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Group launches referendum drive to stop Seattle's business tax

A referendum drive launched Friday, May 18, 2018, to prevent Seattle’s new big business tax from taking effect. An ad hoc group of small business are behind the referendum, according the Saul Spady, the owner of a marketing firm and grandson of Dick’s Drive In founder Dick Spady. (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE - A referendum drive launched Friday to prevent Seattle’s new big business tax from taking effect. An ad hoc group of small business are behind the referendum, according the Saul Spady, the owner of a marketing firm and grandson of Dick’s Drive In founder Dick Spady.

“We are going to have a petition ready to be signed by the end of the day,” Saul Spady said.

The group is going to have to move fast. They need to collect nearly 18,000 signatures by June 15, the day the law authorizing the tax takes effect. The actual law will go into effect Jan. 1, 2019.

RELATED | Watch: KOMO town hall takes on controversial business tax

“This is exciting, a citizen’s referendum is an opportunity to make your voice heard,” said Spady. “It’s really all you can do when the council votes 9-0, (on the tax) that obviously the city wasn’t unanimous about.”

He said Dick’s Drive-In will be one of the first businesses lending it’s support to the referendum. He’s hoping large companies like Amazon and Starbucks lend their support early next week.

“I think everybody has been getting to a boiling point and wondering if they are the only sane people in Seattle,” said Erika Nagy, a support of the referendum and community activist in Ballard. “I think a lot of us woke up and said, 'we are not alone.' "

The signature drive comes right after a letter sent by Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan to the City Clerk outlined why she did not sign the spending resolution that accompanied the business tax.

In the letter she said, "there are a number of issues regarding the proposed five-year spending plan...that need to be discussed and addressed with Council.”

But, Dr. Jacob Vigdor, a professor of public policy at the University of Washington said it’s an indecisive move.

“So for the time being, we've got a tax, that money goes into the general revenue stream, it can be spent on anything, we don't know,” said Vigdor.

In the letter, Durkan is confident the issues with the spending plan can be worked out with councilmembers.

The President and CEO of the Downtown Seattle Association said it’s an example of the city’s alleged lack of a plan to help the homeless.

“I think that says everything about how dysfunctional this has been, and that’s why folks across this city are frustrated when I comes to this council and this issue of homelessness,” said Jon Scholes.

Spady hopes to start the signature gathering Friday night.

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