July 5, 2009 in City

Spokane bill of rights group submits signatures

Envision Spokane wants to add to charter
By The Spokesman-Review

Fast fact

Envision Spokane has collected 5,014 signatures for its proposal. It needs 2,795 valid signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

Proposed language

Read Envision Spokane’s proposed Community Bill of Rights.

A group that hopes to insert a bill of rights into Spokane’s City Charter says it believes it has enough signatures to send the concept to voters.

Envision Spokane, which was created in 2007, needs to collect 2,795 valid signatures by Monday for its proposal to qualify for the November ballot. Last week, group members said they submitted 5,014 signatures to the city clerk, who will send them to the Spokane County Elections Office for verification.

The proposal would:

•Make the city responsible for creating a system of “affordable fee-for-service” preventive health care to all residents.

•Create restrictions on banks that loan money to non-local parties.

•Require all workers on private construction projects of more than $2 million to be paid prevailing wages – pay that is set by the state Department of Labor and Industries.

•Give neighborhoods power to veto development projects through petitions and neighborhood councils.

•Stipulate that construction projects can’t “damage the surrounding ecosystem.”

Envision Spokane proponents say the rules would empower citizens by giving them power to file lawsuits against the city, businesses or other entities that violate rights created for people or “ecosystems” in the bill of rights.

“They put into law – in the Spokane City Charter – rights of neighborhoods, individuals and rights of nature,” said Brad Read, a Shadle Park High School teacher who is president of Envision Spokane’s board.

Councilman Richard Rush said people concerned about the state of city government should run for office: “That’s what I chose to do.” He also questions some of the proposed rights, including the one adding health care to the list of city responsibilities.

Envision Spokane leaders said sitting on City Council wouldn’t make enough of a difference.

“The experience that we heard about over and over again through the two years of this process is that leaving it to the processes that already exist, neighborhoods get the shaft,” Read said. “Communities, neighborhoods don’t have the right to say no. All they have the right to do is ask nicely and hope that elected officials do as they ask.”

According to the state Public Disclosure Committee, Envision Spokane has raised about $11,000, $10,000 of which was given by Jim Sheehan, who founded the Center for Justice in Spokane.

So far, no elected leader, past or current, has publicly endorsed the plan. It has been roundly criticized by City Council and Mayor Mary Verner for being unrealistic, expensive and possibly unlawful. Several business leaders also have objected to the rules, arguing that they would hurt job growth and drive businesses outside city limits. Councilman Bob Apple said the plan would be hurt Spokane residents – though he added: “It’s good for attorneys.”

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