Tonight, along with talk of ombudsman powers and adult bookstores, the council will hold two hearings on citizen initiatives that have pitted "let the voters decide" arguments against council concerns that the initiatives are unconstitutional and could attract expensive lawsuits if passed. The council requested an outside legal review, which concluded the city could mount a pre-election legal challenge against the measures to block them from going to a public vote. Tonight, council members will vote on resolutions requesting that the mayor pursue such a lawsuit.
One of the initiatives is a Community Bill of Rights, brought for the third time by Envision Spokane, expanding neighborhood rights and environmental protections. The other, crafted by Spokane Moves to Amend the Constitution, would outlaw private lobbying (corporations' employees talking to city officials about legislation) and corporate contributions to local campaigns.
All of the City Council members have expressed opposition to both of the initiatives based on their content and scope, arguing they're aimed at things the city doesn't have the right to change.
"There's a real fervor out there and frustration with how campaigns are financed. I get it," Councilman Mike Allen told members of Spokane Moves to Amend the Constitution when the council voted to send the initiatives to the county auditor to verify the signatures. "But you've got to challenge it at the right level. The city is not the right level."
Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin said she supported a legal review because she worries about how much the city will have to spend defending these laws if they pass and then face legal challenge.
Initiative guru Tim Eyman will also be in town for a 2 pm press conference and to testify in support of Envision Spokane at the council meeting. He's pushing one of his efforts this fall, Initiative 517, which would require that any state or local initiative that garners enough signatures go to a vote regardless of government legal objections.