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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opposition to proposition that would give Spokane City Council more authority over city attorney grows in second count

Nov. 9, 2022 Updated Wed., Nov. 9, 2022 at 9:42 p.m.

Spokane City Hall is seen in this August 2020 photo.   (Dan Pelle/The Spokesman-Review)
Spokane City Hall is seen in this August 2020 photo.  (Dan Pelle/The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane voters inched Wednesday toward shooting down a measure that would give lawmakers more authority over the city attorney.

Vote totals posted Wednesday evening by the Spokane County Auditor’s office showed the city’s Proposition 1 failing, with 51.3% of voters against it. The needle moved slightly from Election Night, when 50.9% of early ballots were cast in opposition to the measure.

Spokane City Councilman Jonathan Bingle helped craft the message to voters against the measure, arguing it was a continued power grab by the panel he sits on from the authority vested in the mayor’s office by the city charter.

“Separation of powers exists for a reason,” Bingle said Wednesday, before the vote totals were posted. “The way our system is set up now is pretty balanced.”

The measure would revise the city charter to give lawmakers the ability to vote to remove the city attorney, a firing power that currently exists with the mayor. The City Council also would be required to vote to initiate litigation, and the position would be guaranteed for a seven-year term, an effort by proponents to attract mid-career professionals to the job and ensure their continued employment unaffected by politics.

City Council President Breean Beggs, who helped draft the measure, called it a “good government” change that would ensure the attorney acted independently of the mayor’s office.

“We’re just letting the voters vote,” Beggs said, noting that the council did not draft a resolution supporting or opposing the measure.

Beggs said he was aware there was some outside spending to get voters to nix the proposition. The council president said before Wednesday’s vote returns that he didn’t plan on any immediate actions should the vote fail to change the city attorney’s office.

The returns also suggest city voters may have been confused or hesitant to vote on the proposition. According to the election returns, more than 9,400 residents left their ballot blank on the Proposition 1 question. The margin between the two choices on the ballot was 1,530 votes after Wednesday’s tally.

Bingle said he received several text messages during voting about the ballot measure.

“Any time there’s a charter amendment, that’s a significant move,” Bingle said. “If people don’t know what it is, they’re not going to vote on it.”

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