OLYMPIA'S NUCLEAR-FREE ORDINANCE UNDER ATTACK
By Matt Batcheldor
Olympian (Olympia, WA)
August 22, 2008
A city ordinance that bans nuclear weapons in Olympia and bars the city from doing business with companies associated with them could face repeal.
The Olympia City Council's General Government Committee will reconsider the Nuclear Free Zone Ordinance of 2005 at a special meeting Tuesday. The committee is made up of Jeff Kingsbury, Rhenda Strub, and Craig Ottavelli, all of whom have criticized the ordinance.
Kingsbury asked the council to allow his committee to reconsider the validity of the act, its cost, who is signing required statements saying they are not associated with nuclear weapons, and which groups are exempt.
Kingsbury said a number of people have called or e-mailed asking that the measure be repealed. He stopped short of saying he would vote to repeal it.
"My impression of the ordinance is that it doesn't do anything except make a statement," Kingsbury said.
In interviews, most other council members were at least critical of the ordinance -- Strub, Ottavelli, Joan Machlis, and Mayor Doug Mah. Joe Hyer favors it, and Karen Messmer did not respond to phone messages.
The ordinance says:
• The city can't do business with companies associated with nuclear weapons, with some exceptions. City contractors must certify that companies are not associated with nuclear weapons, unless the city manager determines that there's no alternative.
• The mayor must write to representatives of nuclear-armed countries and other entities each year, informing them that the city is a nuclear-free zone.
• Nuclear weapons can't be developed, stored, or transported through Olympia. The exceptions are federal highways such as Interstate 5 and U.S. Highway 101, because the city doesn't have jurisdiction.
The City Council weakened the ordinance in 2006, when it exempted interlocal and purchase-and-sale agreements after at least five agencies hesitated to sign normally routine contracts because of the provision. Nuclear power has never been banned under the ordinance.
"I believe that the guts of the ordinance were stripped of its potency before it was ever passed, and after its first annual review, it was diluted even further," Kingsbury said.
Supporters of the ordinance say it makes an important statement.
TJ Johnson, a former councilman who proposed the ordinance, said its purpose is twofold: It increases awareness of nuclear weapons, and it allows the city to say it doesn't do business with those associated with the weapons.
He pointed out that the city already requires companies to sign statements certifying that they offer domestic-partnership benefits and don't have sweatshop labor. Only companies that offer spousal benefits must also offer domestic-partnership benefits; in June, a development team dropped out of the race to build the new Olympia City Hall because it wouldn't sign the domestic-partnership statement.
Johnson said the public overwhelmingly supported the nuclear-free ordinance.
"Why not put it to a public vote?" he said. "Why not allow both sides to put forward their best arguments and let the community decide?"
Hyer, the only current councilman to vote for the ordinance in 2005, said he still favors it.
"In this world, symbols are important," he said. "We don't need nuclear weapons."
An attempt by then-Mayor Mark Foutch to repeal the ordinance failed in 2006 when the council deadlocked 3-3, with Messmer abstaining. She said afterward that she didn't vote because she thought there should be more public process and added that she didn't want to spend any more time on the issue.
The council has changed dramatically since 2005. Three council members whose terms began this year were critical of the nuclear-free ordinance Thursday.
"I think it's an example of what I would call a nuisance ordinance," Ottavelli said.
Machlis said she will wait to see what the city's analysis of the ordinance says, but "I personally feel like that's not something I would have adopted."
Strub said she thinks the ordinance is ineffective.
"It's really turned into more of a paperwork nightmare . . . than it has a public statement in favor of peace," she said.
OLYMPIA RECONSIDERS NUCLEAR FREE ZONE ORDINANCE
August 22, 2008
OLYMPIA, Wash. -- The Olympia City Council is reconsidering an ordinance that declared the city a nuclear free zone.
A city council committee will discuss repealing the ordinance at a Tuesday meeting.
Council members say a number of people have called and e-mailed asking the council to repeal the 3-year-old measure.
The ordinance bans the city from doing business with companies associated with nuclear weapons. Contractors must certify they are not associated with nuclear weapons.
The ordinance also says nuclear weapons can't be developed or stored in the city or transported through Olympia. The mayor has to write a letter to nuclear-armed countries each year telling them that Olympia is a nuclear free zone.