The fight over a proposed Spokane city charter amendment may dwarf the campaign spending of candidates who will share the November general election with the ballot issue.
Opponents of a proposed Community Bill of Rights have set up two political action committees, raised $31,100 and received pledges of at least $35,000 from the National Association of Home Builders.
One committee, called Save Our Spokane, has yet to report any contributions. But another, Jobs & Opportunities Benefiting Spokane, has raised its money from a variety of local businesses, including $5,000 each from Worthy Enterprises, Spokane Home Builders Association and Cowles Co., the parent company of The Spokesman-Review.
Envision Spokane, which proposed the charter change, has raised $12,775 – the lion’s share coming in a $10,000 contribution from Jim Sheehan, a local attorney.
Local homebuilders have a pledge from their national organization to be reimbursed for campaign expenses totaling $35,000, said Edie Streicher, government affairs director of the local organization. What expenses will be submitted have not been decided, she added, but opponents could receive an additional $25,000 grant in the coming months if they need it.
Kai Huschke, a supporter of Envision Spokane, the group that drafted the bill of rights after a series of neighborhood meetings, said he found the large contribution from the national homebuilders organization “interesting” considering opponents have complained that the proposed amendment drew support from outside Spokane.
The charter amendment seeks to give city residents access to affordable preventive health care, renewable energy sources and affordable housing. It would give neighborhood councils the ability to veto development projects if 15 percent of local residents who voted in the prior city election asked for that action.
“Our national association is very concerned because this is an issue of national scope,” Streicher said, adding that she sees a difference because the money is coming from outside but the campaign is being run by local residents.
Countered Huschke: “So, the idea of democracy catching on is a bad thing, huh?”
Envision Spokane’s board is made up of representatives of local organizations. The campaign has a legal adviser who is a recent transplant, Huschke said, but he argued Tom Linzey is a Spokane resident who “like a lot of people has moved here from a different place.”
JOBS, the acronym used by the most active opposition group, has spent almost $21,000, about three-fourths of that on polling, and has hired Brian Murray and Polis Political Services of Olympia as political consultants. Murray is a former state senator and one-time aide to former Spokane Mayor Jim West; Polis worked on several local and legislative campaigns, including Dennis Hession’s 2007 mayoral campaign.
Envision Spokane has reported spending $8,051. The biggest amount, some $3,000, went to campaign coordinator Chad Nicholson.