Opponents of Proposition 4 have complained that out-of-town influence helped shape the proposed amendment to the Spokane City Charter. But the opponents rely heavily on national and state development interests to bankroll the campaigns against the proposal.
Led by the National Association of Home Builders, out-of-town business groups account for about 85 percent of the identified contributions to Save Our Spokane, which opposes Proposition 4’s Community Bill of Rights. Out-of-town business groups account for about 30 percent of identified contributions to the other opposition group, Jobs and Opportunities Benefiting Spokane, or JOBS. The national home builders association has funneled some $85,000 to the political action committee of its local affiliate.
Together, the two campaign committees have raised more than $275,000. When expense reports were filed last week, they had almost half of that total still available for a pre-election day push.
Envision Spokane, a group that spearheaded discussions that produced the proposed charter changes, has raised about $69,500, with $55,000 coming from Jim Sheehan, a retired local attorney who established the Center for Justice and owns the Community Building on Main Avenue. The largest out-of-town contribution for Envision Spokane was about $450 for the donated work of a graphic artist in Wauwato, Wash.
Proposition 4 would add nine amendments to the City Charter about issues such as medical care, the environment, low-income housing, minimum wages and apprenticeship rights on jobs. It seeks to expand neighborhood influence over local development.
When Envision Spokane brought the proposed charter change to the Spokane City Council for inclusion on the Nov. 3 ballot, critics balked. They called one of Envision Spokane’s attorneys – who worked for the Pennsylvania-based Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund and had recently moved to Spokane – a carpetbagger. Although Envision Spokane held meetings over nearly two years with neighborhood, labor and community groups, opponents continue to complain of outside influence.
“They’re going to use Spokane as a launching base to take (the proposed changes) across the country,” said Tom Power, campaign manager for JOBS. Power couldn’t name anyone else with Envision Spokane who is in his words “a foreigner,” other than attorney Tom Linzey, who is now a Spokane registered voter.
Power said large donations carry less influence. The “vote no” campaigns were designed locally, and outside organizations are “volunteering” financial assistance, he said.
“The distinction is, (Envision Spokane’s) ideas were imported and a few local ideas were added. The opposition is all local, with a few (outside) dollars added,” Power said.
Kai Huschke, campaign manager for Envision Spokane, said opponents are “disingenuous” for complaining about outside influence but dismissing it on their side. Linzey was invited to come to Spokane to help start the process because he had experience in helping communities make decisions, Huschke said, and didn’t arrive with a blueprint. Local residents drafted the charter language, he said.
“They have constantly tried to say this is from some other place,” he said. “Here they are, stepping outside the community to get major amounts of money to defeat it.”
Opponents received a series of large contributions since the beginning of October. Community Builders Trust, a PAC for the Spokane Home Builders, contributed nearly $39,000 in cash and services this month to Save Our Spokane and $15,500 to JOBS.
Community Builders Trust is based in Spokane Valley. . It has raised about $125,000 this year, three-quarters of which is from elsewhere – $85,000 from the National Association of Realtors in Washington, D.C., and another $10,000 from the Building Industry Association of Washington in Olympia.
State and national home builders associations sent the money to Spokane, their representatives said, because of requests from the local organization.