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‘Community Bill of Rights’ group launches new proposal

A group that sponsored a ballot proposal that was thoroughly rejected by Spokane voters in 2009 says it hopes to offer voters a shorter list of requests this year.

Gone from Envision Spokane’s new “Community Bill of Rights” are stipulations for the city of Spokane to guarantee its residents affordable preventive health care, affordable housing, affordable and renewable energy and regulations on local banks.

The new list would contain four rights, portions of which were in the 2009 proposal. They include extra requirements for the approval of certain kinds of development and protections for the Spokane River.

“It’s about getting local self-government and making sure you protect community values,” said Kai Huschke, Envision Spokane’s campaign coordinator.

Huschke said he expects volunteers to start collecting signatures within a week in hopes of making the November ballot.

Local elected leaders remain deeply skeptical of the proposal and say some of it would contradict existing laws and would be overturned in courts. In 2009, all seven Spokane City Council members and Spokane Mayor Mary Verner opposed the measure.

Only 21 percent of Spokane voters supported the 2009 version of the Community Bill of Rights.

“It’s still got the same problems,” City Council President Joe Shogan said in a recent interview.

In the new list, neighborhood residents who are registered voters would be given veto power over any rezoning of land in their neighborhood if the rezoning involved commercial or industrial development larger than 10,000 square feet or residential development with more than 20 units.

Developers of such projects would have to collect signatures from a majority of registered voters of a neighborhood in order to move ahead with the project.

The group also has scaled back the proposal from 2009’s request to give the “natural environment” the right “to exist and flourish.” This time backers are asking only for “the right to a healthy Spokane River and aquifer.”

In 2009, Envision Spokane called for workers to have the “right to employer neutrality when unionizing and the right to constitution protections within the workplace.” The new proposal calls only for the constitutional protections within the workplace.

The final item would say that corporations would “not be deemed as ‘persons’ ” and could not interfere with the enforcement of the Community Bill of Rights.

“Communities are overridden by corporations on a regular basis,” Huschke said. “It’s an open challenge to that case law.”

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner said she hasn’t yet examined Envision Spokane’s new proposal, but she said she opposes adding something to the City Charter that contradicts U.S. Supreme Court rulings – as the corporation rule would.

“It would be a waste of the paper it’s printed on,” Verner said.

City Councilman Steve Corker said given the defeat of the proposal two years ago, he’s surprised Envision is making a second attempt this soon.

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