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Editorial: Council leaves voters to envision viable future

The hostility on display at and surrounding Monday night’s meeting of the Spokane City Council provided a hint of what the community is in for between now and the Nov. 3 general election.

A brawl, politically speaking.

Before the meeting was over, the council did the right thing, sending Envision Spokane’s proposed “community bill of rights” to the Spokane County auditor’s office to determine whether the measure has the valid signatures it needs to go on the ballot. The odds are good; supporters turned in more than 5,000 signatures, and they need only 2,795.

Given the ample numbers, the council could have bypassed the signature-checking step and sent the proposal straight to the ballot. On the other hand, it also could have ruled the plan invalid based on structural shortcomings, notably the variety of activities it includes – health care, employment, land use, housing, energy, lending and the environment.

Instead, the council took the middle road, making the supporters defend their signature-gathering but leaving it to voters to carefully consider the measure and render a decision this fall.

Judging by passions expressed from the public lectern Monday, the debate will be vigorous. Opponents are convinced passage of the initiative would send businesses fleeing and smother the city in litigation. Advocates say it will establish social and economic justice and environmental responsibility now lacking in the community.

Those claims will get an airing and a public examination that wouldn’t have happened to the same extent if the council had waylaid the measure on technical grounds.

From what we’ve seen, the “community bill of rights” is full of dreamy aspirations, and it heaps their achievement on the shoulders of city government and the taxpayers. Backers of the plan will have to demonstrate otherwise or at least convince the voters that it’s a reasonable price to pay.

It will be voters’ duty to listen, to learn and to choose the city’s future wisely.

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