Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Council considers blocking citizen initiatives

Signatures on petitions in support of two proposed citizens’ initiatives in Spokane will be counted and verified. But council members hinted Monday that they may block the proposals from the ballot even if activists collected enough support.

The Spokane City Council voted 6-0 on Monday to ask the Spokane County Auditor’s Office to verify the signatures collected for Envision Spokane’s Community Bill of Rights and Spokane Moves to Amend the Constitution’s initiative that would, in part, outlaw people representing corporations from discussing legislation with elected leaders in private settings.

Both groups have collected significantly more signatures than necessary to place the initiatives on the November ballot, but some City Council members said they believe the proposals are unconstitutional.

Council members Mike Allen, Mike Fagan and Nancy McLaughlin said the city should conduct a legal review to determine if the city should block the initiatives from appearing on the ballot even if the county verifies that activists collected enough signatures. They said if voters approve an unconstitutional initiative, the city could be dragged into costly legal battles.

“I call it due-diligence,” McLaughlin said about the review. Councilman Steve Salvatori was absent.

Both proposed initiatives conflict with a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that expanded the power of corporations to participate in campaigns.

Brad Read, Envision’s board president, said the group likely would file suit if the council prevented voters from having the final say on the Community Bill of Rights.

“We’re not going to let them obstruct this process,” Read said.

Envision’s new Community Bill of Rights would force developers to seek voter signatures to win approval for certain kinds of development; potentially make lawsuits aimed at stopping pollution in the Spokane River more likely to succeed by giving the river the legal right to "exist and flourish"; boost union rights; and challenge the rights of corporations.

Jonathan Brunt
Jonathan Brunt joined The Spokesman-Review in 2004. He is the government editor. He previously was a reporter who covered Spokane City Hall, Spokane County government and public safety.

Follow Jonathan online: