Backers of the initiative to ban coal shipments through Bellingham are not ready to give up. They say they have filed an appeal of Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Charles Snyder’s injunction to bar their measure from the November ballot.
Here’s the full text of the announcement from Coal-Free Bellingham:
Whatcom County Superior Court ruled on Friday, August 3, 2012, that a duly qualified citizen initiative will not appear on the November ballot. The Court’s decision to grant the request by the City of Bellingham and BNSF Railway Company to remove the initiative from the ballot was made on the grounds that the proposed initiative exceeded the powers that the City could assert against the railroad corporation and others. The Court then proceeded to dismiss the SLAPP suit (strategic lawsuit against public participation) which Coal-Free Bellingham, the sponsors of the initiative, had filed against the City. Known as the Bellingham Community Bill of Rights, the initiative would ask voters to secure residents’ rights to self-government and a clean environment, along with prohibiting coal trains from passing through Bellingham. Nearly 10,000 people signed the petition to get the initiative on the ballot.
Coal-Free Bellingham today appealed the decision to the State Court of Appeals, asking that a decision be made prior to August 28 – the last day on which the County Auditor can make decisions about what to put on the November ballot.
“The people’s State constitutional right to direct legislation lost out last Friday”, said Terry Garrett, volunteer organizer for Coal-Free Bellingham. “Appealing Friday’s decision is both about defending the 100-year-old right to initiative and about making sure the people of Bellingham get the chance to vote on reprogramming government to be about people and the environment, instead of supporting corporate exploitation.”
Morgan McCartor, volunteer member of the Coal-Free Bellingham Campaign Committee, agreed. “Unlike California,” McCartor said, “Washington law says that we check for legal issues with an initiative after the people have had a chance to vote. Without this right, we lose an important means for letting the legal system know how it needs to adjust. Because this is so key, we’re going to keep working so people really understand what got decided here. In addition to appealing, Coal-Free Bellingham’s response to having the initiative knocked off the ballot is that we are going double our office space.”
Suzanne Ravet has been talking with people outside Bellingham about the possibility of a similar initiative effort next year for Whatcom County. “At the Court hearing last Friday, I counted at least 30 and possibly more like 50 plus folks there with Prop 2 buttons on (or just folks I know have worked on the Prop 2 campaign). The saddest part to me is how our elected officials – and the Court — think that the average citizens aren’t smart enough to know what we are doing. It’s really insulting.”
“Community-rights ordinances like this one are the only way a town or county can fight back against the corporate license to ‘develop’ nature without acknowledging the costs of doing that,” said Phil Damon, veteran member of the Living Democracy group. “Our City (with their partner in the injunction, BNSF) has chosen to prevent its citizens from exercising their right to just such an initiative. No surprise from the railroad, but from the City Council? That’s a big ouch.” Living Democracy is a think tank and educational non-profit. Both Living Democracy and Coal-Free Bellingham were formed last year by citizens concerned by the lack of democracy in American society and by the gathering ecological holocaust.
Passing the Bellingham Community Bill of Rights in November would establish a local Bill of Rights, recognizing the fundamental right to clean air and water, to local self-government, the rights of ecosystems to exist and flourish, and it would prohibit the transportation of coal within City of Bellingham, among other provisions.
End press release