PAC wants to pay to put plastic bag ban on Lacey ballot

Will Lacey take the money? That’s the question facing Lacey City Council after a local group called on the council last Thursday to support their cause.

The group, a political action committee called the Effective Self-Governance Association of Thurston County, is prepared to write a check to the city for $2,500 to pay to get a city plastic bag ban before voters this November.

After the representative made her pitch Thursday night, Councilman Jason Hearn made a motion to accept the money and to put the issue on the fall ballot. His motion won support from Councilman Lenny Greenstein, but Mayor Andy Ryder quickly put the brakes on the discussion, saying it would be an unprecedented move for the city to take the money.

“This is something that has never happened before,” he said, adding that a decision of this magnitude needs the full participation of the council. Deputy Mayor Cynthia Pratt and Councilman Michael Steadman were absent.

But Councilman Virgil Clarkson took issue with Ryder’s comments, pointing out that they had a quorum with five council members in attendance.

Still, Ryder stuck to his position, and Councilman Jeff Gadman said the council should put the issue on a future agenda to further discuss the group’s proposition.

This week’s work session has been canceled, and Ryder will be absent July 9, so the council is set to discuss the issue July 16. That’s the date of the council’s next “on the road” meeting, at Mountain View Elementary School. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m.

The later date gives the city’s attorney, Dave Schneider, time to research whether the city can accept the group’s money. He said last week that he thinks the city can accept the money, although there may need to be a “policy in place before taking that unprecedented measure.”

The deadline to add something to the November ballot is Aug. 4.

The chairman of the self-governance group is Justin Kover, who challenged state Rep. Sam Hunt for his seat in 2010 and ran for the Thurston Public Utility District in 2012. Kover said he was spurred to action because some Lacey council members have supported the idea of getting the plastic bag ban before voters.

The Lacey City Council approved the plastic bag ban last year on a 4-3 vote. Hearn, Clarkson and Greenstein voted against it, saying voters should decide. In May, Greenstein — armed with recent Thurston County survey data that showed 57 percent of respondents did not support the ban in Lacey — sought another motion to put the issue before voters, but the ban was again upheld 4-3.

Now, does Councilman Steadman represent the swing vote that Hearn, Clarkson and Greenstein need to place the issue on the ballot?

Steadman defended his vote on Facebook after the ban was upheld in May, but Kover challenged him online, asking if he would support putting the issue before voters if Kover could raise the money.

Kover sent a screenshot of that conversation to The Olympian on Monday, which appears to show Steadman agreeing to support him. Steadman could not be reached Monday.

“This is highly unusual,” said Mayor Ryder at the end of last week’s discussion.