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The city may have grounds to challenge two proposed charter amendments and seek court orders to keep them off the ballot, lawyers have told the Spokane City Council.
Groups supporting the initiatives say that would be “a direct subversion of the democratic process” but the
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Envision Spokane on Thursday filed its Community Bill of Rights initiative with the Spokane City Clerk's office.
This is the third time the group has filed a Community Bill of Rights. It succeeded the previous two times in collecting the needed signatures to place the item on the ballot. Its 2009 proposal was easily defeated by voters, but its 2011 scaled-back version nearly passed. The initiative filed on Thursday mirrors the 2011 version (the petition filed on Thursday is linked to this post).
By filing now, the initiative is locked into initiative rules that currently are on the books. On Monday, the Spokane City Council will consider changing the initiative process to eliminate the filing method preferred by Envision Spokane. That method allows groups to place a question before voters without input from the City Attorney's Office.
The question could be put before voters this year or next, but if they want it on the ballot this year, they'll need to collect substantially more signatures.
The race between incumbent Councilman Richard Rush and former Councilman Mike Allen for Rush's south Spokane City Council seat was sent within recount margins by counting on Tuesday.
Only 92 votes now separate the two, and if the race remains within a half percentage point, it will be recounted by computer. If it gets within a quarter of a percentage point, it will be recounted by hand.
Currently, Allen leads Rush 50.22 percent to 49.78 percent.
There are 369 votes to count. Rush needs to capture about 63 percent of them to win.
Also in Spokane, Proposition 1, the Community Bill of Rights, finally went to defeat on Tuesday. It trails by a little over 1,000 votes. It captured 49.1 percent of the vote. The group that worked to place it on the ballot, Envision Spokane, might consider the neck-and-neck outcome a victory since its first attempt to pass a different Community Bill of Rights was defeated with only 24 percent support in 2009.
The results for Spokane mayor haven't changed much from election night. David Condon had 52.4 percent of the vote to Mary Verner's 47.6 percent after Tuesday's count.
In Spokane Valley, Ben Wick definitively captured a seat on City Council in Tuesday's count. He leads Marilyn Cline by 360 votes. There are only 364 votes left to count in the race.
Countywide, there are about 2,600 votes left to count.
A race for Spokane City Council inched closer to an automatic recount on Monday in the fourth day of ballot counting from the Nov. 8 election. Former Councilman Mike Allen’s lead over incumbent Richard Rush for a seat representing south Spokane fell by 17 votes to 135.
There are about 1,143 votes left to count in the contest, and if it tightens to within a half percentage point, an automatic computer recount will occur. Allen currently has 50.33 percent to Rush’s 49.67 percent.
Spokane Proposition 1, the Community Bill of Rights, appears to be headed to defeat after the fourth day of counting. It lost ground and is trailing by 1,013 votes with 2,777 left to count.
In Spokane Valley, Ben Wick’s lead over Marilyn Cline for City Council position 6 grew to 354 votes. There are 1,120 votes left count.
The Spokane City Council took another chance on Monday to critique Proposition 1, the Community Bill of Rights.
Council members voted 6-1 to formally oppose the initiative, which appears on the November ballot.
The rejection is no surprise. All the members of City Council already were on record in opposition to the proposition, which would require developers of some kinds of projects to collect voter signatures, make it easier to pursue lawsuits against governments or businesses that pollute the Spokane River or aquifer, challenge corporate rights and extend constitutional rights into the workplace.
Only Councilman Jon Snyder voted against the recommendation.
Snyder said he personally opposes Proposition 1 but that he didn’t think the council should take a formal position on a local citizen’s initiative. He later, however, sponsored a resolution that took a stance against state Initiative 1125, which focuses on road tolling. Snyder’s resolution recommending opposition to I-1125 was approved on a 5-2 vote. Council members Bob Apple and Nancy McLaughlin dissented.
Spokane voters could get a hint from the Spokane City Council when deciding the fate of a citizens’ initiative on the November ballot.
The Spokane City Council will consider on Monday the addition of two nonbinding questions for the November election. The two proposals would ask voters how the council should respond to Envision Spokane’s Community Bill of Rights if it’s approved: Raise taxes or slash services.
