We understand that it may be difficult for the City of Everett to comply with the law as stated in the Everett City Charter. It appears that many jurisdictions in Washington made changes to their petition and initiative process starting in 2003, but that the City of Everett did not follow suit.
In 2003 the State of Washington amended state law to establish very rigid time-frames for state initiatives. But those laws (RCW 29A.72) only apply to state initiatives, not the City of Everett. We also understand that in 2006 the Snohomish County Charter Review Committee proposed, and ultimately county voters approved, changes to the Snohomish County Charter which, to some degree, mimicked the procedure recently established in state law. But those laws (Snohomish County Charter 8.70) only apply to the Snohomish County Charter, not the City of Everett.
The City of Everett Charter Review Commission met in 2006 and again in 2016. Changes to the City Charter related to the petition process and amending the City Charter were never proposed and no changes were approved by the voters. Given that the Everett Charter Review Commission did not follow the lead of Snohomish County or the State of Washington, we presume that the citizens of Everett desired to maintain the system that exists under the law in the City of Everett as it relates to citizen petitions to amend the City Charter. The 45 day time frame is the law in Everett and, should we decide to file in advance of the upcoming November 2017 general election, that is the law we will comply with.
Therefore we are committed to continuing our efforts to speak with Everett residents about this initiative, gather their signatures in support of putting the proposed amendments before the voters, and raising funds to expand our outreach!
We have had a great response from the residents we have spoken with. At the recent forum for mayoral candidates there was an OVERWHELMING response in support of districts and better community representation. It is clear that our fellow citizens want, at the very minimum, an opportunity to vote on our proposal. There is certainly momentum building and your board members are asking that you do whatever you can to step up your efforts! We want to keep this as a grass-roots, neighbor-to-neighbor project. We are well on our way to our goal and very encouraged with the community feedback!