The battle at the ballot box briefly entered City Hall on Monday night, as supporters and opponents of Envision Spokane’s Bill of Rights squabbled over changes to the initiative process.
The changes, which dealt primarily with swapping out the legal review of the city attorney for one earlier in the process by the city’s hearing examiner, were passed 6-1, with Councilman Mike Fagan opposing.
Suzanne Schreiner, the volunteer coordinator at Envision Spokane, repeatedly invoked Council President Ben Stuckart’s name while saying the council was being “heavy-handed and undemocratic” by “putting its thumb on the scale” against the citizen initiative process.
Stuckart, who drafted the ordinance with Mayor David Condon, spent a few minutes heatedly defending the changes, saying that the Children’s Investment Fund initiative, which he helped lead beginning in 2009 but was turned down by voters in 2010, might have benefited from a review by the hearing examiner.
“I really have a hard time” with the argument against a nonbinding legal review, he said. “Having been a citizen activist … I understand the importance of it.”
Representatives from Greater Spokane Incorporated, the Downtown Spokane Partnership and the Spokane Home Builders Association testified in favor of the ordinance, which were said to add impartiality to the process by City Attorney Nancy Isserlis in her presentation of the law.
But Fagan disagreed.
“In my opinion, the hearing examiner is more closely aligned with the City Council than anybody else so I don’t see how that will dispel the taint or bias,” he said.