Terrace council members have right to free expression

  • Evan Smith<br>Enterprise
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 11:54am

Shame on the Mountlake Terrace City Council. Shame on the Council for reprimanding two of its members for expressing their opinions in a letter to constituents and in an on-line newsletter.

Congratulations to Mayor Jerry Smith and Councilman John Zambrano for expressing their views just as many of their constituents have expressed their own views on both sides of a contentious and important public issue, the redevelopment of the city’s downtown.

Week after week, this newspaper has carried letters from citizens expressing views on how to develop downtown Mountlake Terrace.

So, Smith and Zambrano expressed their views in a way that everyone has a right to do.

We live in a society with what the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Brennan once called a “profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and wide open.”

The majority of council members seem not to have such a commitment to open, robust debate.

That majority decided that Smith and Zambrano had violated council protocols that urge members to avoid surprises, work together and “not use the media for personal gain or to make other council members look bad.”

Our government, at all levels, works when all of us, elected officials and their constituents, are free to express any view in any forum we choose.

The voters elected Smith and Zambrano to a City Council that debates issues, not to a secret society whose members protect each other.

Change the procedure for school levy elections

A proposal before the state Legislature would amend the state constitution to allow voters in school districts to pass levies and bond issues with a simple majority, rather than the current 60 percent.

The rule became law during the depression and part of the constitution during World War II.

It not only requires a 60 percent “yes” vote but also requires a voter turnout of 40 percent of the turnout in the last state general election.

The Legislature should pass the resolution, and voters should approve it.

The amendment would put school districts on the same footing as other governing bodies – cities, counties, utility districts, etc.

If those entities can raise taxes or sell bonds with the support of half their voters, so should school districts. A tax levy is a tax levy, whether it’s for a city, a fire district or a school district.

Such a constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Legislature and a simple majority vote in the November election.

Keeping score at home

The game Sunday was Super Bowl XLI, but history tells us that it was really NFL Championship Game LXXIV.

Evan Smith is the Enterprise Forum editor. Send comments to entopinion@heraldnet.com.

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