Have We Lost Our Sovereignty?

by lewwaters

Tilted ScaleJust about everywhere citizens in Clark County Washington turn, we see our efforts being thwarted by governmental agencies, staff, appointed commissions and what have you. Most notably this seems to come in regards to the Columbia River Crossing project, designed to force us to accept Portland, Oregon’s financially failing light rail, even though it was voted down directly in 1995.

The latest push against citizens by local government comes from City Attorney Ted Gathe, married to 49th Legislative District Representative, Democrat Sharon Wylie, a strong supporter of the CRC, in a legal opinion presented to the Vancouver City Council pertaining to a petition initiative put forth by citizens to prevent any city funds of efforts be extended to promote or accept light rail.

Gathe issued a 7-page analysis along with his legal opinion recommending council “decline placing the ordinance on the ballot because it falls outside the scope of the city’s initiative powers and would not be legally defensible,” according to the Columbian, the local newspaper of record that is also a strong supporter of the project.

The petition was first denied due to questionable invalidation of many signatures that is the subject of a lawsuit in neighboring Cowlitz County that is awaiting a judge’s decision.

Many see the opinion given as a means to offset an expected decision favorable to plaintiffs that would require some action by the city.

Since extending Portland’ folly into Clark County was so soundly trounced in 1995, former mayor Royce Pollard brought it back up with the comment, “The community dialogue on light rail should begin now for our future.”

While a nice comment to make, efforts began to exclude “the community” and continue to this day as commissions, agencies and other groups formed primarily of those favorable to light rail were convened and charged with working out the details to push light rail, regardless of what “the community” felt.

In 2008, a small group of selected officials chose the “Locally Preferred Alternative,” thumbing their noses at “the community” who may have been allowed to attend public meetings, but were either not allowed to voice their opinions or whose opinions were promptly ignored.

No less that 3 ballot measures were since defeated when voters perceived they supported light rail, but that did not dissuade advocates in their push to thwart citizen opposition to light rail.

Mentioning citizen opposition and the one direct vote tally being 2 to 1 against light rail back in 1995 elicits responses like that of Vancouver City Council Member Larry Smith who said, “in 1995 my daughter wasn’t old enough to vote, she’s now old enough to vote.”

But yet she too is denied to voice her opinion, for or against due to her father’s support of denying citizens a vote on this project.

He continued expressing how time’s change and move on, but offers nothing to support any notion that a majority of citizens approve of extending light rail across the river into our community.

At the City Council meeting the final vote was 5 to 2 in favor of not letting citizens have their voices heard with only Council Members Jeanne E. Stewart and Bill Turlay siding with citizens.

The other 5, Jeanne Harris, Jack Burkman, Bart Hansen, Larry Smith and including Mayor Tim Leavitt I would like to remind of a little section of the Revised Code of Washington State, RCW 42.30.010.

Legislative declaration.

The legislature finds and declares that all public commissions, boards, councils, committees, subcommittees, departments, divisions, offices, and all other public agencies of this state and subdivisions thereof exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business. It is the intent of this chapter that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly.

The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.

[1971 ex.s. c 250 § 1.]

While ostensibly dealing with open meetings and matters not being settled in secret, I am drawn to the sentence “The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them.”

Our state constitution seems to agree with this in at least two places,

ARTICLE 1 SECTION 1 All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights.

ARTICLE II SECTION 1 but the people reserve to themselves the power to propose bills, laws, and to enact or reject the same at the polls, independent of the legislature, and also reserve power, at their own option, to approve or reject at the polls any act, item, section, or part of any bill, act, or law passed by the legislature.

Yet, we have now seen for several years this small body of local government do as they please in thwarting efforts by the people just to be heard on a project slated to be the most expensive ever for this region and that many see as unsupported by the population, forcing the rest to undergo potentially decades of restrictive taxes, tolls and fees to pay off bonds for construction of the project.

To me that is not a representative form of government but does amount to a small body of elected officials stealing the people’s sovereignty. It is this same small body ignoring the will of the people and taking it upon themselves to decide what is best for all.

And, is it really an open meeting if citizens are ignored or denied their right to address elected officials on such an important matter?

Those who stole our sovereignty will not just return me, bank on that. It is up to us, the people it was stolen from to take it back and we do that by electing people who are willing to listen and take the people into consideration and not just summarily decide what the people are entitled to have or will be required to pay, after shutting them.

CRC is a very badly designed project that will place decades of problems on taxpayers’ backs and not solve the problems it is expected to. It will cost jobs, not provide them. There are not enough people willing to use light rail to justify building it, but it does place a portion of Portland’s $1.6 Billion in unfunded liabilities squarely on our shoulders.

We must be willing to regain our sovereignty and we do that by voting out those who stole it.

As we enter another election season, pay little attention to hollow promises or lofty claims. Instead, look closely at their records and if they are among those who stole the people’s sovereignty, they must be voted out.

14 Comments to “Have We Lost Our Sovereignty?”

  1. Unacceptable!

    I want to reassure you guys that MANY Democrats hate the idea of CRC just as much as you do. We have different reasons but the bottom line is the same – this process has been undemocratic from the beginning, and continues to defy all logic, (except self-serving arrogance or personal gain). I like Government, I approve of Government – but this shit is why lots of people HATE Government.

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  2. Martin, I know there are several Democrats who oppose CRC as well some Republicans who support it.

    But, even though it should not be a partisan issue, it has become on in the legislature primarily.

    From day one it has not followed the democratic process, I agree. You cannot run rough shod over the people and say you are following any democratic process.

