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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Groups hope to place initiatives on city ballot

Envision Spokane hopes the third time is a charm.

The group was one of two that filed signatures this week with Spokane City Clerk Teri Pfister to place initiatives on the city’s November ballot. Both turned in significantly more signatures than needed to qualify – though they still need to be verified by the Spokane County Elections Office.

Envision is back for its third try at approving its Community Bill of Rights. The 2013 version is similar to the 2011 initiative that received more than 49 percent support – about double the approval received in 2009 in the group’s first effort.

The other initiative is sponsored by Spokane Moves to Amend the Constitution, a group that opposes a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that says corporations and unions cannot be limited from publishing independent messages that favor certain candidates.

Its proposal would ban employees of any corporation from speaking to a city official about proposed legislation or ballot initiative on behalf of the corporation unless it was done in a public forum. Spokane Moves to Amend organizer Chris Nerison said it remains unclear if the proposal also would limit union members from lobbying elected officials.

“The idea is transparency – that everybody know what’s going on,” said Nerison, a Spokane Valley resident.

The proposal also would ban campaign contributions from corporations.

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.

Brad Read, president of Envision’s board, said the group is more confident because of its success in 2011. But it also expects to be targeted more by big business.

“What we’re proposing and putting forward for people to vote on resonates with them,” he said.

Read said Envision and Spokane Moves to Amend cooperated but are separate groups. They likely will coordinate on campaigning.

No elected officials endorsed Envision Spokane’s proposal in 2009 or 2011.

Councilman Jon Snyder said Thursday that he still opposes the Community Bill of Rights. He said he hasn’t read the Spokane Moves to Amend initiative.

Council members Mike Fagan and Steve Salvatori said they oppose both.

Fagan said he’d even consider voting to prevent the initiatives from being placed on the ballot, though he said it would be a tough vote for him as a co-director of Voters Want More Choices. Fagan’s group works to place initiatives on the state ballot.

Salvatori said he and other council members are considering the option of placing advisory votes on the ballot similar to ones placed on the 2009 ballot that asked voters if they would prefer raising taxes or cutting services to pay for Envision’s plan if it were to pass. Envision Spokane representatives argued then that their initiative wouldn’t cost taxpayers and that the City Council was unfairly manipulating the election.

Snyder said he would oppose any effort by the council to influence the election by placing advisory questions on the ballot.

“I voted against it the last time and would do it again,” he said.