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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

County commissioners join fight against ‘Bill of Rights’ initiatives

Two measures will hamper economic development, opponents contend

Spokane County commissioners voted Friday to challenge a pair of Spokane city initiatives that could change the way local business and government function.

They join a coalition of economic development interests in seeking judicial review on the legality of the two initiatives called a Community Bill of Rights and a Voter Bill of Rights.

Commissioners said they believe the two measures could hamper economic development by putting more decision-making into the hands of individual citizens.

Envision Spokane and Spokane Moves to Amend the Constitution obtained sufficient voter signatures to force their bills of rights onto the city’s November ballot.

It will be the third ballot try for Envision and its Community Bill of Rights. Similar measures were rejected in 2009 and 2011, but the 2011 initiative won 49 percent of the vote.

That measure would give voters more control on development projects and open the door to citizen lawsuits to stop pollution of the Spokane River. It also would boost union rights and challenge corporate rights.

The other measure by Spokane Moves would ban employees of any corporation from speaking to a city official about proposed legislation or ballot initiatives on behalf of the corporation unless it was done in a public forum.

Along with Spokane County, plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the Spokane Entrepreneurial Center, Downtown Spokane Partnership, Greater Spokane Incorporated, the Spokane Building Owners and Managers Association, Spokane Association of Realtors, Spokane Homebuilders Association, Inland Pacific Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, Avista Corp., Pearson Packaging Systems, Tom Powers, William Butler and Neil Muller.

Also joining the lawsuit as plaintiffs are two Spokane City Council members – Mike Allen and Nancy McLaughlin. 

Spokane Moves, Envision Spokane, county Auditor Vicky Dalton and the city of Spokane are to be named as defendants. Because of the signatures gathered, the auditor and the city have the legal duty to put the initiatives before city voters, which is why they are named as defendants.

Commissioner Al French said the initiatives threaten to wrest legal authority from government officials and place a potential burden on taxpayers when it comes to defending projects, including the county’s wastewater treatment plant in east Spokane.

Mayor David Condon in a statement Friday afternoon said the initiative process would produce a “robust community dialogue … and the action taken by these community leaders is a part of that discussion.”

Representatives of Envision Spokane and Spokane Moves could not be reached Friday afternoon for comment.