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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Science Center Petition Drive Falls Short But Opponents Will Have Another Chance To Get Measure On The Ballot Once The City Signs A Contract

A petition designed to put the Pacific Science Center planned for Spokane’s Riverfront Park to a public vote fell short of the necessary signatures.

That means the measure won’t be on November’s ballot unless petition organizers can gather another 6,000 signatures once the city signs a contract with the science center.

City Manager Roger Crum on Tuesday told the council the petition had only 2,592 valid signatures - 392 short of the required 2,984. That magic number is 5 percent of the voters who cast ballots in the November general election.

Petition organizers submitted about 3,800 signatures to the city in November, but more than 1,000 of those were from unregistered voters or voters living outside city limits, Crum said.

The petition contained a proposed charter amendment demanding any changes to Riverfront’s carrousel, gondola, ice rink or IMAX Theatre be put to a vote.

The amendment did not specifically address the science center, but the center would lease the entire pavilion, requiring changes to the IMAX and ice rink and therefore a public vote.

Shortly after the petition’s submission, City Attorney James Sloane raised questions about its legality, saying the wording was too broad for an initiative measure.

Council members later struck a deal with the petition’s organizers, saying they would agree to put the center to a public vote as long as there were enough valid signatures.

Now, the group’s only hope is to wait until the council signs a contract with the Seattle-based center. After that, organizers have 30 days to gather 6,000 signatures, which would put the contract to a public vote.

Challenging the contract once it is approved would require signatures equal to 10 percent of the voters who cast ballots in the November general election.

The city signed a tentative contract with the center last summer, and a final contract should come before the council in March.

Steve Corker, the petition drive’s organizer, said his group was ready to do battle again - this time on an even larger scale.

“We’re prepared, the day after the contract goes to council, to gather 12,000 signatures,” Corker said.

Corker added that while his group isn’t opposed to the science center coming to Spokane, it “does not like the impact on the pavilion.”

In other business:

The council threw out a proposal to increase business license fees.

Council members narrowly defeated the emergency ordinance last month. An emergency ordinance, which goes into effect immediately, requires five votes and only four members voted for the proposal.

Because the measure had majority approval, it came back this week as a regular ordinance, which goes into effect after 30 days. The council realized Tuesday the measure wouldn’t take effect until February 3, three days after business license fees are due.

“It’s basically a moot point,” said Mayor Jack Geraghty.

Councilman Chris Anderson cast the lone vote against two contracts with the Spokane Area Economic Development Council designed to attract new businesses to Spokane.

Combined, the contracts cost taxpayers $73,300.

Anderson argued the economic development council had failed in its mission to attract high-paying jobs to the city.

“I say the money is ill-spent,” Anderson said.

Councilman Joel Crosby disagreed, saying the council had attracted several businesses to the area, including Sallie Mae, a student loan company that recently announced plans to hire 200 people in Spokane.

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