Just hours ago, December 2, 2016, the deadline passed by which the City of Lakewood promised to provide answers to a Public Disclosure Request concerning possible communication goings-on behind closed doors pertaining to the controversial Rental Housing Safety Program.
Meanwhile, nobody – not owners of single-family rental properties, nor even those with multi-family rentals – will pay business license fees simply because they own rental property in 2017.
Also meanwhile, the controversy swirling around the rental inspection program (RIP) here locally has been referenced now in at least two cities across the country.
On October 17, each of the Lakewood City Council was polled individually as to whether they, as elected representatives, would in fact represent what would appear to be a sizeable segment of the population who oppose the rental inspection program by inquiring of the Municipal Research Services Center as to the susceptibility of RIP to referendum.
Four did not respond; one offered to provide a list of attorneys; one said they would but then did not, there having been nothing further; and one even said rather emphatically “No” and sent their expanded opinion as to why to the rest of the council.
Consequently a request for public records was made by email this past October 24. A certified letter from the City, dated October 25, stated, “We expect to provide a response and associated documents by 12/2/2016.”
December 2 has come and gone and, as of this writing, a promise unmet as well.
The delay matters because there’s another set of deadlines to meet if Ordinance No. 644 – the law passed by the Council 6-1 August 1, 2016 establishing the right of government approved inspectors to enter rental properties – is found to be subject to referendum, which entails a signature-gathering effort to place the issue before the voters.
The Pierce County Auditor wants 60 days before the date of the election by which to receive signatures so as to determine if there are enough valid names to certify an election; create a ballot title; and other matters pertinent to a referendum of the people.
Lakewood wants an additional 64 days for the submittal of signatures to City Hall prior to the Auditor’s deadline.
The total then is 124 days, or four months, before any of the special election dates established by the Auditor to turn in petitions.
Of course then there’s the time necessary to gather signatures.
And there’s the time for an attorney to review the petition before the signature gathering effort can even begin to ensure it will pass the legal challenge anticipated by the City.
And there’s the time to review the results of the Public Disclosure Request which, though promised, as of this writing hasn’t been received.
According to RCW 29A.04.330, “Initiative and referendum elections may be held only on specific dates.” These dates are (1) “the first Tuesday after the first Monday in February”, which for 2017 would be Feb. 7. Subtract 64 days and the deadline for submitting signatures – Oct.3, 2016 – is already passed; (2) “the second Tuesday in March”, thus March 14, 2017, minus 64 days is Nov.10 and that deadline too is passed; (3) “the fourth Tuesday in April”, which would be April 25, 2017, minus 64 days is Dec. 21 by which to submit nearly 5,000 signatures; (4) “the third Tuesday in May”, or May 16, 2017minus 64 days is Jan. 12, 2017.
Two additional possibilities are “the day of the primary election,” and “the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November” which of course is the date of the general election.
In what appears to be “a splatter of verbal fudge” – a phrase coined by George F. Will writing on a different matter in the Dec.2, 2016 edition of “The Washington Post” – a recent decision of the Council concerning the rental inspection program may be evidence of an attempt to sweeten the pot – making palatable what to many is objectionable. It was “the consensus of the (Lakewood City) Council to waive business licenses for multi-family rental housing in 2017” (p.013, of 159 – the Council Agenda Packet for December 5, 2016).
As reported November 20, 2016 in this publication, the Council had declared its intent to “implement a $60 business license fee for multi-family apartments per location,” and the Council at that same November 14, 2016 Study Session “agreed to consider business licensing for single family rental housing at a later date.”
Now, per the minutes of the Council’s November 28, 2016 Study Session, no rental property owner at all – single- or multiple-family rental – will pay that business license fee for the coming year.