The questions are the same as ones posed to voters two years ago when Envision Spokane first placed a Community Bill of Rights before voters. Envision's list failed in a landslide.
Envision Spokane leaders, who attribute the big defeat in 2009 in large part to the advisory questions, say adding them to the ballot again is meant only to turn voters against their initiative.
“It just proves that the system needs to change because they can in a stroke of a few minutes influence what we did over months of a hard work,” said Brad Read, president of Envision’s board.
But City Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin said not putting the questions on the ballot may give voters the impression that there no longer is a cost associated.
“I believe that we need to stay consistent with the message that Prop 1 may potentially cost the taxpayers a great deal of money.” McLaughlin said.
Read said that changes made in the new proposal should eliminate fears that the city would have to shift tax money to cover rights listed in the Envision’s proposal.
Removed from the 2009 Community Bill of Rights are stipulations that would have required the city of Spokane to guarantee residents affordable preventive health care, affordable housing and affordable and renewable energy.
The Spokane City Council will consider next week adding a pair of ballot measures to the Nov. 8 ballot to ask voters whether they want the city to cut programs or “pursue additional funding sources” if the Community Bill of Rights passes.
For those not fluent in the language of government-speak, pursue additional funding sources is a polite way of saying “raise taxes.”*
Similar provisions were added to the 2009 ballot when the previous incarnation of the Community Bill of Rights was before the voters. So expect a similar explanation from supporters on the council that they just need some advice from voters on how to pay for the CBR, should the voters pass it so late in the year, what with all the preparations underway at the time for the 2012 city budget.
Expect, too, some vocal protests from Envision Spokane, the sponsors of the CBR. In 2009, they prepared a legal brief against the add-on ballot measures, saying it was an attempt to prejudice voters against the one CBR. But they never filed it. Kai Huschke of Envision Spokane said there's no decision yet on whether to file the challenge this time if the council repeats the 2009 maneuver.
So it could be deja vu all over again, on multiple levels, including the short notice of the added ballot propositions, which weren't mentioned by any councilmembers when they voted unanimously to put the Community Bill of Rights on the ballot last Monday. (OK, so they didn't have a choice in the matter because Envision Spokane followed the rules and gathered the required signatures and submitted their petiions. Not putting it on the ballot, as some people suggested, would have left the council open to a legal challenge.)
But even though there was some minimal grousing about the CBR, council members didn't suggest during that meeting they thought voters the “advisory measures” should also return to the ballot.
The council will have to decide next Monday on whether to lard the ballot with the two extra propositions. The deadline for adding something like that to the ballot is a April 16.
* What? You thought it meant take turns on a street corner with a tin cup and accordion or drill for oil in Riverfront Park?
Conspicuous by their absence last Monday were leaders of Greater Spokane Inc., when the City Council voted to place the latest version of a Community Bill of Rights before voters.
That shouldn’t be taken as a sign the business community is okey-dokey with the ballot measure.
The council had no choice in the matter, as some members made clear. Envision Spokane gathered the necessary signatures to put a charter change on the ballot, and that, pretty much, was that.
Two years ago, there was a bit more in play. . .
The Spokane County Republican Party voted this week to oppose a Spokane City Charter amendment going on the ballot in November.
On Monday, the City Council voted to place the Community Bill of Rights on the Nov. 8 general election ballot after Envision Spokane, a local citizen action group, turned in more than enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. Unlike 2009, when a longer proposal from Envision Spokane also qualified for the ballot, the council has no apparent plans to add some “poison pill” measures to the ballot ahead of the current CBR.
A day later, the GOP's executive committee voted to work against the ballot measure, contending it will “strip Citizens of their property and business rights, while burdening City government with costly mandates that will further cripple the City’s ability to provide services.”
The two political parties usually stay out of the nonpartisan candidate races — with some conspicuous exceptions over the years — but often weigh in on ballot measures.
To read the proposed Community Bill of Rights, click here.
The third and final initiative in the blocks for the Nov. 8 election cleared the signature stage Monday night.
