SEVERAL DAYS AGO, the city council unanimously passed the Initiative, Referendum and Recall Charter Amendments Act of 1977. This is an important bill that would let District voters exercise more responsiblity in governing their own community.
To put it simply, these amendments would allow citizens to propose laws (through initiatives), suspend acts of the city council (by referenda) and request a recall election - in which an elected official of the city would be either removed or retained. We think these proposed amendments reasonably extend both the letter and the spirit of the home-rule charger increased participation by District residents in the direction of their own affaris.
The city council has wisely included safeguards. For example, five per cent of the voting residents in at least five wards in the city would have to sign petitions to have either an initiative or a referendum issue placed on the ballot. And, 10 per cent of the registered voters in a ward would have to sign a petition for a recall election in that ward. In the case of atlarge elected officials, at least 10 per cent of the registered voters in five or more wards would have to sign petitions requesting a recall. These conditions should ensure a proper measure of thoughtfulness and order in these processes.
While there are several specific matters under the current charter that cannot be addressed through either initiative or referendum - tax legislation, emergency legislation and specific authorities retained by Congress - these amendments would at least expand community involvement. They would also strengthen both the city council and the advisory neighborhood commissions by making them even more directly accountable to their electorate. Perhaps most importantly, the passage of this legislation would provide a forum for greater public discussion of public issues.
Mayor Washington is expected to sign the bill. After the citizens would have a chance to vote on it when the school-board elections are held in November.If the legislation is supported by the voters, it will then have to be approved by the House and Senate. We hope that both voter support and congressional approval will be forthcoming. Meanwhile, we applaud the efforts of the council and the citizens' groups that worked with it to get this legislation drafted and passed.