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Thursday, February 27, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Prop 4 goals laudable, but undermined by vagaries

Focus on just one provision of Envision Spokane’s Community Bill of Rights and you get an idea of the problem with the whole thing:

Residents have the right to affordable preventive health care. For residents otherwise unable to access such care, the City shall guarantee such access by coordinating with area health care providers to create affordable fee-for-service programs within eighteen (18) months following adoption of this Charter provision.

Proponents aren’t happy that this is being characterized as a mandate for the city to purchase health care, but how else can it “guarantee” that “affordable” (whatever that is) programs are available? Brad Read, president of Envision Spokane, writes that it “merely requires the city to convene a meeting of health care providers to determine how their existing fee-for-service preventive programs can accommodate all Spokane residents who need such care.”

But how can the city guarantee that such a meeting will produce the desired result? And if it doesn’t, what recourse would rights-holders have other than to take the city to court? After all, that’s how rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution are protected, and proponents have compared Proposition 4 to the Bill of Rights.

An explosion of litigation isn’t guaranteed, but you can bet on it, because the final plank states: “Residents, workers, neighborhood councils and the city shall have the right to enforce the community bill of rights.”

Practically everyone is supportive of the principles of ample low-income housing, thriving local businesses, a flourishing natural environment, affordable and renewable energy, self-determination in neighborhoods and access to affordable health care, but when the meaning of adjectives is left to conjecture, lawyers will be hired. What metrics would determine that the Spokane River is “flourishing” or that the economy is “locally based”?

The impetus for Proposition 4 is the notion that a conspiracy of special interests is against the goals, but that view is cynical in the extreme. It’s the impractical nature of the measure that works against it. The city cannot solve a complicated national issue like health care access. The implication of the measure is that local health care providers don’t share the goal of expanded care, and that’s just insulting.

This is why many progressive citizens who embrace the goals will be voting against the measure. The mayor and the entire City Council are against it. So are all of the council challengers. Voters ought to take note that politicians across the spectrum – from Amber Waldref and Jon Snyder to Nancy McLaughlin and Mike Fagan – are not supportive of Proposition 4.

That’s a clear sign of pragmatism and a reason to vote “no.”

See 2009-election-endorsements for The Spokesman-Review’s endorsements.

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