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Spokane "Neighborhood Bill of Rights"

Ian Scott on Monday, August 31, 2009 at 2:47:53 am

This November, Spokane voters will decide on a potentially game changing ballot initiative that could raise taxes, inhibit growth and clog courtrooms all at at once.

Proposition 4, also know as the "Neighborhood Bill of Rights," is a collection of nine amendments to the city charter proposed by a group called Envision Spokane.  Their website claims the collection of amendments, "seeks to build a healthy, sustainable, and democratic Spokane through the recognition of rights for people, workers, neighborhoods, and the natural environment."  Here is a list of the proposed amendments:

  1. Residents have the right to a locally-based economy
  2. Residents have the right to affordable preventive health care.
  3. Residents have the right to affordable and safe housing
  4. Residents have the right to affordable and renewable energy.
  5. The natural environment has the right to exist and flourish.
  6. Residents have the right to determine the future of their neighborhoods.
  7. Workers have the right to be paid the prevailing wage, and the right to work as apprentices, on certain construction projects.
  8. Workers have the right to employer neutrality when unionizing, and the right to constitutional protections within the workplace.
  9. Residents, workers, neighborhoods, neighborhood councils, and the City of Spokane shall have the right to enforce the Community Bill of Rights

For full text of the ballot initiative, click HERE.

The JOBS (Jobs and Opportunities Benefiting Spokane) Coalition, a group which includes Greater Spokane Incorporated, Associated Builders and Contractors; Spokane Realtors, The Spokane Restaurant Association, The Spokane Hotel and Motel Association, disagrees about the impact of Proposition 4.  They claim that the amendments, "will cost the city millions of dollars, stifle growth, and drive jobs away from the city."  In a one-page critique the JOBS Coalition calls the proposal, "a wish list that includes almost everything – healthcare, affordable housing, protecting the aquifer and higher wages.  There’s no way the city could pay for all the things on the list."

Walt Worthy, owner of The Davenport Hotel and a leader of the JOBS Coalition addressed the proposals legal issues saying, "The law is intentionally written in language that is vague and unclear so it will clog up the courts for years with frivolous lawsuits, slowing down job growth and discouraging business in Spokane."

In addition to the scope, cost, and legal concerns about this proposal, Greater Spokane Inc also pointed out that parts are similar to the Hometown Democracy proposal from Florida.  In an email to members they wrote, "Proposition 4 would allow an unelected, small group of activists to block any development in any area of the city, even if it complies with zoning and has been approved." 

Because of the scope and potential impact of this proposal, and the probability that it could become contagious, you owe it to your community to follow what's happening in Spokane.  The ACCE Policy Clearinghouse will be tracking this issue and providing regular updates.  Stay tuned.

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