Term Limit Extensions – by politicians for politicians

The politicians are so desperate to stay in office on Pierce County that they have stacked the deck in hopes of fooling the voters into giving them four more years in office.

August 15, 2017

Nick Power, Attorney
(360) 298-0464

Pierce County Citizens File Challenge to “Misleading and Deceptive” Ballot Title

Proposed Charter Amendment No. 47 by the Councilmembers

Tacoma, WA – On August 15, 2017, Pierce County voters Donna Walters, Judt Shrode, and Sherry Bockwinkel filed a ballot title challenge to the ballot title for Pierce County’s proposed Charter Amendment 47, requesting the ballot title reflect the fact that the terms in office are being extended and applies retroactively. The Honorable Pierce County Judge Gretchen Leanderson has been assigned to hear the case. Case No. 17-2-10356-5 is scheduled to be heard on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017 at 9:00 AM.

The proposed charter amendment, Resolution 2017-38 was passed by the Pierce County Council on July 25, seeks to increase the present term limit of two consecutive 4-year terms to three consecutive 4-year terms. Plus, this proposal applies retroactively, counting service on the Council prior to January 1, 2019 as part of the three 4-year consecutive terms.

The petitioners, Walters, Bockwinkel and Shrode, have a number of concerns about the County’s process and the proposed measure, beginning with the timing. During the peak vacation time, the Council passed their ordinance literally at the last minute with just moments to spare, making it extremely difficult to even have any opposition published in the Voters’ Guide. Bockwinkel, who participated in the drafting of the statement said, “The voters will be blindsided by this proposed charter change.” No one testified on July 25th when the Councilmembers approved extending their own terms retroactively and only three members of the public showed up the following week when the Council appointed volunteers for the Voters Pamphlet writing committees. “Pierce County has set a new low for transparency with this maneuver to feather their nests by extending their own time in office,” Bockwinkel adds.

Then, there is the language of the Official Ballot Title, which fails to note that the measure is an increase to the present limits and does not, in the petitioners’ view, clearly state the retroactive effects of the measure. “The six Councilmembers that voted for this charter change are showing a reckless disregard for the voters and their 2009 vote on this very same issue,” states Donna Walters, plaintiff.

Third, the petitioners assert that the title fails the Subject in Title rule of the State Constitution, which requires that all ballot measures be fairly reflected in their title, and that it violates the constitutional ban on ex post facto laws by exceeding, after the fact, government’s “lawmaking power to modify bargains it has made with its subjects,” the lawsuit claims.

“By attempting to increase their own term limits retroactively, at the last minute, with a less than accurate ballot title, the Pierce County Council is attempting to improperly modify the will of the voters for purely personal and political gains,” Bockwinkel states.

The extension of term limits, if approved, will apply to all incumbent Councilmembers and not surprisingly, six of the seven, voted for Ordinance 2017-38. The sponsor of the ordinance is Councilmember and Chair of the Council, Douglas Richardson, first elected in 2012. Those voting for the charter change proposal include Councilmembers Rick Talbert (2010), Dan Roach (2010), Connie Ladenburg (2012), Jim McCune (2012) and Councilmember Pam Roach (2016) all voted in knowing their time in office was limited to two 4-year terms. Only one Councilmember Derek Young (2014), voted no vote though he personally opposes term limits, his voters supported two term limits in 2009 and he represents their position.

Significantly, as the complaint points out, a previous attempt by the County Council to extend term limits in 2009 with an accurate title was soundly rejected by the people with 67.95% of the voters voting against the measure. “Councilmembers are putting Charter Amendment 47 on the ballot which retroactively extends their own time in office while voters are on vacation and not in tune with politics. Just look at the low voter turn-out of 18.7% for the recently held Primary. We hope a more accurate ballot title will better inform the voters,” said Judt Shrode, one of the plaintiffs.

i8 Tacoma Term Limits Petitions Available This Wednesday

Signature collecting begins this week for all citizen advocates wanting new leadership in Tacoma. Tacoma’s polluted past should not be part of our future. A special edition of the i8 petition will be printed in purple and available for pick up this Wednesday, April 5 from 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM at Tully’s in downtown Tacoma (free parking begins at 6:00 PM).

