Tacoma for All and UFCW 367 Defeat City Hall in Landmark Court Ruling
In a Win for Tenant Rights Campaigners, County Ordered to Remove City Council’s Competing Measure 2 from the Ballot
Pierce County Superior Court Judge Timothy Ashcraft issued a ruling Wednesday, August 30, ordering the county to remove the City of Tacoma’s competing Measure 2 from the November ballot.
The ruling was issued in response to a lawsuit filed by Tacoma for All and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 367 (UFCW 367) asserting that the city charter guarantees voters the right to an up-or-down majority vote on citizens’ initiatives. By placing a competing measure on the ballot to force voters into a false either/or choice, City Council attempted to deny Tacoma voters this right and illegally interfere with Citizens’ Initiative 1, the Tenant Bill of Rights.
“This is a massive victory for grassroots democracy in Tacoma, and a victory for everyone fighting for stronger tenant protections,” Campaign Manager Ty Moore said. “Today, the court blocked the City’s attempt to derail our campaign on behalf of the landlord lobby, and made it clear that City Council’s actions were not only deceptive but illegal.”
A majority of City Council voted on July 11 to place Amended Ordinance 28831 on the November ballot to compete with Initiative 1, known as the Tenant Bill of Rights. Confusingly, the City Council also voted that same night to enact the ordinance, meaning that it became law and would offer no new protections if voters selected it over Initiative 1. Elected officials who voted in favor of the illegal act included Mayor Woodards, Deputy Mayor Walker, and Council Members Ushka, Hines, and Bushnell. Council Members Diaz and Daniels voted against placing Amended Ordinance 28831 on the ballot.
“We are thrilled that the courts have upheld democracy and ruled against the City of Tacoma,” said UFCW 367 President Mike Hines. “We are deeply disappointed in the actions of our elected representatives, who acted against the interests of working families in Tacoma. They acted to unlawfully deceive Tacoma voters with their competing ballot initiative, but we are relieved that justice has prevailed and Initiative 1 will now be presented to the people of Tacoma for a fair decision.”
The ruling means that Measure 2, already enacted into law as Amended Ordinance 28831, is struck from the ballot and will no longer appear as a confusing alternative.
"It’s important for people everywhere to be able to exercise the right to vote fairly and unimpeded. I’m thrilled to see this community effort moving forward for a fair and democratic vote,” said Council Member Olgy Diaz, who voted against placing Amended Ordinance 28831 on the ballot to compete with Initiative 1.
Moore notes that the campaign has spent nearly $15,000 and significant volunteer hours defending Initiative 1. “Although City Council’s illegal actions have cost our volunteer-powered, grassroots campaign an incredible amount of money for a citizen’s campaign, we’re moving forward undefeated and with the force of the labor movement and the voters of Tacoma behind us,” Moore said. “The landlord lobby has failed in their attempt to work through City Council to stop us. Now we fully expect them to spend big on deceptive mailers and ads, but we are confident working people in Tacoma will see through their lies and pass Initiative 1 this November.”