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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spin Control

Sunday Spin: Get ready for Round 2 on Bill of Rights

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 council apparently feared the plebeians might somehow be lulled by the salubrious phrase “Bill of Rights” and vote yes, thinking they were reaffirming their freedom of speech or religion or, more importantly, the right to bear arms. The city might then wakeup the morning after Election Day to find itself in the throes of a gigantic shift toward Bolshevism.
So the council created a couple of “poison pill” ballot measures to preceed the Bill of Rights, essentially asking voters if they were really, truly, absolutely sure they’d want these changes so bad that they’d pay higher taxes or cut existing city services.
Just advisory propositions, council members said at the time. Wink. Wink.
There’s still time, if barely, to craft such measures and get them on the ballot, but no apparent movement to do so. It would seem Envision Spokane will get one thing they requested from the council, a “clean up or down vote.”
Criticism from the public also was largely muted at the council meeting before the unanimous vote to put it on the ballot. Opponents managed to stick almost exclusively to the topic at hand – whether the measure should be referred to the ballot – without straying into suggestions it was the worst idea for government since the Weimar Republic.
Turns out Greater Spokane Inc., nee the Spokane Chamber of Commerce, dislikes this latest iteration only slightly less than the 2009 version. About the only nice think GSI President Rich Hadley could think to say about it last week was that Envision Spokane had whittled the list of rights from 10 to 4, getting rid of such provisions as guarantees for livable wage jobs and health care.
With sections on neighborhood control over development, protections for the Spokane River, guarantees of collective bargaining and restrictions on corporate rights, the current version still has too many subjects when state law says one subject per ballot measure, Hadley contends. GSI will once again be joining up with the Homebuilders, Associated General Contractors, Realtors and other business groups in an effort to quash, or squash, the ballot measure in November. They’ll crank up their political action committee, JOBS, in the near future, and argue that some of the sections are unnecessary and others unconstitutional.
The one-issue, one-measure argument is an interesting legal one, but a less convincing political one. Does anyone think that if Envision Spokane had proposed four separate charter changes, gathered signatures for each one in unison, turned them all in, got them counted and forced the council to put four measures on the ballot, that the council or the business community would be any more supportive of them?
Probably not.
None of this is to suggest that Spokane automatically votes the way business tells it. The most resounding defeat of a major ballot measure in the last half century was not the 2009 Community Bill of Rights, but the 1982 proposal to create a port district in Spokane. It suffered an 80 percent Hell No vote, compared to the CBR’s 76 percent.
And that was something the business community said was a great idea.

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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