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Thursday, October 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spin Control

Forces mustering against city “Bill of Rights”

Opposition appears to be mounting, although not necessarily coalescing, against the proposed Spokane Bill of Rights which will get a hearing Monday evening with the City Council.

Note: this is simply a hearing for forwarding the measure to the Spokane County Elections Office to have the signatures on its petitions checked. Technically, it's not a hearing on the merits or demerits of the proposal.

But being as how this is the Spokane City Council, technicalities like that are unlikely to keep most of the people testifying, or some of the councilmembers, from meandering into all the good or ill the proposed charterl change would do.

Before that happens, a newly formed group of opponents will hold a rally against the measure at 5 p.m. outside of City Hall. The effort is led by Michael Cathcart, who was active in the local push for Ron Paul for the GOP presidential nomination last year, and Mike Fagan, a city council candidate.

Meanwhile, the Greater Hillyard Business Association sent letters to all council members last Friday, asking them to withhold support for the measure.

And on Monday, former City Councilman and current council candidate Steve Eugster sent Mayor Mary Verner and the council a memo arguing they should reject the petitions as illegal because the proposal violates the "single subject" rule of the charter's provisions on initiatives. That essentially a legal version of the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) principle that says you can't toss a bunch of things into a measure being put before the voters.

The proposed charter amendment has sections that deal with health care, wages and the rights of the environment, but supporters contend it doesn't run afoul of the single subject provision because they are all rights to be contained in a "bill of rights" just as those first amendments to the U.S. Constiution were grouped together.

Last week Council President Joe Shogan signalled that the council should follow precedent, regardless of the members' individual opinions on the measure, and send the petitions for the validation check. If they have the signatures, the city should let voters decide, he suggested. If they don't, well, game over.

To read more about all this, go inside the blog.

We'd like to post the entire Charter amendment proposal, but it doesn't seem to exist on-line anywhere. Envision Spokane can be found here, but, strangely enough their Web site doesn't seem to have the full text anywhere that a reasonably intelligent set of eyeballs can find.

The "Stop Envision Spokane" call to arms can be found here. It has fashion tips on what to wear if one is attending the rally.

Steve Eugster's arguments against the proposal can be found here.

A copy of the Greater Hillyard Business Association's letter to councilmembers is reprinted below:

Dear Councilman Al French


During the past year, the Greater Hillyard Business Association has followed closely Envision Spokane's activities, and at their invitation (and with the cooperation of the Hillyard, Bemiss and Whitman neighborhood Councils), we appointed a representative to attend a number of their meetings.  Our purpose was to determine the likely results of the Envision Spokane effort, and to assess its value to the neighborhoods and district that our organization is dedicated to support.


After attending a series of meetings, our representative reported that the likely result would be a "Bill of Rights" for the citizens of Spokane.  This "Bill of Rights" had certain predetermined components long before it had reached its final form.  We discovered that there were some ideas discussed that made some sense--strengthening the roles of neighborhoods relative to the departments of the City, for one.  A mandatory neighborhood review of proposed changes to neighborhood zoning was another.


But we also concluded that some of the proposed elements had little to do with the realities of the neighborhoods we are striving to help.  We discussed the idea that when declaring "rights," there seems an accompanying obligation to identify related "responsibilities."  In mandating health care, asserting rights to the environment, and in other cases, this obligation has not been addressed.  Nor have the costs in these asserted rights been addressed; we believe them to be excessively high, in a time when many of our neighbors are unable to meet basic living costs.


This initiative appears to us to be incomplete, in both its inception and in its lack of analyses of costs to the citizenry. We foresaw this early in the process, and withdrew our representative (as did the three neighborhood councils) from the Envision Spokane process.


Envision Spokane petitions an entire agenda of "rights" to be in an up-or-down vote--all or nothing.  We believe it will be a source of future litigation and distress for the City.  GHBA's membership urges you to take whatever steps are available to spare our neighborhoods these likely results.


Robert Lawrence

GHBA President

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