Vote 'No' on Proposition 2

As Election Day nears, many Tacoma residents are understandably focused on the races for president, governor and various statewide offices. Many people have argued that the decisions made by voters at this year’s election are perhaps the most important decisions of our lifetime.

That said, the emphasis on the above elected offices should not lessen the importance of one proposition that will be presented to voters on Election Day: Proposition 2. Through this proposition, the City of Tacoma aims to change its charter, based upon recommendations by the Charter Review Committee. If voters approve passage of Proposition 2, the city will be allowed to publish summaries of ordinances in the Tacoma Daily Index, instead of the entire text of ordinances. This change to the city’s charter would negatively affect the Index, its readers and all Tacoma residents in a number of important ways.

First, the city would require that Tacoma residents visit the City Clerk’s Office to obtain complete copies of ordinances, instead of receiving this information in the mail (via subscription) or at the library (in-person). The result: an inconvenient change that negatively impacts the busy schedules of city residents;

Second, the city claims it will mail copies of full-text ordinances (at no cost) to residents unable to visit the City Clerk’s office in-person. However, I strongly believe that it would only be a matter of time before the city realized the costs (in money and manpower) of meeting this goal, and either charge residents for this service, or discontinue providing this service altogether;

Third, the city claims it is trying to save money by presenting Proposition 2 to voters. Yet it fails to consider costs such as postage to mail ordinances to Tacomans, toner and paper required to copy these ordinances, wear-and-tear on copy machines, and the additional time consumed by city staff in making these copies.

Index subscribers currently receive the full text of city ordinances delivered conveniently to their doors. Even non-subscribers can read the full text of the ordinances in issues displayed at most local libraries. The passage of Proposition 2 would end this practice entirely.

The committee that wrote the “Statement For” argument appearing in the 2004 Voters’ Pamphlet indicates that the city would save $60,000 to $80,000 with this change. As I wrote in the rebuttal in the “Statement Against” argument, it is impossible for the city to save this much money with passage of Proposition 2. True, the city’s average publishing cost is approximately $60,000 per year. But the committee that supports Proposition 2 fails to inform voters that this price-tag is for all city publishing (e.g., ordinances, resolutions, bids, meeting schedules and other city notices), not simply the full ordinances that appear in the Index. If the city is aiming to save $60,000 per year, it needs to publish nothing at all — an impossible idea that would fail its residents.

I raised these concerns with the Charter Review Committee and the Tacoma City Council, pointing out that the cost-savings presented to voters was inaccurate and misleading. Still, these erroneous figures appeared in the Voters’ Pamphlet. Why? My best guess is that little confidence surrounds the passage of Proposition 2; the misleading and inaccurate “cost-savings” simply had to be included.

I would never ask anyone to vote for or against something on my word alone. Please look at page 28 of the Pierce County Voters’ Pamphlet and carefully read both positions. I think you will come to the same conclusion: Tacoma residents lose if voters pass Proposition 2.

Ken Spurrell, Publisher, Tacoma Daily Index