Business interests who’ve lined up behind unification of Spokane’s city and county government are taking a chance. They are taking a chance on representative democracy.
Frankly, business interests have little difficulty manipulating the weak, bickering governments Spokane has now.
The unified government proposed on the Nov. 7 ballot would hand more influence to broad, grass-roots concerns. That should seem refreshing, in a community suspicious of greased skids and tired of flaky office holders. It means special interests will have to get the general public more securely on board with their proposals - by listening and refining. Bottom line? Better government. A stronger sense of community.
The Freeholders’ proposal would achieve this in the following ways:
The legislative branch would be enlarged to a 13-member council, each member elected by district. This ends at-large representation, which hears big interests better than small ones. It will make every policy maker accountable to a neighborhood. It would allow suburbs such as the Valley and the North Side to form coalitions, perhaps including rural areas, and to fight more effectively for their needs.
The top-ranking person in the executive branch of local government would have to run for election. This ends the insensitivity inherent in an unelected city manager.
Specialized posts now filled by partisan campaigns - coroner, assessor, auditor, treasurer, court clerk, sheriff - would be filled by appointment on the basis of professional qualifications. The elected executive would be accountable to voters for the quality and performance of the officials he or she appoints.
Voters would be given the power to recall inept officials and to make or repeal laws via initiative and referendum. Plus, voters would be guaranteed a say over tax increases.
Why give so much power to the people? Why push for governmental competence and accountability? Well, haven’t we wasted enough years on institutional and partisan turf wars? Our communities need a government focused on community interests, rather than the government’s interests.
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