Change of government the will of Black Diamond voters | Letter
August 1, 2012 · Updated 9:12 AM
I will respond to the July 17, 2012 LTE “Keep Black Diamond Current Form of Government” in a similar vein and with some fact-checking.
Statement: The Black Diamond City Council is attempting to change over 50 years of rich history without citizen involvement!
Fact: The Black Diamond City Council did not advocate or attempt to change the form of government. The public advocated for this position and if there is any change in the form of government it will be because the citizens of Black Diamond voted for it.
This topic was brought up and publicized in this very paper back in January 2012; this topic has been brought up at many of the Community Forums over the past months and this topic has been brought up at almost every City Council meeting over the past several months.
It has been the substantial citizen involvement that has brought this change proposal forward. It was only when the citizens went to the city to obtain the initiative and ballot process that the Asst. City Administrator informed the citizens that the city of Black Diamond did not have a referendum process and referred the citizens to King County Elections. Unlike Enumclaw, Maple Valley or most of the incorporated cities, Black Diamond had never formalized the referendum process. Ballot measures have historically been placed on the ballot through the Council resolution process.
In fact, King County Elections has notified the city of Black Diamond that they would be unable to process a petition directly submitted by the citizens; that the city would have to present the petition. The city was in a powerful position of denying public the opportunity to petition their government through the referendum process or placing it on the ballot through resolution. The Council was clear it was only for this reason that the Resolution was passed. If one looks at the July 19 council agenda, you will also see that the City Council passed a resolution to initiate the initiative and referendum process within the BDMC.
Statement: Why the attempt to hurriedly change our city government? Why was this done in a special, lightly attended council meeting on Monday, July 9 (Council meetings are normally held on Thursday)?
Fact: The Black Diamond City administration knew for months about this gap in the BDMC and kept sending the public back to King County Elections, who kept sending the public back to the city with a stern comment that this was the City’s problem. In fact King County Elections stated that the citizens should seek legal counsel. Once the City Council realized that there was no mechanism for the public to assert any process they were faced with an extremely tight timeline of Aug. 7 for the fall election. The special meeting was held Monday the 9th because the City Offices were closed for furlough on the regular scheduled Thursday the 5th in conjunction with the Fourth of July Holiday.
Statement: However, the residents of the Lake Sawyer annexation area, who use Covington Water and Soos Creek sewer, only pay the stormwater tax, a small contribution to the enterprise funds compared to old Black Diamond. Why is the council not addressing this inequity rather than attempting to change our government?
Fact: Because the residents of Lake Sawyer are in the Covington Water and Soos Creek Water and Sewer Districts, they cannot be serviced by the city of Black Diamond for water and sewer. This is pretty self-explanatory. The Lake residents do pay stormwater taxes. Furthermore, due to the substantially higher property values, the residents of Lake Sawyer actually pay substantially more in direct property taxes to the City of Black Diamond than do homeowners in other areas of the City.
Statement: particularly among cities with a population of less than 10,000 (Black Diamond has a population of 4,160). Ninety percent of Washington cities with a population of less than 5,000 have a mayor-council form of government.
Fact: The City of Black Diamond and the former Council recently passed approval of MPD permits that will have the City of Black Diamond grow rapidly to approximately 25,000 people. Black Diamond needs a professional, skilled manager immediately.
Statement: In Black Diamond, we want to vote for our mayor. We want the mayor to be directly responsible to the voters.
Fact: If the voters want the government to be directly accountable to them than a Council-Manager is the form of government they would want. I encourage you to look at the organizational chart of Maple Valley (Citizens City Manager City Council). In the city of Black Diamond organizational chart, the citizens are not listed and the mayor is not required to open the doors and listen. The mayor and administration are politically driven and separate from the Council elected by the people.
Statement: We must speak up and let this Council know that a special election is an expense we don’t want to bear. The pros and cons can be evaluated over the next year and after all implications are known we can proceed, knowing we are knowledgeable of what the change means to the city.
Fact: The cost of the election was considered by the citizens; in-fact the original delay was to allow a less expensive ballot measure and although called a special election, it is not nearly as costly as the special election held for the safety levy. If one is concerned about the city’s budget, one should be more concerned about the incredibly high salaries of the city’s staff which range about 150 percent of the salary of staff personnel in other similar sized cities.
Statement: Your voice matters. Even if you are not a resident of Black Diamond, you are directly connected to what happens here – Black Diamond needs your voice!
Response: If I could have one nit to pick it would be online comments by one of the authors of this letter complaining that Council didn’t listen to the people who actually live in Black Diamond. I guess the invite for all to come wasn’t sincere.
A change in government for the people by the people is a giant step in the right direction.