City council member Mike O'Brien, a tunnel opponent, has canceled a planned brown bag discussion of tolling on the deep-bore tunnel, originally scheduled for next Thursday at 11:45, on the advice of the city's ethics and elections commission, whose director, Wayne Barnett, told O'Brien it could create the appearance that O'Brien is trying to influence the August 16 tolling referendum election, PubliCola has confirmed.
In an emai, Barnett told O'Brien, "It is my opinion that a reasonable person would conclude that the proposed brown bag event appears primarily designed to influence the outcome of the Referendum 1 election, and so would violate this prohibition" on using public facilities to influence an election.
Barnett added, "It is also my opinion that no reasonable ground rules could be established to conduct this brown bag event without running afoul of the law. It would be, practically speaking, difficult to impossible to limit the scope of the event so as to prevent impermissible support of and/or opposition to Referendum 1. Regardless of the rules imposed, it would appear to a reasonable purpose that this brown bag was 'PRIMARILY designed to influence the outcome of an election.'"
"I'm disappointed," O'Brien says. "I think that Wayne is looking at the world from a fairly narrow view of, let's be absolutely sure that we don't use city resources improperly, and I appreciate that. ... His job isn't to get information out, it's to make sure we don't do bad things.
"But there's some data out there that I think would be useful for all of us to have in making policy decisions, and I've been asking council members to do this since the [tolling] report came out" in January. "I was ignored and stonewalled, and finally I decided to do it myself, and the earliest I could schedule it was July."
Barnett says he sympathizes with O'Brien's timing dilemma, but "the law is the law, and that law says that you can't do anything to promote a ballot measure."
The planned council chambers brown bag was supposed to include representatives from the city's department of transportation (SDOT), the state department of transportation (WSDOT), and Nelson/Nygaard, the consultants who did a study concluding that tolling on the tunnel will divert as many as 40,000 cars onto downtown city streets. Although WSDOT ultimately agreed to include that study's findings in its Final Environmental Impact Statement on the tunnel, the agency also criticized the study as unsupported by other research---effectively dismissing its findings.
The brown bag issue first came up during a council briefing yesterday, when pro-tunnel council members expressed strong concerns about the timing of the brown bag, scheduled one day after ballots will be mailed out for the August 16 primary.
"I'm troubled by the schedule of the hearing," council member Tim Burgess said at the briefing. "By scheduling a committee meeting on a topic that is central, in some people's views, to the ballot measure, that brings us dangerously close to that line that we're not supposed to cross. ... I don't know how we hold this committee meeting ... and not engage in a debate about the August ballot measure. And I don't see the timeliness or the need to have that material presented to us when we're not making any decisions" about the tunnel right now, Burgess added.
Although O'Brien said he would be happy to consider eliminating the public comment portion of the meeting to avoid the appearance of a debate on the tunnel referendum itself, that proffer clearly didn't go far enough for Barnett.
Earlier this year, PubliCola reported that council president Richard Conlin, a tunnel proponent, changed the language of a tunnel-related post on his blog “to ensure compliance with the City’s ethical standards for the use of City resources when communicating about ballot issues.”
Council members did say they would be willing to hold a similar meeting after the election, once the council has appointed a special "tolling committee" to deal with the issue of tolling the tunnel.
- Advertisement -
OTHER POPULAR CONTENT
Butcher BB Ranch Is Feeding Marijuana to Pigs
Tracking What's New on Capitol Hill
Angelina Jolie, "Boobies," and Komen
Wednesday Jolt: McGinn's Human Services Director Bolts, DelBene Schools Holder, and Bad News for Sonics Fans
Barking Frog Mobile Kitchen Is Ready to Roll
Real Estate 2013
This Week in Happy Hour: Casual and Alfresco
Morning Fizz: The Data
Campaign Fizz: Burgess Fires Consultant
Friday Jolt: Burgess Withdraws from Mayor's Race
Eat, Play, and Stay on the Waterfront
Best Places to Work
- Butcher BB Ranch Is Feeding Marijuana to Pigs
- Tracking What's New on Capitol Hill
- Angelina Jolie, "Boobies," and Komen
- Wednesday Jolt: McGinn's Human Services Director Bolts, DelBene Schools Holder, and Bad News for Sonics Fans
- Barking Frog Mobile Kitchen Is Ready to Roll
- Real Estate 2013
- This Week in Happy Hour: Casual and Alfresco
- Morning Fizz: The Data
- Advertisement -
Most popularSlide Shows & Videos
- Advertisement -