Voters will have to make a decision on a proposed citizens initiative without the observations of elected city leaders on the same ballot.
The Spokane City Council on Monday rejected a proposal to add two questions to the November ballot that City Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin described as red flags about the initiative that also will be decided in the election.
The questions would have asked voters if they want to raise taxes or cut city services to cover the costs involved in Envision Spokane’s proposed Community Bill of Rights.
Envision Spokane leaders argued that the proposals were meant to taint the issue and say that they eliminated items from their proposal since it appeared on the ballot in 2009 to avoid concerns that it would cost money. They said there is no proof that taxes would need to be raised or services cut to deal with their initiative.
But supporters of the questions said that citizens could be led astray since the questions were on the ballot along with the earlier version of the Community Bill of Rights in 2009. Joel White, of the Spokane Home Builders Association, offered proof that if approved, Envision’s proposal will cost the city money:
“Our association will be filing a lawsuit,” he said.
Others argued that if approved it will cost money because businesses will move and tax revenue will be lost.
Brad Read, president of Envision’s board, noted that the council didn’t ask any advisory questions about its own charter amendments that appear on today’s ballot even though some of them, like a proposal to allow the mayor to hire outside attorneys without council approval, could cost taxpayer money.
“Let them decide up or down without any influence from you,” he said.
McLaughlin and council members Bob Apple and Steve Corker voted in favor of adding the questions. Council members Joe Shogan, Richard Rush, Jon Snyder and Amber Waldref were opposed.
The Community Bill of Rights would add extra requirements for the approval of certain kinds of development and create “the right to a healthy Spokane River and aquifer.” One portion declares that corporations would “not be deemed as ‘persons’ ” and could not interfere with the enforcement of the Community Bill of Rights. No member of the City Council has endorsed the proposal.