Save Tacoma Water has endorsed this effort and is inviting the community to join us Wednesday to be the first signers on the petition and to pick up sheets to help us collect 17,000 in 100 days. Time to start collecting.

Below, are samples of what the petition looks like. On the back you will find a list of endorsers and they will have petition sheets available for pick up at their places of business.

Some fun slogans from the hey day of term limit movement in the 90’s.

  • Throw the bums out – support term limits
  • Term Limits Now
  • Two Term Limit – 1 in office, 1 in jail

Petitioning Season Begins in Tacoma

Term Limit writing committee

In 1973, voters limited terms of Tacoma elected officials to 10-consecutive years in office – the very first city in the nation to implement term limits. For 46 years, term limits worked until now, when a politician discovered a loophole.

Elected officials can resign from their seat before it ends to avoid the 10-consecutive years in office law, and run for a city council position without taking a real break in service, as the law intended.

Last December, a Tacoma City Council Member resigned from office and announced their candidacy for mayor the same day.

People make a career out of politics all the time, but it should not be in one position.

Tacoma has a City Manager Form of Government, therefore a council member and the mayor have essentially the same power, one vote of nine.

The Tacoma City Council is a part-time body of nine elected officials. Five of these electeds come from five council districts, three positions are at-large (city-wide) and the mayor, who is also elected city-wide. The mayor position was always part-time until back in the 90’s when Mayor Ebersole convinced the council members for a huge pay raise for full time work, even though there was and still is a full-time city manager with a huge staff.

After the announcement last December by the Loophole Candidate, a group of concerned citizens began meeting and wrote changes to the charter to end the term limit loophole. After a great deal of discussion and rewrites, the group agreed on the language and filed the term limit amendment on the Ides of March (March 15), 2017.

The current term limit language, in the Tacoma City Charter, fails to include a break in service period prior to running again for the city council – which this proposed charter amendment cures. Language is required that defines a break in service as the current law has a loophole which is now being exploited.

Term limits essentially are now gone, as any elected official can resign from their seat and wait just one month, one week or even just one hour before filing day for their seat again on the council to avoid term limits.

The community has been quietly grumbling and fuming about this end-run on term limits for four months now. There is concern about this Loophole Candidate who is refusing to represent the community. This candidate is on record supporting the now abandoned methanol refinery and currently supports the dangerous LNG storage tank planned for the tide flats, courtesy of Puget Sound Energy. Not to mention, this same candidate was part of the city council that sued their own citizens for collecting signatures on a water protection petition and then withheld and over-redacted public records that got the city into yet another Public Records violation lawsuit. Just a few weeks ago a judge fined the city $50,000 for over redacting public records.

Woodards supports LNG

The proposed Tacoma Charter Change Amendment on term limits is modeled after the Pierce County Charter term limit language. This proposed term limit amendment defines the sitting out period of two 4-year terms. Additionally, defining the term limit language using the word term instead of year updates the language, making it consistent with the term limit language in the Pierce County Charter as well as around the nation.

Here is the proposed charter amendment term limit language (the text in bold is the new language):

Tacoma City Charter Section 2.35 – No person shall be allowed to serve on the Council for more than ten (10) consecutive years, either as a Council Member, Mayor, or combination thereof. No person shall be allowed to serve in City elective office for more than two consecutive 4-year terms, complete or partial as a Council member and/or Mayor but shall be allowed to serve again after an 8-year break in service. Establishment of residency in an alternate district will not circumvent this two-term restriction.

12,794 valid signatures from Tacoma registered voters are needed by July 7, 2017.

17,000 signatures need to be collected to be sure there is enough of a cushion to make it to the November 7, 2017 ballot.

Signature collection should begin 10 days after filing, as the law provides. Once the city attorney approves the petition form, sheets will be printed and ready for people to sign. The hope is to have petitions ready at the Save Tacoma Water meeting on Monday, March 27, Tully’s downtown at 6:30 PM.