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Tuesday, August 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Fire bond falls short

Administrator says city will likely try again: ‘The needs don’t go away’

Spokane’s $33 million fire bond appears to have failed.

Tuesday’s tally of remaining ballots from last week’s general election shows the proposed property tax increase fell just short of the needed 60 percent supermajority, capturing 59.5 percent of the vote.

City Administrator Ted Danek said he believes the city likely will ask voters again for a property tax for firetrucks, stations and equipment, but, he added, the proposal likely won’t be the same when it appears again on a ballot.

“The needs don’t go away,” Danek said. “But the voters have spoken. We’ll have to go back to the drawing board.”

The defeat marks the city’s second unsuccessful attempt this year to pass a public safety bond. In March, only 51 percent of voters approved of a property tax to raise $14 million for a police evidence building and other items. That measure also needed 60 percent support.

It’s the first time city voters rejected a plea for fire taxes since the city began asking voters for 10-year fire bonds in 1989. Voters also agreed to a 10-year tax in 1999.

City Council President Joe Shogan said city leaders should determine where the proposal did worst and why those voters were uncomfortable with the tax.

Given how close the tally is, “it’s hard to say that the whole thing was just a total failure,” Shogan said.

Meanwhile, in Airway Heights, the razor-close race for mayor appears headed for a hand recount.

Incumbent Matthew Pederson’s 10-vote lead has disappeared. After a fifth day of tabulation Tuesday, Pederson’s challenger, Councilman Patrick Rushing, leads by one.

State law requires elections with candidates within half a percentage point of each other to be recounted. Rushing leads Pederson 50.1 percent to 49.9 percent.

“I knew it would be a close race,” said Pederson, 35, who was elected to the council in 2001 and mayor in 2005. “We’ll await that result.”

About 8,000 votes were processed Tuesday. Spokane County Elections Manager Mike McLaughlin said almost all the votes have been counted from last week’s election except for ballots that had problems and were set aside, such as ones that were not accompanied with a voter signature. The county’s canvassing board will examine questioned ballots and will determine by Nov. 24 which ones will be counted. If the tally in the Airway Heights mayoral race remains the same, the recount likely will start in early December, McLaughlin said.

Rushing, 52, who was first elected to the council in 1999, said he believed a pay raise the council approved this year for the mayor and itself was the major factor in the race. Rushing opposed the increases.

“I leave it up to God. If God wants me to be in the office, it will happen,” Rushing said Tuesday. “One way or the other, I’m going to be out there as an advocate for the citizens of Airway Heights.”

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