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‘Bill of Rights’ to be on ballot

Tue., Aug. 2, 2011

Spokane voters will be asked again this fall whether they want to add a “Community Bill of Rights” to the City Charter.

The Spokane City Council voted unanimously to place the initiative on the Nov. 8 ballot, although not before some council members said they disagree with its content.

This initiative, sponsored by the community organization Envision Spokane, is a pared-down version of the previous Community Bill of Rights that voters handily rejected in 2009. It calls for neighborhood residents to have the right to approve rezoning requests for significant new developments, would expand protections for the Spokane River and the region’s aquifer, guarantee collective bargaining rights for workers and say corporate rights can’t interfere with citizens’ rights in the charter.

Supporters of the initiative urged the council to place it on the ballot with no added measures. In 2009, the council approved ballot measures asking whether voters wanted to raise taxes or cut services to pay for that year’s proposal, and placed them on the ballot ahead of the Envision Spokane initiative.

“Give them a clear up-or-down vote,” said Thomas Lindsey, the attorney for Envision Spokane.

Curt Fackler, a representative of a small-business organization, said the council should refuse to put the measure on the ballot because it contains several different issues. State law requires a ballot measure address a single topic, he said.

“I think it’s time that the council just says no,” Fackler said.

City Councilman Bob Apple said he thought the ballot language was ambiguous, and objected to using the term “bill of rights,” which he said could confuse voters with the original Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution. If the measure passes, someone will challenge it for containing too many topics, and the city will have to pay to defend it, he added.

“I don’t anticipate that it will (pass) any more than it did last time,” Apple said.

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