Save Tacoma Water supporters submitted the signatures of 4,839 Tacoma residents Wednesday for a ballot measure that would require the city to get voter approval for new large water uses.
Members of the group gathered outside the Tacoma Municipal Building at 2 p.m., chanting “Whose water?” “Our water!” Once in the city clerk’s office, co-sponsors of the petition pulled the 391 petition sheets out of a camouflage NRA duffel bag, and supporters took turns handing them in.
The group also collected an additional 1,100 signatures of people who live outside Tacoma but wanted to show their support. Only the signatures of registered voters living inside the city limits count towards the initiative’s validation. It needs 3,160 valid signatures to make the November ballot.
Co-sponsor Sherry Bockwinkel said the group decided to file the signatures for only one of two measures it is circulating — the one that would change city code to require a public vote for any project that would use 1 million or more gallons of water a day.
Still to come is a proposed city charter amendment to the same end that the group hopes to place on next year’s ballot. The deadline to submit those signatures is Sept. 1, Bockwinkel said, and the group has collected about 10,000 so far.
4,839 signatures submitted for water protection ordinance
3,160 verified signatures of Tacoma voters needed
The initiative’s fate depends partly on the outcome of a lawsuit by the Port of Tacoma, Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber and Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County. The group, which claims that putting new water uses to a public vote is unconstitutional, seeks to block Save Tacoma Water’s measures from making the ballot.
The city of Tacoma, which was a named co-defendant in the lawsuit because the ballot measures propose changes to city law, filed a cross claim last week siding with the port and business groups. The city asserted that the proposed measures are too broad in scope and outside the powers of local government.
At Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, supporters of the initiatives railed against the lawsuit and the city’s cross claim, calling them violations of the democratic process.
“The port and Economic Development Board suing the residents for trying to keep our water out of the hands of greedy corporations, it doesn’t make sense,” said Roxann Murray, a Tacoma artist.
“What I can’t believe is that you will not allow the citizens to have a voice. When I saw that our fellow citizens were sued, I couldn’t believe it,” said Kris Brannon, also known as the Sonics Guy. Brannon was also on hand to submit signatures on Wednesday.
Councilman Conor McCarthy said the city isn’t trying to silence critics, but must obey the law.
“… ultimately the public policy decisions need to be decided on their merits,” he said. “Yes, they need to take into consideration the values … of our community, but they also need to be in accordance with the laws that the city of Tacoma is obliged to follow."
The only thing that would interrupt that process is an order of the court enjoining us from verifying signatures. I have received no order from the court.
Julie Anderson, Pierce County auditor
Pierce County auditor Julie Anderson said once she receives the Save Tacoma Water petitions, her office will begin validating the signatures. That could take about five business days, she said.
“The only thing that would interrupt that process is an order of the court enjoining us from verifying signatures. I have received no order from the court,” she said.