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Businesses Banking On Charter Backers Of City-County Consolidation Have Received Nearly $140,000 In Donations

Thu., Oct. 12, 1995

(From For the record of Friday, 10-13-95): The largest donation to a group fighting Spokane city-county consolidation was from Democrats for United Action. Thursday’s newspaper reported the contribution was from former county assessor George Britton. Britton signed the check.

Saying they think a single government would be better than two, businesses are opening their bank accounts to the campaign to merge Spokane city and county governments.

Among the scores of businesses that have given to the pro-charter campaign are 18 whose contributions are more than the total raised by the opposition group.

We The People collected $139,380 since August, according to county election records updated this week. By far the biggest wad came from businesses and business organizations.

We The Taxpayers, which organized last week to fight consolidation, has $735. All its donations are from individuals.

“I don’t think we’re ever going to get anywhere near the amount of money that the other side has,” said opposition leader Bill First.

First draws comparisons between the Nov. 7 charter election and last month’s vote on putting the Pacific Science Center in Riverfront Park. Voters rejected that proposal, even though proponents outspent opponents $140,000 to $650.

“It was a striking example of how you don’t always need a great deal of money to win a campaign if the voters aren’t buying what the other side is saying,” said First.

Ed Sharman, spokesman for We The People, said his group isn’t concerned about appearing like Goliath facing David.

The war chest “shows the kind of support there is for what we’re doing,” he said.

The campaign’s largest gift was from the economic development group Momentum, which gave $50,000 and promises that much more once contributions hit $150,000.

Washington Trust Bank gave $11,182, while The SpokesmanReview and Washington Water Power Co. gave $10,000 each. Fifteen other companies gave $1,000 or more.

Business leaders say they consider the charter the best opportunity to create a government that is more effective and less costly, and will provide better representation than the separate city and county governments.

The Spokane Area Chamber of Commerce endorsed consolidation last month after chamber members visited Indianapolis and Charlotte, N.C. Business leaders in those cities said consolidation has been good for the economy.

“We like the idea of getting a new, progressive government on the board,” said Willy Lampe, general manager of Spokane Recycling Products Inc. The company gave $1,500 to the campaign.

“We feel that if the charter is executed properly it can be a more effective form of government with broader representation for all of our citizens,” Washington Trust Bank Chairman Philip Stanton said through Vice President Lea Werner.

Despite the corporate support, it’s wrong to paint consolidation as a business issue, said Stacey Cowles, publisher of The Spokesman-Review. The newspaper endorsed consolidation on its editorial page, calling city and county governments “a couple of broken-down old cars.”

Business leaders “are all citizens, too, and we want government that is less expensive and more effective,” said Cowles, adding that the charter “probably is not a perfect proposal … but the positives far outweigh the negatives.”

Editor Chris Peck said the newspaper’s contribution won’t affect the content of news stories.

“What we’re intent on doing is giving a balanced report on the facts concerning consolidation,” he said.

The $250 from former Spokane County Assessor George Britton is the largest contribution to the anticonsolidation group.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Major contributors

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