July 2, 2005 in Voices

Resolution supporting initiatives, referendums passes

By The Spokesman-Review

Heeding the call of a vocal group of residents who have pressed the issue since November, the Spokane Valley City Council Tuesday unanimously passed a resolution that will lead the way to initiative and referendum rights for Valley citizens.

Initiatives give citizens the option to gather enough signatures to propose laws and place certain types of ordinances on the ballot if the council does not enact them. Referendums allow a similar means to repeal legislation passed by the council. Both exist on the state level and in the city of Spokane.

“I’m not a fan of mass democratic action,” Councilman Steve Taylor said. The complex issues faced by large communities, he argued, require the expertise of elected officials acting on the public’s behalf.

At earlier meetings, the council looked into passing one right but not the other. The resolution passed Tuesday includes both initiative and referendum rights. They will go into effect unless someone files a petition to stop the measure, at which point the rights would be placed on the ballot.

Nine people testified in support of the measure at Tuesday’s meeting, and none testified against it.

Some supporters of the city’s 2003 incorporation cited the lack of initiative and referendum rights as a reason to break away from county control. Many thought they were included in the ordinances passed directly after the city formed.

“We promised them they would be able to control their own destiny by getting the vote and the basic right to petition their government through the initiative and referendum process,” Clark Hager said at the meeting.

After Hager and others in a group of local business owners looked into their options to fight a proposed utility tax, they realized that initiative and referendum rights were not on the city’s books and asked the council to put them in place last fall.

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