A Seattle judge recently declared inappropriate Divest from War’s I-97 initiative effort, requiring Seattle’s employee pension fund to divest from companies that profit from war and occupation in Iraq and the Palestinian Territories.
Plaintiffs in the case included the City of Seattle, the Washington Israel Business Council, and the right wing group, Stand With Us.
Proponents, who were well on their way to collecting sufficient signatures to get the prop on the ballot, must now figure out how they will continue their campaign.
Campaign and Phinney Neighbors for Peace member Karen Jones said
This is a blow to grassroots democracy in the city of Seattle. This ruling says that there is one
aspect of city operations that is not subject to legislative oversight, giving way too much
power to the pension board. However, this campaign is in no way over.
This does not appear to be an obvious case of muzzling. Apparently, state law says only the city’s retirement board gets to make decisions regarding investments. That means even a ballot initiative can’t trump the board. Yet, Seattle’s city council once passed a resolution which got the city to pull stocks from companies profiting from South African apartheid. And a current councilman has asked the pension fund’s managers to consider a Darfur-related proposal.
Still, when voters are being given the right to have a say over everything from who can and can’t marry, to who can have abortions, one has to wonder who exactly is defining the term “appropriate.” Since it is taxpayer money, an initiative giving citizens some say about how their monies are spent seems entirely appropriate.
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