    By the way, we do not hate government, we dislike government largess an expansion to the point that our freedoms, sovereignty if you will, is trampled on.

    I’m sure we disagree on where that point may be.

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  3. Those democrats you refer to Martin, seem to be strangely quiet on the subject.

    Those in opposition on this side of the river would be well served if they would get out front of this loudly instead of opposing it quietly.

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  4. Any an everybody who opposes this boondoggle needs to stand up now, not wait for someone else to do it.

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  5. Lew…I couldn’t agree more, although I believe the word “boondoggle” has been overused and under emphasized. It reminds me of a clip in the comedy movie “Robin Hood Men in Tights” where Ahchoo says “People of Sherwood Forest, you’ve been had. Hoodwinked! Bamboozled! Run amuck.”

    The only difference…we need to say “People of Clark County…” instead.

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  6. Kelly, Jon Haugen got out in front on CRC, and you supported him for it, I know, but Rs are going to have to do the heavy lifting.

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  7. Even worse, the people of CLARK COUNTY aren’t being given any say, as the instant situation is strictly being carried forward by the Vancouver City Council — leaving those of us outside the city limits powerless to exert any influence. Likewise, C-Trans has a gerrymandered district, leaving great swaths of Clark County unable to vote on most issues before their board — even though all the citizens of Clark County will ultimately be on the hook for the costs of this disastrous trolley car plan. This is all a result of efforts to exclude voters from the democratic process.

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  8. Lew, you might explain more on how C-Tran will be on the hook for Tri-Met’s unfunded benefits packages. They deny that they will. Can you imagine what power the Tri-Met operator unions will have over C-Tran taxpayers when we’re sitting on a $4 billion LRT system with the drivers all on strike?

    http://www.columbian.com/news/2012/sep/15/a-charged-issue-c-tran-tax-hike-on-november-ballot/
    “Should the extension go through as planned, C-Tran would essentially hire TriMet train operators to run the system on C-Tran-owned infrastructure, Patterson said. But that doesn’t mean C-Tran would end up on the hook for TriMet’s ongoing financial troubles, according to Hamm. A “tentative agreement” now in place states that C-Tran’s obligations would not include unfunded pension liabilities or unfunded benefits owed to TriMet employees, Hamm said.”

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  9. Just heard that the Metro transit project in Seattle is 500 million over budget! There goes all that federal transit money we need down here to pay our share of the CRC mess. I was expressly told that the state does not have to send the money to the project that it receives the money for so…. you figure it out eh?

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  10. I still remember Gregoire, standing at Mill Plain and Chkalov in September 2005 when the Columbian reported, “A big piece of the 9.5-cent gas tax would go to the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle, which engineers say would be disastrously unsafe in a major earthquake. Gregoire said the lesson of Hurricane Katrina is the failure “to invest in their infrastructure” the levees protecting New Orleans and that the same risk faces Washington. As to whether taxpayers here should be willing to foot the bill for work in Seattle, Gregoire responded, “Today it’s Seattle and the viaduct; tomorrow it’s Clark County and the bridges to Portland. Someday I’m going to ask the citizens in King County to invest in Clark County.”

    Her someday has come and gone and we still send funding to Seattle while we are expected to pay even more gas tax, a toll on top of a toll, increased license fees, possibly an employee head tax and who knows what all else and we don’t even want the stinking light rail.

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  11. Just fix our roads and make the bridges we have safe. Let the truckers roll and keep the barges on the river. Improve commerce and then we’ll have the money to fix a good bridge. Tell DC to keep their BRIBE to make us build light rail that will be subject to earthquake and union strikes.

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  12. Kay Bridges…common sense has gone down the tubes in DC. If it’s not a hidden agenda or a special interest, they won’t give it the time of day.

    You know the funding that Oregon and Washington must promise before approval of LRT funding by the feds could easily go towards replacing the historic bridges or even towards maintenance and operations and retrofitting of the current bridges…possibly even to redistribute the ramps on and off the interstate leading up to the bridges…but that makes too much sense…something our powers that be who support the current design cannot fathom these days. They want that “Gotcha” moment where they think they’ll shine with superiority by supporting wasteful designs such as they have with the current LPA.

    Can you imagine that if they’d left the tolling to continue on the bridges since the 50’s, that funding for improvements wouldn’t even be an issue to begin with!

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  13. Robert, the “expert review panel” made up of light rail enthusiasts noted that Ctran could inherit TriMet debt including labor agreements and unfunded future pension payments.
    Lew, we had a direct vote on light rail across the Columbia River in November 2012. Citizens in the gerrymandered Ctran district rejected raising taxes to extend Portland’s failing light rail to Clark County. The only way light rail can be brought into Clark County is to raise taxes/fees/tolls. We don’t have the funds to pay the $1 Billion plus to build, before cost overruns, and citizens don’t want to pay for the maintenance and operations. We don’t need light rail for the few who cross the bridge on mass transit. Buses meet the need now and can well into the future. Why borrow $$ we can’t afford to repay for something we don’t need? The contractors and unions who will gain financially are pushing this forward and they work to elect officials who will do their bidding.

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  14. TRIMET…what can one say about TRIMET??? Maybe that they’re a growing monopoly…an oligarchy of sorts in mass transit. Some of you may say…”Where did you get your information from?” Others…they might say “Tell us something we don’t already know.” Well folks…I just found this little tidbit of information which further emphasizes TriMet’s attempts at an oligarchical mass transit system…and they’re trying to set their claws into C-Tran. Check out the last column on page 34 and first column on page 35 in the link below. It took me awhile to find this but I finally did:

    Click to access WEStside_Story.pdf

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