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More Spokane ballot issues 

& & by Pia K. Hansen & & & &

Besides the fluoridation initiative, there are five charter amendments on the city ballot.

Amendment one, "Removal of Hiring Preference," basically serves to clean out some unconstitutional language left in the city charter since 1910. Section 54 of the charter currently directs the city to prefer hiring married men and men of family. A yes to amendment one would repeal this section of the city charter.

Amendment two deals with the neighborhood councils program, which was established by a city ordinance in 1996. This amendment seeks to make the program part of the charter.

"What does this change? Well, nothing," says Jay Cousins, one of the neighborhood activists who brought the proposal before the city council. "Putting the program in the charter simply adds stability. Who knows, maybe five or six years down the road, a city council may want to get rid of it. If it's part of the charter, they would have to take it to the people for a vote."

A yes on amendment three would replace masculine pronouns and nouns throughout the city charter.

Because of the upcoming change to the strong mayor form of government, the last two amendments deal with changing language and defining some sections of the charter to accurately reflect the new government structure. Amendment four will change language relating to the civil service commission.

"Last time the civil service article was rewritten was in 1960 when we adopted the city manager form of government. All the city manager language is now obsolete," says Larry Winner, senior assistant city attorney. "If this passes, then the mayor and the civil services commission will jointly write rules as opposed to the city council and civil services commission."

Amendment five is related to the change in government and to the districting initiative that was passed earlier this year. For instance, according to the strong mayor initiative, the city's chief executive is called mayor, and the position that was formerly called mayor is now the council president. In the districting initiative, the old structure and the old titles remain.

"Some sections of the charter were amended by those two initiatives but in different ways, and we are including some things that we missed in the first place," says Winner. "For instance, the mayor should bring bills to the city council for approval -- that was not in strong mayor initiative. This language is taken from Section 24, which dealt with the city manager, where this new section now will refer to the strong mayor."

Also, the strong mayor initiative removed the two-year residency requirement for candidates for mayor and council president, while the districting initiative retained it. A compromise between the two, requiring any candidate to have resided in the city -- and in the district if running for a district -- for one year and continue to do so throughout his or her term.

"The most discussed matter of policy has to do with residency requirements. The districting initiative left the current two-year requirement, but the strong mayor initiative changed that for some offices and not for others," says Winner. "This is a compromise. Also, as far as the term limits goes, if this amendment passes, you will not be able to be immediately reelected in another district if you have just served two consecutive terms for another one."

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