We are bringing citizen's initiative powers to the City of Kenmore

Virtually every neighboring city — Lake Forest Park, Shoreline, Bothell, Woodinville, many others — has citizen Initiative powers at a city level. So why doesn't Kenmore ? For a city that was incorporated by petition-based citizen's initiative a quarter-century ago, it's time we adopt those powers and give our citizens legislative power.

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Why Citizen's Initiatives?

Kenmore was itself, incorporated through a dedicated initiative process

City incorporation procedures require the collection of petition signatures, to then be approved by a vote of the community. In 1997, after several attempts, incorporation was finally approved by 71%.

Kenmore YES Sign

A campaign sign in support of the the 1997 Citizens for Incorporation of Kenmore campaign. Source: Kenmore Heritage Society

Most all of our neighboring cities have it already

Virtually every neighboring city has initiative powers at a city level, including:

  • Bothell ✅
  • Lake Forest Park ✅
  • Shoreline ✅
  • Woodinville ✅
  • Redmond ✅
  • Lynnwood ✅
  • Mountlake Terrace ✅
  • Mill Creek ✅
  • Edmonds ✅
  • Brier ✅
  • Everett ✅
  • Seattle ✅
  • Bellevue ✅
  • ... and many more !

Source: MRSC, WSDOT

Over 62% of voters across Washington state have initiative powers

According to research from Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington ( MRSC ), "the majority of the cities in Washington State [ ... ] have the option to allow local citizens to directly enact or repeal legislation through the powers of initiative and referendum." Cumulatively, this accounts for over 62% of voters across Washington State.

Additionally, many counties, including our own King County, also allow citizen's to enact legislation at a county level. This constitutes over 61% of voters statewide. And of course, 100% of Washington residents across the state can pursue statewide legislation through initiatives.

We think it's time for Kenmore to join the majority and adopt initiative powers at a city level.

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Initiatives have brought many important, more equitable changes to municipalities

Citizen's initiatives have been an important tool in the toolbelt for supporting a community that is active and engaged in its civic and political processes.

City, Year Initiative Approval
Seattle, 2015 Initiative 122: Honest Elections democracy vouchers 63%
Seattle, 2015 Initiative 124: Protecting hotel workers rights 77%
Tacoma, 2015 Initiative 1: Raise minimum wage 71%
Federal Way, 2019 Initiative 19-001: Protecting renters' rights 55%

Adding an initiative to an election "does not measurably increase cost", per King County Elections

According to estimates provided by King County Elections' Business and Finance Office, who forecasts election costs for municipalities — if cities like Kenmore already have items on the ballot ( such as this year's local elections, and virtually every odd-year primary and general election for the foreseeable future ) — adding an initiative to the ballot, in their words, "does not measurably increase the election cost." They are effectively "free" to add to an existing Kenmore municipal election.

Technically, there are limited, special scenarios where an initiative could cost the city money, but importantly: that's only when there are no other elections already taking place, such as in a standalone vote in a February or April special election. In that edge case, cost estimates range from $15,000-43,000. But even that has a number of silver linings that we should highlight. First, the final cost is determined by how many local jurisdictions hold elections ( more jurisdictions participating means more cost savings ). Secondly, even the extreme upper end of estimates of e.g. $43,000, in the context of our biannual expenditures of $132,209,358 — that's a scant 0.03% of our budget. And finally, the city may even get reimbursed from King County for the election costs in some instances.

The cost details can get wonky — we're sharing them here in full transparency, but of course, it would be most practical to pursue an initiative in the most cost-effective manner, such as an odd-year election, which is most common for city initiatives, anyhow. But it boils down to this: the costs for the city at the end of the day, range from "extremely affordable, and well worth the money" to "virtually, free."

For more particulars on election costs, check out King County's 2022 Jurisdiction Manual, and its section titled "Election Costs," starting at page 39.

How we get there

We have two paths to winning citizen's initiative powers:

1. City Council Votes

If a majority of City Council votes to support it, initiative powers can be enacted by an ordinance. They will likely be discussing the issue of initiatives at a future Kenmore City Council meeting.

Please write in to your City Councilmembers, and encourage them to support bringing citizen's initiatives in the City of Kenmore !

Thank you for your support !

2. Collecting Petition Signatures

If City Council chooses not to take any action, citizens can collect petition signatures and enact these powers themselves. We would need to collect roughly 3,500 signatures. ( Kenmore has over 17.000 registered voters, for reference — wholly doable ! ), and then win a majority of votes when it's put to the voters of Kenmore for approval.

We're going to give City Council the opportunity to weigh in on this issue first, but watch this space for more updates as this campaign progresses !

For more information, you can visit MRSC's Initiative and Referendum Powers.