Spokane City Council members Monday spoke loudly against a proposed initiative that would create nine rights the city would be required to enforce.
But their dislike of Envision Spokane’s “Community Bill of Rights” didn’t stop them from letting residents make the call.
The council voted unanimously to put the measure on the November ballot, a move widely expected since county officials verified supporters gathered enough signatures for a vote.
Among other rights, the initiative would give Spokane residents the rights to affordable preventive health care, access to renewable energy sources and affordable housing.
It also would give neighborhood councils the power to veto development projects if 15 percent of local residents who voted in the prior city election request such action.The rights could be enforced through lawsuits filed by residents or other parties.
Still, the debate about what will appear on the ballot isn’t over.
Next week, the council will decide if it will add two questions to the ballot. They would ask voters if they want to “pursue additional funding sources” or “reallocate funding” if the rights are approved.
Councilman Al French, who proposed adding questions to the ballot, said the votes would help leaders decide how to pay for extra costs.
“My job is to make sure that voters have as much information as possible so they can make a good decision,” French said.
Tom Linzey, an attorney who has advised Envision Spokane, said the council is trying to mislead voters.
“It’s a blatant attempt to try to torpedo the initiative,” Linzey said. “It’s a little weaselly.”
Envision Spokane members have argued that the rights will not add to the cost of government. But council members disagree, saying that at the least, the city would have extra legal expenses because of likely lawsuits.
Council members said they were concerned that the ballot language doesn’t accurately describe the rights. But city attorneys advised them that they didn’t have the power to rewrite the description.
Councilman Steve Corker said voters should make sure they read a full copy of the bill of rights before casting a vote.
“It’s up to the voters to determine the truth,” he said.