Score a victory for astroturffing, as Seattle’s grocery bag fee has been put on hold after the so-called “Coalition to Stop the Seattle Bag Tax” managed to get enough signatures to put a city-wide referendum on the ballot. The vote won’t occur until the August, 2009 primary.
Opponents of the fee say the referendum is evidence Seattle’s elected officials have sailed too far ahead of the electorate with their environmental goals.
My ass. A) Getting out in front on an issue is what is commonly referred to in other parts of the country as “leadership,” something voters in our state constantly complain they don’t get, yet hypocritically attack elected officials as arrogant for even daring to try; and B) The referendum’s successful signature drive—financed almost entirely by the much beloved local advocacy group, the American Chemistry Council—is evidence of nothing at all except a well-funded signature drive.
A typical statewide initiative campaign might budget about $500,000 for signature canvassing, and turn in around 300,000 signatures by the deadline; by comparison, the American Chemistry Council spent $180,625 to collect only 22,292 signatures. That’s over $8 per signature, and about five times the typical cost.
All in all, a beautiful illustration of an inititiative and referendum process where money talks and true grassroots, populist advocacy walks around aimlessly at farmers markets and Hemp Fest. The plastic bag industry stood to lose a pretty penny if other cities started following Seattle’s lead, and so they wisely spent 18 million of them to stop this trend before it started.
Given enough money one could get absolutely anything on the ballot. Anything. I guess, if you have the money, that’s your right under the current rules, but it sure ain’t populism, and it’s high time our political and media elite pulled the bags off their heads and stopped revering as sacred an instrument of so-called “direct democracy” that isn’t partcularly direct, or democratic.