Initiative 1163, which requires training and background checks for home health care workers, turned in some 340,000 signatures, which was a cushion of almost 100,000 over the required amount. It had a better than average invalidation rate on signatures in the spot checks, the Secretary of State's office reported.
So state wide voters have a chance to vote on privatized liquor, road tolls, and home health care requirements.
Spokane city voters will also have a Community Bill of Rights charter amendment on that ballot. The Spokane City Council moved that measure to the ballot at its Monday night session. You can read this morning's story on that decision here.
Envision Spokane's second attempt at a Community Bill of Rights may be the highlight of tonight's Spokane City Council meeting.
The council has a hearing set near the end of its regular 6 p.m. session for the proposal, which can be found here.
Envision Spokane obtained enough signatures to put the proposal on the Nov. 8 ballot, so the council doesn't really have much choice in the matter. Not having a choice about something and not having anything to say about it are two very different things for the council.
Spokane voters may get a chance to consider a new list of proposals from Envision Spokane on the November ballot.
Kai Huschke, campaign coordinator of Envision Spokane, said the group turned in signatures on Friday and Monday for its new version of the “Community Bill of Rights.”
The group's first attempt at passing a “Community Bill of Rights” failed in 2009 with only 21 percent support.
The new list is paired down from 2009. It includes extra requirements for the approval of certain kinds of development and a rule that would say that corporations would “not be deemed as 'persons'” and could not interfere with the enforcement of the “Community Bill of Rights.”
City Clerk Terri Pfister said turned in 4,516 signatures. To earn a spot on the November ballot, at least 2,778 of them must be ruled valid by the Spokane County Elections Office. The requirement represents 5 percent of the number of people who voted in the city of Spokane in 2009.
Representatives from Envision Spokane on Wednesday moved forward on their plan to offer city voters a new version of its “Community Bill of Rights.”
In order to make the November ballot, the group will need to collect an amount of signatures from registered voters in Spokane equal to 5 percent of the total number who voted in Spokane in November 2009. That number is about 2,800.
The new proposal is a streamlined version of what the group proposed in 2009 when the longer proposal received only 21 percent support.
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. 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.
A copy of the petition, which includes the proposal, is available here.
The latest numbers for Proposition 4 continue to show it getting hammered all over the city. It lost all city precincts, so the only real question was, where did it lose worse?
Opponents of Proposition 4 have complained that out-of-town influence helped shape the proposed amendment to the Spokane City Charter. But the opponents rely heavily on national and state development interests to bankroll the campaigns against the proposal.
Led by the National Association of Home Builders, out-of-town business groups account for about 85 percent of the identified contributions to Save Our Spokane, which opposes Proposition 4’s Community Bill of Rights. Out-of-town business groups account for about 30 percent of identified contributions to the other opposition group, Jobs and Opportunities Benefiting Spokane, or JOBS. The national home builders association has funneled some $85,000 to the political action committee of its local affiliate.
Together, the two campaign committees have raised more than $275,000. When expense reports were filed last week, they had almost half of that total still available for a pre-election day push.
Envision Spokane, a group that spearheaded discussions that produced the proposed charter changes, has raised about $69,500, with $55,000 coming from Jim Sheehan, a retired local attorney who established the Center for Justice and owns the Community Building on Main Avenue. The largest out-of-town contribution for Envision Spokane was about $450 for the donated work of a graphic artist in Wauwato, Wash.
Just how polluted the
Among the nation’s most polluted, said supporters of Proposition 4, which asks voters to add what they call a Community Bill of Rights to the charter. One of those rights would allow people to sue on behalf of the river or other parts of the environment and force a cleanup.
The river was listed in a 2004 report as one of the most polluted in the
But supporters who cite that 2004 listing never mention that the
same group, American Rivers, listed the
“In all the years since then,
Supporters and opponents of Spokane City Proposition 4 will go at it Friday morning at a breakfast debate sponsored by Greater Spokane Inc.
Prop 4 is the ballot number for a proposal that’s AKA The Community Bill of Rights. It would amend the charter in various ways, including changes for health care, wage requirements, apprenticeships, neighborhood control of development, and establishing rights for the environment.
