Your ballot has either arrived or is about to arrive in your home. We hope you’ll study these measures carefully and skeptically:
• Initiative 1351 – a measure to put more adults in schools – looks likely to win. One reason it’s popular is that its supporters do not talk about its eventual $2 billion a year price tag. If I-1351 had also asked voters to approve the taxes needed to pay its across-the-board staff increases and class-size reductions, it would fail.
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Keep in mind that the Legislature is already under court order – without this initiative – to come up with billions more per biennium to fully fund basic education. It must replace local spending on such necessities as textbooks, additional instruction time, bus transportation. It will also fund smaller classes in kindergarten through third grade.
Without substantially higher state taxes, I-1351 – on top of the existing education mandate – is likely to pre-empt funding for the state’s social safety net, early childhood education and higher education.
• Next on the ballot are two gun background check initiatives. If you want more firearms buyers to be screened for felonies or severe mental disturbances, vote for I-594 and against I-591.
If I-594 proves overly restrictive, as its opponents argue, firearms advocates will push for amending it in the Legislature with the same energies they now devote to blocking any new background checks. If they make their case that revisions are needed, good for them. We’d rather see them fix a screening system than prevent its very existence.
• At the bottom of the ballot, Tacomans will find 12 proposed amendments to the city charter. Most are innocuous. But four of them – Nos. 5, 6, 8 and 9 – amount to either power grabs by the City Council or attempts to turn council positions into political careers.
No. 6 is yet another attempt to politicize the city’s utilities. Tacomans learned many decades ago that decisions on water and power rates, and long-term project planning, should be based on objective, apolitical, market-conscious factors.
The existing charter wisely separates politics from utilities by giving the appointed, quasi-independent Public Utility Board the power to hire, evaluate and fire the director of TPD.
No. 6 would give the City Council an opening to muscle in and fire the TPD director every two years, regardless of how well he or she is performing. The director would suddenly have both a boss and a political overlord with the power to override the boss. It’s an exceptionally bad idea.
No. 5 is another power grab. It would strip City Manager T.C. Broadnax of the power to hire his own department heads; confirmation power would be reserved for the council.
No. 8 would let local politicians spend up to 18 consecutive years on the council if they spent eight of those years as mayor. No. 9 would provide political cover for pay increases by running them through a salary commission.
This is all about careerism. If you value the tradition of citizen-legislators with day jobs and non-government perspectives, and a council restricted to its proper role, reject 5, 6, 8 and 9. Especially 6.