Election 2012: Voters to decide change to Pierce County Charter

County voters are being asked whether to increase the number of votes needed for Pierce County Council to raise taxes. Amendment 40 to Pierce County Charter would raise the number of votes needed from four to five. In May, the council voted 5-2 to put the measure on the ballot. The two Democrats, Rick Talbert and Tim Farrell of Tacoma, cast the dissenting votes. Gigi Talcott of Tacoma, who served seven terms in the State House of Representatives, is one of three people who wrote the statement in the voters’ pamphlet supporting the amendment. She also supports requiring a two-third majority in the Legislature to raise taxes. She said this makes politicians seek support from Democrats and Republicans on legislation.

Talcott also thinks the down economy, with people continuing to lose jobs, points to a need for such a restriction. “I want to make it more difficult to raise taxes.” Being on a ballot with races for president, governor and initiatives for legalizing marijuana and same-sex marriage, Talcott admits this charter amendment is getting limited attention. As her phone number was listed in the voters’ pamphlet, she has fielded just a few calls from voters who want more information. Some do not know the meaning of the term councilmanic used on the short description on ballots. Most have expressed support for making it more difficult for politicians to raise taxes. The charter can be changed by having a review committee of elected citizens who deliberate on changes, then send them to a vote of the general public. It can also be amended by the council sending a change to voters.

Should this matter have waited until the next charter review? Talcott said the majority of council members wanted to put on the ballot before the Legislature approves another two-year state budget. And because of the high voter turnout every four years in this state when we vote for president and governor, Talcott noted this is an ideal year since it is the cycle when the largest number of people vote. The League of Women Voters of Tacoma/Pierce County opposes this ballot measure. President Terri Baker said it violates the basic democratic concept of majority rule. “This takes that away.” She also feels this should be determined through the charter review process. While the council is allowed to use this method, Baker sees no urgency that warrants it. “This is not an emergency.” If approved, the amendment would go into effect as of Jan. 2, 2013.


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