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Why Did You Do What You Did? Supermajority Tax Vote – Dave’s Diary

Hi, Dave Ettl here to address the many questions posed to me about the city council’s NO vote on the 2/3 supermajority for tax increases.  Why did we do what we did?  One more time, speaking for myself, I’m happy to explain.

There’s  a real and justified frustration with taxes and spending in Washington, D.C. and Olympia,

Yes?  Do those sentiment extend to Yakima?   Perhaps, but the record shows there have only been something like four actual tax votes in my time on council and ALL of them passed 5-2.  SO, do we “need”  this Charter change?  Do we need to force a 5-2 vote that already happens on its own?  Where is the supermajority urgency coming from?  Why now?  Is this just a campaign issue for some?  Why are the organizers and most of the money from outside the city…

At the same time I (and I believe others) feel that we have been very responsible with tax dollars and don’t need a 5th vote babysitter.  We DO discuss and debate issues and we don’t need a supermajority threat to make that happen…but… we also have 2 members who start out as a NO on virtually everything.  No amount of debate, logic, persuasion seems to register.  That doesn’t mean there is an appetite for more taxes by the rest of us, the record proves just the opposite is true,  but as an elected representative I think I have to be willing to use all the tools if necessary to help make this a better community for everyone.  I don’t want more taxes but one day they be the only option…consider 3/10th for public safety.

Try this on…Imagine you stand on a street corner and yell “who wants lower taxes?  Sign here”  -or-  hopefully, more responsibly,  you yell “who wants to help make it harder to raise taxes” and then watch the stampede to sign the petition.  It’s not hard to see how more than 44-hundred signatures are gathered.

Are these sophisticated or even moderately informed voters? Have they given this the consideration of the “3 can now control 4” type of conversation we see here?  Do these people trust their elected representatives or even consider them in the process? Or are they motivated solely by the prospect of saving money without considering a loss of service.  I wonder.  But whatever the knowledge and motivatin, it’s OK.

So, a certain number of folks would vote for it out of pure anti-tax energy.    Others may think that since Spokane and Pierce County have passed supermajorities, it would be ok for Yakima to do the same.  That’s OK too.  And others may think that we don’t have a problem in Yakima..NOW…but with a different council who knows, so let’s put the supermajority in “now” in a pre-emptive move.  And that too is OK.

So, we can assume all of that and more, but we don’t actually know.   The issue was brought forward to the council, not by a throng of citizens demanding a tax-protection supermajority, but by councilman Bill Lover –who just happens to be seeking re-election.

We can “anticipate” a potential demand for a supermajority but we don’t know for sure.  We know as a community we voted to put a 2/3 majority on the state legislature by 70+ %…but is it warranted or wanted here in Yakima to that degree?  We don’t  know.  So with assumptions but not a public demand, why would we change the Charter and pass it– if we know we are already doing a good job and taxes have already passed 5-2?

We didn’t vote to “block “ it and our vote didn’t block it, because the citizen signature process is ALWAYS available and actually really helps so everyone can see the level of interest that the community has…informed or otherwise.

I am looking for voter guidance on this and I will happily live with the final vote….but,  without a public ground swell of support and with our limite track record of tax votes and our collective sense of responsibility, the majority of the council voted against it.

And That’s how we can  “thinkthe public would pass it” but not vote for it ourselves.  IF  the citizen initiative process wasn’t there as a Plan B,  the vote may well have been different…but there is, it’s there and it worked.  Thanks.

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