Spokane Prop 4 Defeated!
Last Tuesday Spokane voters rejected Proposition 4, the Community Bill of Rights. This is the set of nine city charter amendments we've featured on this blog several times over the past month or two. It would have expanded citizens rights to affordable housing, healthcare, a clean environment and locally based economy without any provision to pay for those rights.
Greater Spokane Incorporated lead a coalition to oppose Proposition 4 because of the potentially devastating impact it might have on local businesses. Greater Spokane Inc's President and CEO (and former ACCE Chairman) Rich Hadley said:
“The initiative process in Washington State creates situations, such as the one related to the Community Bill of Rights, where a small group of people can, through creative wordsmithing, propose a potentially devastating piece of legislation. ... It was imperative that we, as a representative of business, be a leader in this fight due to the potential impact to business that this initiative presented."
Hadley and the business community had much to fear from Proposition 4. Even in defeat, this kind of issue casts a long shadow that directly impacts economic development.
"If we had known that the 'Community Bill of Rights' was going on the ballot, we would not have chosen Spokane to locate our business," said Jeanette Fairless, President of Spectrum Home Services. "Several years ago Portland voters passed a bill that was similar to Prop 4. It was apparent early on that this new law helped a few and hurt many, even though it was designed to protect the average citizen. It was voted out by the majority the very next year."
Spokane Prop 4's defeat is cause for celebration among those of us who favor rational, fiscally responsible government, but there is still cause for concern. Envision Spokane, the organizers of Proposition 4, might try again. And Spokane doesn't exist in a vacuum. We have seen other policy issues like this become contagious quickly and it seems highly probable that this set of proposals will take root somewhere else very soon.