Last week, the Spokane County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to join a lawsuit to challenge the validity of a pair of city of Spokane initiatives that could hurt economic development throughout the area.
The board’s move is not intended to promote or oppose the ballot proposition submitted by the city of Spokane to the Spokane County auditor, stated Martha Lou Wheatley-Billeter, spokeswoman. Rather, the action is “only to determine the validity of the ballot proposition.
“If the court determines that all or portions of the ballot propositions are lawful, the voters of the city of Spokane will have the opportunity to express their opinion on the general election ballot (on Nov. 5),” Wheatley-Billeter said.
The initiatives in question – a Community Bill of Rights and a Voter Bill of Rights – have been under scrutiny by several economic-development groups in the area.
The commissioners’ legal challenge was made in order to:
- Avoid the cost of placing the issue before voters if the initiatives are not valid or enforceable
- Eliminate the potential negative impacts the initiatives might have on the county’s economic development efforts between now and Nov. 5
- Protect the taxpayers of Spokane County from having to pay the costs of multiple lawsuits that could arise after the election
- Eliminate potential post election challenges
Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton placed the initiatives on the ballot after Envision Spokane and Spokane Moves to Amend the Constitution obtained sufficient voter signatures. The first initiative is to give voters more control on development projects and legal leverage. The second, respectively, would ban corporate employees from speaking to city officials about possible legislation or ballot initiatives that would benefit the affected companies unless done in a public forum.
Aligning with the county are the Spokane Entrepreneurial Center, Downtown Spokane Partnership, Greater Spokane Inc., the Spokane Building Owners and Managers Association, Spokane Association of Realtors, Spokane Homebuilders Association, Inland Pacific Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, Avista Crop., Pearson Packaging Systems, Tom Powers, William Butler, Neil Muller, Mike Allen and Nancy McLaughlin.
The named defendants include Spokane Moves to Amend the Constitution, Envision Spokane, Dalton (in her official capacity as auditor) and the city of Spokane.