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If It Ain’t Broke… 

Publisher's Note

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W

hy is a Seattle-based, right-wing think tank trying to change the rules for the Spokane City Council? That’s the question city voters should be asking as they ponder Proposition 2 on the Feb. 12 ballot.

In a column in the Spokesman-Review Sunday, the Washington Policy Center’s Chris Cargill joined outgoing City Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin in encouraging Spokane voters to switch all city council votes on revenue changes to a supermajority — requiring five votes instead of four to pass. It’s odd that McLaughlin would be for cutting the power on the institution she served for eight years, but it’s even stranger that Mayor David Condon put his name on the endorsement, too. More on that in a minute.

What we have here is another solution in search of a problem. How often has the city council enacted revenue increases without agonizing deliberations? And the mayor already has the power to veto any decision, requiring five council votes to override that veto. The system works just fine.

Here’s what’s happening: The state Republican Party is whiffing big-time statewide, so they’re looking to places like Spokane to knee-cap government. The Washington Policy Center claims to be “non-partisan,” but independent analyses show their secret funding comes from the usual suspects of right-wing foundations that spend millions to curb government’s power to enact environmental regulations and to fund social welfare programs.

Non-partisan… Somebody else uses that word… Oh yeah, David Condon put it on his yard signs. I’m generally impressed by Condon’s first year — he has brought a steady, methodical approach to the job. But for his own political good, he should not have joined this fight. Why not? It gives off the appearance that he’s carrying water for the state and national GOP — a fear many voters already had about him. Also, Prop. 2 trims the council’s influence, making the move look like your basic, everyday power grab.

Again, this is not something that comes up every week, but there’s a principle at stake — democracy. If you want to see what supermajority requirements can do, check out the U.S. Senate, where one senator can grind American progress to dust. And under Prop. 2, our city council could be just two more Mike Fagans away from bringing Spokane to a screeching to halt.

Prop. 2 fits my candy-for-dinner test perfectly. If I ask my kids if they’d rather have veggies or candy for dinner, the answer is candy every time. It’s the same with every promise of low taxes put on any ballot: “Candy, please!”

But if Spokane voters decide they’re happy with the system we created, and that we trust our elected leaders to do their jobs thoughtfully, maybe this time we can choose our vegetables instead. 

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