Greater Spokane Inc. is on record of opposing it. (If pressed, some members of GSI would probably say this is about the worst thing since the bubonic plague. They might prefer a debate on whether it is slightly worse or significantly worse than the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.) So Envision Spokane, which drafted the proposal, can probably be listed as the Away Team for this one.
But it should be entertaining, and probably enlightening. It starts at 7:15 a.m. at the Champions Room, 720 W. Mallon. Tickets range from $30 for GSI members to $55 for non members. Call Marcia Vandervert at 321-3629 or click here to sign up on-line
Whether they realize it or not, the Spokane City Council is asking to cook the books on the Community Bill of Rights charter amendment and skew the results of the November vote. They’re using a strategy campaigns sometimes use to get the result they want.
This newspaper’s longtime pollster Del Ali cautioned us years ago that one can skew the results of a poll not just by what’s asked, but by the order of the questions. It’s advice we still use to evaluate polls before reporting them.
One of the oldest tricks is to put the question for the results after several other loaded questions. For example, if you were a challenger trying to show your incumbent senator is not well supported by the constituents, you wouldn’t just ask “Overall, do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Sen. Sneed?”
Instead, you’d first ask something like, “Would it change your opinion of Sen. Sneed if I told you he supports turning Glacier National Park into a nuclear waste dump?” or “Would it change your opinion of Sen. Sneed if I told you he supports tripling your income tax rate and spending it on more federal agents to take away your guns?”
After giving Sen. Sneed several nasty jabs – they don’t have to be things he supports because of the “if I told you” lead-in – the survey asks if the voter’s opinion is favorable or unfavorable. Sneed’s favorable rating goes way down, and the challenger’s campaign staff claims those numbers prove he’s vulnerable.
This is, for all practical purposes, what the City Council voted to do last Monday for the November ballot. (An election is arguably just a big poll with a 0 percent margin of error.) The council added two advisory questions to the ballot. Reduced to their simplest, the questions are “Should we raise taxes to pay for the Envision Spokane Bill of Rights?” and “Should we cut services to pay for it?”
The state Public Disclosure Commission is opening a formal investigation into a complaint the home builders filed last month against Envision Spokane.
The Spokane Home Builders Association filed a complaint last month, alleging the citizens group did not file all the necessary information on where they get their money and how it was spent during the time they were working on the Community Bill of Rights, a proposed amendment to the City Charter that will appear on the November ballot.
Lori Anderson, a spokeswoman for the PDC, said the case was assigned to a staff investigators after an initial review.
The formal investigation may take about 120 days, she said. About three-fourths of all initial complaints are assigned to a staff investigator after they are submitted and undergo an initial review.
Funny thing about elected officials and candidates who must, by nature, rely on the wisdom of voters for their jobs: Sometimes they don’t trust voters to make the right decision when it comes to something other than voting for them.
That seems to be what’s going on with the political hand-wringing
over a Spokane City Charter change that’s being billed by the sponsoring group
Whether it is, in fact, a bill of rights or a bill in waiting for future litigation is something remains to be seen. Envision Spokane turned in more than enough signatures to qualify it for the November election, the Spokane County Elections Office said, and that is usually enough to earn a proposed charter amendment a spot on a ballot.
Before the Spokane City Council voted 5-2 to send the charter change to the elections office for the signature check, an array of speakers argued it was too vague, too likely to generate litigation or too toxic for local business. Some of the 60 or so foes gathered outside City Hall before the meeting and likened the proposal to socialism, communism or Marxism.
(Note to self: Check Das Kapital to see what Marx and Engels had to say about neighborhood councils. Must’ve slept through that lecture in Poly Sci class.)
Envision Spokane turned in more than enough signatures on petitions for a proposed City Charter change to put its Community Bill of Rights on the November ballot.
Spokane County Elections Manager Mike McLaughlin reports this morning the office finished the final verification process about 9:30 a.m., and will certify the results at 2:30 p.m. After that the office will send formal notification to the city.
The group turned in petitions with a total of 5,097 signatures, and needed at least 2,795 of them to be from registered city voters. Elections workers checked 4,019 and verified a totla of 2,891 before finishing late Wednesday. That’s a rejection rate of about 28 percent, which is “right in the ballpark” for most petitions, McLaughlin said.