Port Angeles council members give nod to second-class-city question, fluoridation advisory vote

Councilman Brad Collins

PORT ANGELES — They didn’t like what they were doing but did it anyway.

Port Angeles City Council members on Tuesday approved 4-1, with Brad Collins dissenting, the ballot language of a second-class-city measure fostered by the anti-fluoridation group Our Water, Our Choice! Council members said they disagreed with the measure but felt obligated to put it before voters.

They also approved unanimously the ballot language of a fluoridation advisory ballot measure that also was generated by fluoridation opponents.

Both will be on the Nov. 7 general election ballot. The council had approved putting them on the ballot at earlier meetings.

The ballot titles for both measures will be reviewed by the Clallam County Auditor’s Office to ensure they meet the procedural requirements of state law, City Attorney Bill Bloor said Wednesday.

A majority of council members have said they will abide by the results of the advisory vote. A majority have said they approve of water fluoridation, which was stopped last August when the council also elected to have an advisory vote.

Voter approval of the second-class-city measure would revert city government to the designation it held before 1971.

It also, according to the ballot language, would mandate new elections for city council members that would occur by June 2018, a matter of months after four of seven council seats are filled during the same Nov. 7 election.

A majority composed of Mayor Patrick Downie, Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd and council members Lee Whetham and Sissi Bruch voted Tuesday in favor of putting the second-class-city measure before voters. Collins was opposed, while Councilmen Dan Gase and Michael Merideth were absent.

Those voting in favor of the resolution said they opposed the change but felt obligated to follow the will of ballot petitioners who submitted an overwhelming number of names to accomplish it at the election.

The petition had 1,012 signatures. Clallam County Auditor Shoona Riggs said last June that the petition had enough valid signatures to bring the question before voters. It needed 467 signatories meeting such requirements such as Port Angeles residency and valid voter registration.

Proponents have said the measure would make city government more responsive to citizens and foster more comments at public meetings, while opponents have said citizens would lose such home-rule powers as the right to organize citizen ballot initiatives and give more power over city affairs to the state Legislature.

Hugh Spitzer, a University of Washington School of Law professor, said the petition, which is mirrored in the ballot initiative approved Tuesday by the council, is “deceptive and misleading,” contains confusing wording and does not follow the requirements of state law.

His recommendation, rejected by the city council, was to seek a court-issued declaratory judgment.

Collins said a switch to a second-class designation “is a bad proposal for the community, and I don’t want to support it, and I believe the petition is legally incorrect.”

Asked Kidd: “Why would we go back 100 years?”

Bruch and Whetham also had nothing positive to say about the measure.

“I will agree to put the petition on the ballot because that is what the people have wanted to be done,” Bruch said.

Whetham said the second-class designation would lead to a loss of “rights as citizens of Port Angeles.”

Whetham added that the second-class-city vote could have an impact on action resulting from the advisory ballot despite the Aug. 2, 2016, pledge by Whetham, Bruch, Merideth and Downie to comply with the advisory ballot’s outcome.

Downie is not running for re-election this November, while Whetham has announced his intention to run again.

Neither Collins nor Gase is seeking another four-year term.

“This advisory vote is only as good as the end of the term of this present council,” Whetham said. “We are listening to our constituents.”

The second-class-city ballot measure declares the following:

“If approved, the City of Port Angeles, a non-charter code city, will change from the current council-manager form of government under RCW 35A to the council-manager form of government under RCW 35 in a second-class city in order to elect a full new city council,” it says, emphasizing in bold-face type the words “elect a full new city council.”

The fluoridation advisory ballot asks the following:

“Shall the City of Port Angeles add fluoride to its municipal water supply?”

A majority of city water-bill recipients, including those who live outside the city limits who are connected to the city water system, were opposed to adding fluorosilicic acid to city water as a public dental-health measure in a nonscientific survey conducted by the city in November 2015.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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