The Bellevue City Council is considering an irresponsible proposal to empower it to remove its members from office. If the council adopts the proposed ordinance, it would usurp a power that should rest solely with the voters.
By giving itself such authority, the council would thumb its nose at the public and open the door to incessant bickering among its members. Passage of the proposal would show exactly the kind of arrogance an elected body should be careful to avoid.
If council members reject the proposal, in contrast, they will show respect to the public and demonstrate a needed understanding of the proper balance of authority between voters and elected officials.
The proposed ordinance deserves scrutiny, too, for imposing penalties that could have a chilling effect on the release of information in the public interest.
The council should make concerted efforts to build public trust rather than undermine it, after all, since it’s already on thin ice for the troubling way it recently approved a salary increase for itself. The council voted 4-2 this summer to approve automatic 2% yearly salary increases for itself without going through the normal process to allow public comment. The public received no prior notice that the item would be on the meeting agenda, as is normal, appropriate policy. In so doing, the council members sidestepped the appropriate three-meeting process by which a proposal is introduced, a public hearing held and then a vote is taken.
In light of that self-serving action, some voters might well say that the four council members who voted for the automatic raises should remove themselves from office on grounds of gross misjudgment.
But that’s a decision to be made by the voters at the next election — which is the important principle the council needs to keep in mind now by rejecting the proposed ordinance.