Ethics Commission Sticks with Holmes' Language

By Josh Feit June 17, 2011

After this morning's  hearing and after making some minor tweaks—such as changing "eliminate" to "reject" and "choose" to "approve"—the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission decided today to stick with City Attorney Pete Holmes' language for Referendum 1, saying it will "help the voters vote, by telling them what consequences [the referendum] will have," as commissioner Amit Ranade said as the commission approved the language.

The pro-tunnel side spun the decision, which says the explanatory statement should begin "This ballot measure will neither approve nor reject the deep bore tunnel as an alternative to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct,"—as a victory.

Pro-Tunnel spokesman Alex Fryer goes into spin mode after the hearing, writing up  a "victory" press release.

"It's really important to say what this [referendum] is and isn't about," pro-tunnel campaign spokesman Alex Fryer said after the Commission announced its decision. "That the the opening statement says this is not about accepting or rejecting the tunnel is a key political victory for us."

However, the Commission also ruled in favor of some of Holmes' concluding language which fleshes out the consequences of the vote.

The consequences? It could tee-up another vote on the tunnel project.[pullquote]"It's telling the voters that a 'No' vote is more process. It will keep us in a hamster wheel."—Alex Fryer.[/pullquote]

The measure will read that if voters reject the measure the city council could "proceed with the [tunnel] agreements beyond the preliminary design phase of the project only by enacting another ordinance, which would be subject to a potential veto and potential referendum." That potential referendum would explicitly be about going ahead (or not) with the tunnel.

"It highlights for voters what happens if they opt to reject [Ref. 1]," Commission Chair Bob Mahon told PubliCola. "An ordinance will be adopted, and it will have consequences."

This gives the the anti-tunnel camp the ammo to stick with their campaign spin: That the vote is all about the tunnel. "It's in the voters hands now," Protect Seattle Now attorney Gary Manca said after the hearing, "whether the city should ultimately go through with the project in light of the potential for cost overruns."

However, Fryer spun the closing language differently: "It's telling the voters that a 'No' vote is more process. It will keep us in a hamster wheel."

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