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Wed., June 1, 2011, 11:42 a.m.

Eugster questions proposed Spokane City Charter changes on August ballot

The proposed City Charter changes that will appear on the August ballot were supposed to be noncontroversial. But they already have high-profile opposition.

The Spokane Park Board publicly opposed the plan to strip its power to condemn property for park acquisition when the items were placed on the ballot last month.

Now the man who led the effort to create Spokane's current system of government -- the strong mayor system -- says he doesn't like many of the ideas either.

Former City Councilman Steve Eugster said the proposal on the Park Board endangers the park system's independence.

"The independent park board is a bright, historical phenomenon," Eugster said. "How are you going to have an independent park board if it can't acquire land?"

Among other proposals on the ballot that  Eugster said he likely will vote against is the plan to change the recall process. Currently, City Council members are elected by district, but if a member is recalled, the recall vote would be held city-wide. Voters in August will be given a chance to restrict the recall process to the districts.

Eugster argues that all city residents should have a say on a member's possible recall.

"Once he gets on the council, he's representing everybody," Eugster said.

Eugster also questions the proposal to remove the restriction on holding more than one special election within any six-month period. He said special elections should be used sparingly because they have a cost and because fewer people vote in them.

He agrees that a person should be able to run for City Council president even if they are prevented by term limits from running for other council seats (which is proposed), but he believes that's currently allowed under the current charter anyway.

Eugster said arguments about the need to clarify portions of the charter are greatly exaggerated.

"It's not as though these things were not thought out," Eugster said.

(Eugster still is listed as a candidate on the Public Disclosure Commission's website for City Council president. He filed to run for the office in 2009. Late last year, however, Eugster said he won't run, and he repeated that sentiment in an interview on Tuesday: "I'm more interested in practicing the law for the next 10 years.")

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Jonathan Brunt
Jonathan Brunt joined The Spokesman-Review in 2004. He is the government editor. He previously was a reporter who covered Spokane City Hall, Spokane County government and public safety.

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