OUR VIEW: The real scoop on Port Angeles’ second-class-city ballot measure

WE WANT TO set the record straight about the second-class-city measure for Port Angeles on Tuesday’s general election ballot.

It wouldn’t do what proponents say it would do. The claims presented in its defense are either bogus or questionable.

The ballot measure claims that a yes vote would spark an election of the full Port Angeles City Council. It isn’t at all clear that would happen. It probably would be bogged down in court, another expense for the city.

And if it did prompt a new election, what is the point? Four council positions — a majority of the seven-member council — are up for election Tuesday. The voters will have had every opportunity to change the makeup of the council. Why do it again?

The change would not, as proponents claim, lead to more transparency, lower debt, smaller wages for city staff or a system in which residents directly elect the mayor.

All it would do is give residents’ power to govern themselves to the state Legislature.

The measure would push Port Angeles backward to 1971, when it changed to a code city from a second-class city.

As a code city, Port Angeles has home-rule powers. As a second-class city, it could do only what had been specially allowed by the state Legislature.

Voter approval of this measure would mean that citizen petition and referendum powers would be lost. As a matter of fact, the petition that led to this measure being placed on the ballot would not have been possible under second-class-city status.

The petition that led to this ballot measure was created by frustration. Our Water, Our Choice!, a group opposing fluoridation of water — led by a Sequim resident but with many Port Angeles members — felt that City Council members did not hear them — thus the urge to replace them all.

Imminent elections will take care of that, with voters selecting a new council majority Tuesday.

The move to change the city’s status was directly linked to the fluoridation issue by members of Our Water, Our Choice! in the summer of 2016. That was interesting, since even as a second-class city, the Port Angeles City Council would have the responsibility of deciding upon fluoridation as an administrative matter.

Even so, since then, the point of the proposal has become a moving target, with Edna Willadsen saying as she spoke for the measure at elections forums that fluoride was not the issue.

If the two are still linked in the public’s mind, they should not be.

Port Angeles stopped water fluoridation in August 2016. A measure asking residents if they want to go back to adding fluoride to the water is on Tuesday’s ballot. It is an advisory measure and therefore not binding on the council, but one that the ballot language says will guide the council in deciding whether to resume fluoridation of water.

Fluoridation is a separate issue from changing the status of the city. It is clearly so on the ballot.

If the second-class-city measure is approved, Port Angeles would be the first city in state history to go from code-city status to second-class-city status. The movement has been in the other direction, with Port Orchard most recently intent upon moving into code-city status and leaving behind its ­second-class-city past.

A second-class city would not, as proponents say in their ballot argument, make residents of Port Angeles first-class citizens. Second-class-city status would make its residents ­second-class citizens.

The city of Port Angeles faces a plethora of challenges, among them an aging infrastructure, costly environmental problems, loss of manufacturing tax base and homelessness. It needs every tool possible to face these challenges.

Just as a hobbled horse won’t carry its rider very far, a hobbled city can’t operate efficiently for the welfare of its citizens.

If you haven’t already done so, vote no on the measure, “Change in City’s Form of Government,” on Tuesday’s ballot.

_________

The Peninsula Daily News editorial board consists of Regional Publisher Terry Ward and Executive Editor Leah Leach.

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