November 16, 2007 in City

Crime Check, emergency communication tax issue fails

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The vote

Crime Check measure is losing by a narrow margin in the latest count.

No61,89250.12 %
Yes61,60449.88 %

A ballot measure that would have increased sales taxes to upgrade emergency communications equipment and pay for the return of a 24-hour crime reporting system has failed.

But that might not be the last voters hear of the proposal.

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, who argued in favor of putting the tax measure on the November ballot, conceded Thursday that there were not enough uncounted votes left to make up the shortfall.

With 400 ballots still to process, the proposal is failing, 49.9 percent to 50.1 percent.

“Statistically, it’s impossible,” Knezovich said.

The separation was wider on election night, but further counts were more supportive of the tax and it almost eked out a victory. Voters in the city of Spokane were far more likely to support the tax than those in unincorporated areas.

Without the tax, Knezovich has put funding for Crime Check, the 24-hour non-emergency crime reporting system that was discontinued at the end of 2004, in his 2008 budget request to county commissioners. If they agree, Crime Check would return only in unincorporated areas.

For it to return to Spokane, Spokane Valley and other cities, city councils would have to allocate funding. Knezovich said he planned to meet with Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick today about ways to bring back Crime Check.

Spokane leaders said they were open to considering ways to fund Crime Check in the 2008 budget, but cautioned that money will be tight.

Mayor-elect Mary Verner said if resources can’t be found, she will sit down with county leaders to consider other options. “I’ll have to look to see how we can fit that into the budget,” Verner said.

Other options could include going back to voters.

“I would definitely consider looking at it, but at this point we’ll have to look at what we’d cut” to fit it into the budget, Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin said. “I would prefer going back to voters first.”

Knezovich said he would consider putting the measure on the ballot. Ballot language didn’t mention Crime Check and focused instead on the emergency communication equipment.

“I wouldn’t rule it out, but I’d have to be assured that this is something (the citizens) want us to try again,” Knezovich said. “If ‘Crime Check’ would have been on the ballot it would have passed.”

It would cost about $1.3 million a year to pay for Crime Check countywide, Knezovich said. The city of Spokane would be responsible for a bit more than half of that cost.

Police and sheriff’s officials have decried the loss of Crime Check since the end of 2004, when the system was scaled back and renamed the “Spokane Crime Reporting Center” because of Spokane city budget shortfalls.

The new center accepts reports by phone 12 hours a day Monday through Friday and for nine hours on Saturday.


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