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Crime Check plan behind

Thu., Nov. 8, 2007

Spokane city voters seem more willing than their counterparts in the county to pay a bit extra in sales tax for Crime Check and other emergency communications.

County Proposition 2, which would have raised the sales tax by one-tenth of a cent, gained ground in Wednesday’s tabulation of outstanding ballots but was still trailing by about 500 votes out of some 80,000 cast.

“I’m not going to give up hope,” Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said Wednesday afternoon. “But I’d rather be in the driver’s seat.”

Knezovich and other emergency services officials began making plans the day after the election on how to find ways to cover some parts of the needed updates for their equipment and infrastructure if the tax increase fails.

They’ll try to find federal grants for a “bare bones” replacement of some equipment that is outdated by current technology standards, then seek other money to update for a federally mandated change in technology coming in 2013.

Knezovich said his 2008 budget has an extra $275,000 to return Crime Check to a 24-hour operation in the unincorporated areas of the county, but other jurisdictions would be searching for money in their budgets to match that service.

While the vote totals for the entire county are almost evenly split – the yes votes are at 49.6 percent; the no votes at 50.4 percent – a Spokesman-Review computer analysis of the precinct results shows a wide fluctuation around the county.

The proposition passed in most Spokane city precincts. It got heavy support – more than 60 percent for a ballot item that needs a simple majority – in the city’s core, and along its western boundaries from the South Hill through West Central. City voters also approved a $42.9 million bond issue for parks and pools.

Voters at Fairchild Air Force Base passed the sales tax measure. Voters in Airway Heights tended to vote no.

Voters in the city of Spokane Valley were split, as were those in Liberty Lake, Cheney and Deer Park. The unincorporated areas, particularly those to the north and south of the city of Spokane Valley and those on the West Plains, rejected the proposal.

Knezovich hadn’t seen the precinct breakdowns, but when told of the computer analysis, he said: “In the very conservative areas of Spokane County, it sounds like it got clobbered; in the less conservative areas, it passed.”

The proposal may have suffered from a short campaign and a complicated issue, he said.

“The hard problem with this proposition was, it wasn’t a 30-second sound bite issue,” Knezovich said.

While County Proposition 2 remains close, Proposition 1, an advisory ballot to continue the Conservation Futures Tax, received strong support, with more than 61 percent of the ballots marked yes. The city of Spokane’s bond issue gained ground, with yes votes on nearly two-thirds of the ballots counted to date.

The Spokane County Elections Office will continue to count ballots through next week. About 8,000 were counted Wednesday, most of them from precincts in or around the city of Spokane, elections spokesman Paul Brandt said.

Each ballot the office receives must be processed, which involves checking the signature on the outer envelope against a computerized version of the voter’s signature on file, then opening the outer envelope and separating the ballot in the inner security envelope.

Ballots counted Wednesday afternoon were a portion of some 55,500 ballots from throughout the county the office had on hand by late Wednesday morning. That included some 22,000 that arrived by mail on Tuesday, about 15,000 deposited in drop boxes or at voter service centers throughout the day on Tuesday, and another 18,500 that arrived by mail Wednesday.

Because ballots could be mailed through Tuesday, more will arrive at least through the end of the week. Results must be certified by Nov. 27.

That may be when Knezovich and other supporters of Proposition 2, as well as candidates and issues in other close races, will know for sure whether they won or lost.


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