The city of Spokane asserted the mayor’s right to “initiate and control litigation” in a court document Wednesday, a claim aimed at Envision Spokane, which argued earlier in the week that the mayor didn’t have the authority to block its Worker Bill of Rights from November’s ballot.
In a 12-page response, the city argued that “time is of the essence” for the Spokane County Superior Court to act and strip Envision’s measure from the ballot. Superior Court Judge Salvatore Cozza will hear the case today.
Spokane Mayor David Condon filed suit against the liberal group earlier this month, just a week after the Spokane City Council approved the measure for the ballot, albeit with two “advisory” questions. The questions, which were approved by a 4-3 vote, will essentially ask voters if the city should raise taxes to pay for Envision’s measure or if other city services should be cut to pay for it.
The latest measure put forth by Envision Spokane – the group’s fourth to qualify for the ballot – would amend the city charter to require large employers to pay workers a “family wage,” ensure equal pay and add protections against termination. The measure would make the rights of a corporation secondary to people’s rights.
In April, the city’s hearing examiner reviewed the initiative, calling it “legally flawed.” The examiner’s written opinion called into question the measure’s fourth “right” regarding corporate powers, saying it exceeded “the jurisdictional limits of the initiative power.” The examiner’s argument is the basis of Condon’s suit.
This week, Envision pushed back against Condon’s lawsuit, arguing that the mayor doesn’t have the authority to prevent the measure from reaching the ballot, and that only a supermajority of City Council members can block any initiative from appearing before voters.
In Wednesday’s court document, the city reasserted its argument against the ballot measure and expressed disappointment in the group.
“The unfortunate thing about this case is that it could have easily been avoided,” the response reads. By removing the corporate subordination portion, the document suggests, the mayor would not have challenged Envision’s initiative. Instead, the group went forward, leading to the lawsuit.
The city also asserts that a decade-old decision by a state appellate court affirmed “the Mayor’s powers” to sue.
The Spokane Municipal Code “clearly delineates” between the mayor’s and council’s ability to challenge initiatives, the court document reads.
“Envision is not the people of Spokane nor does it stand in the shoes of the City Council,” the city argues. “Envision is not acting on behalf of the people of Spokane, it is acting on behalf of itself and its supporters. No matter what Envision says, the City has a larger responsibility to all the people in Spokane and has filed this lawsuit to prevent a misuse of the initiative process.”
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