Mercer Island Reporter


Our ballot

October 30, 2013 · 10:25 AM

A number of important issues are on the Nov. 5 ballot. Two statewide issues have drawn strong pro and con arguments. In addition, important votes will be cast on two countywide issues. Here is our take.

No on I-517: Initiative gathering

Our state has the initiative process to make sure that the public has a way to propose legislation that it finds necessary, but that the Legislature won’t consider. It works well here. I-517 adds elements that not only aren’t necessary, but also would be costly to cities and counties.

The measure tries to make the case that people are at risk from attacks or retaliation for seeking signatures on petitions and would make doing so a crime. That’s hardly the case. In fact, former Secretary of State Sam Reed said most of the complaints his office handled involved signature gatherers being overly aggressive.

I-517 would make that worse by letting people gather signatures in any public space, like our library or even at a high school basketball game.

Equally bad, the initiative would force cities and counties to put an initiative on the ballot even if its already been ruled illegal. Taxpayers would be stuck with the bill for counting ballots for something that never could become law.

No on I-522: Genetically engineered foods

This sounds good in theory, but may not be so good in practice.  It needs more work.

Both the state and federal government are charged with keeping our food safe. I-522 would go beyond this by forcing our state to impose labeling requirements on genetically engineered foods.

Proponents say the public has a right to know what foods have been genetically modified. One problem? Not all genetically engineered foods would have to have the label.

Despite the scary sound of “genetically engineered food,” most of the food we eat is exactly that.

And the federal Food and Drug Administration and most scientists say it’s entirely safe. In fact, many farmers who grow organic crops use genetically modified resources.

For decades, scientists have ‘genetically engineered’ crops by cross breeding grains and produce with hardier varieties to resist pests, need less moisture and increase yields. These programs have allowed farmers to produce more food at a lower cost. Are they perfect? No one would say there isn’t more to do. But painting all foods that have been altered with a two-word label is neither accurate or fair.

Nevertheless, I-522 would mandate new labels for thousands of products while at the same time allowing thousands of other GMO foods to remain unlabeled. Supermarkets would be required to have GMO labels on food, but not restaurants. Food from foreign countries also would be exempt.

More to do here. More education, more thinking, better rules.

Yes on King County Charter Amendment No. 1:  establish public defense department

This amendment would create a county department of public defense.

Our Constitution says that people accused of a crime are entitled to a lawyer even if they can’t afford one. To meet this standard, King County has contracted with private, non-profit corporations to act as these public defenders. Because the non-profits were seen as independent contractors, they didn’t receive county benefits even though the defense they provided was paid for by the public.

A class-action settlement made these defenders county employees.

This proposition creates the actual department of public defense. It would be within the executive branch, as are other county departments.

There is no formal opposition to the measure.

Yes on King County Proposition No. 1: Medic One

Even if you’ve never had to use it, you know the county’s Medic One program is a lifesaver. In fact, it is recognized as one of the best emergency medical service systems in the world.

Proposition No. 1 keeps this in place by replacing an expiring property tax levy with a new one for the next six years.

The tax rate would be $0.335 or less per thousand dollars of assessed value. That’s just $100 a year for a house with an assessed valuation of $300,000. That’s actually less than what the average homeowner paid in 2008 for these same services.

Any way you add this up, it’s a bargain.

City of Mercer Island City Council

We endorse:

Dan Grausz, Council Position 2

Benson Wong, Council Position 6


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