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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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What disincorporation could mean for us

Dick Behm

How sad that the so-called “friends of Spokane Valley” are expending all this time and effort to try to destroy the city of Spokane Valley, instead of directing this energy working to improve our city.

While soliciting citizens to their cause they fail to explain the consequences that disincorporation would have on the Spokane Valley.

How does disincorporation work and what would be the effect? Spokane Valley would not just automatically go back to Spokane County, but would instead become a ward of the state. Washington state law is quite clear on the process.

•Voluntary disincorporation may be commenced by a petition of city citizens.

•Signatures required would be at least 24,000 valid signatures of registered voters to reach a majority; 47,999 registered voters live in Spokane Valley.

•If signatures are obtained, the City Council must schedule an election within 180 days

•It is also important to note that if the signatures are obtained they would have to be submitted to the Spokane County Boundary Review Board within 180 days of the proposed action. This would be upon the request of the city of Spokane Valley or 5 percent of the registered voters.

•The Boundary Review Board review requires meeting the objectives of the board, which list among other things “incorporation or annexation to cities or towns of unincorporated areas which are urban in character.” They must also consider the factors affecting such a proposal. There are too many to list, but they include: population and territory; comprehensive plan and zoning; development regulations; the likelihood of significant growth in the area during the next 10 years; need for municipal services; effect of ordinances; and present cost and adequacy of government services.

•If the Boundary Review Board should approve the proposal to disincorporate, it then would be placed on the ballot.

•If the board should deny the proposal, it would be dead, subject to a potential court appeal.

General effects of disincorporation

By statute, a city’s powers and privileges are surrendered to the state. All offices within the city are immediately dissolved, and the city is absolved of any further duty to the state or citizens of the city.

•Disincorporation does not impair the performance of any contract the city entered into prior to disincorporation.

•The streets and highways pass into state control. The county commissioners can form the territory encompassing the roads into a new road district, or the territory can be annexed to adjoining districts (city of Spokane/Liberty Lake?).

•The election of a receiver is required at the same time as the vote for disincorporation, to handle all liabilities or indebtedness of the city.

The authority of the receiver

•The receiver shall take possession of all property, money, vouchers, records, books of the former municipality and will have the authority to pay all outstanding warrants, bonds and lawful claims.

•The receiver has the power to sell all “real and personal property” of the city at auction.

•The receiver has the authority to levy taxes on all taxable property to pay all obligations of the former city.

I would suggest that the “friends of Spokane Valley” have not done their homework, or if they did then why haven’t they explained what would happen to Spokane Valley if disincorporation were successful?

No, I am not happy with all aspects of the Sprague/Appleway City Center Plan, but I recognize that this is a 20-year plan and will change as problems arise and concerns are addressed. I have seen the City Council bend over backward to try to address concerns of our citizens. Let’s work with our city to make it better.

Let’s also take time to look at all the good things our city has accomplished, from parks and roads, swimming pools and CenterPlace, to public safety.

Thanks to the city finance director, our city has been fiscally responsible, with adequate reserve funds for most contingences. There has been no discussion of raising taxes, dismissing employees or cutting services.

Our city is in as good or better fiscal condition than any other city in the Northwest. The council and staff should be congratulated for their responsible management of public funds, no easy task in the present economic climate.

Under the Growth Management Act all areas that are urban in character should be annexed or incorporated. It is very likely that upon disincorporation Spokane Valley would be annexed to the city of Spokane and/or Liberty Lake.

Before you sign a petition for disincorporation, please consider what effect that would have on you, your family, your home, your employment and your community.

Dick Behm lives in Spokane Valley. He can be reached by e-mail at Sources for this article: RCW 36.93.170; RCW 35.07.090 (.100) (.110); RCW 35.07.150.
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