Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Spokane turns down oil & coal train Prop 2; opponents vastly outspent proponents

Posted By on Wed, Nov 8, 2017 at 11:25 AM

Early election totals show that Spokane voters largely 
click to enlarge Spokane turns down oil & coal train Prop 2; opponents vastly outspent proponents
Daniel Walters photo
aligned with the rail, coal and oil industries who called on voters to reject Proposition 2.

The local initiative would have levied a fine on owners that send train cars of uncovered coal or untreated crude oil on trains through the city by making it a civil infraction to do so.

As of the first count on election night, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 58.31 percent of voters said "no" to the proposition, and 41.69 percent said "yes." About 22.5 percent of Spokane County voters turned in their ballots.

The results were applauded by Michael Cathcart, spokesman for the Committee to Protect Spokane’s Economy, the opposition group, which was funded mostly by industries that would've been impacted.

“We’re encouraged by the early returns demonstrating community support for defeating a misguided plan to ban oil and coal traffic through the city," Cathcart says in an emailed statement. "With the city’s own legal advisors saying for more than a year Proposition 2 was unenforceable and potentially illegal, a no vote was the only responsible way to avoid costly lawsuits that would waste city resources from more important things.”

Jim Lee, chairman of proponent committee Safer Spokane, thanked all their volunteers and supporters, and said while they knew it was a long shot, they hadn't expected the opposition to raise more than a quarter of a million dollars, or spend so much on advertising, to defeat the measure.

"The staggering amount of misinformation issued by the no campaign, not surprisingly, created a lot of confusion among voters and voters who are confused tend to vote no. They created enough fear and doubt to achieve their objective," Lee says by email. "The ultimate question is whether there is even any possible way for ordinary citizens to stand up against the money and power of the massive corporate interests. We will continue to seek answers to that question and ways to correct that imbalance."

The Committee to Protect Spokane's Economy heavily outspent Safer Spokane, with $161,797 in expenditures on mailers and advertising, compared with Safer Spokane's $5,930.

Protect Spokane's Economy received most of its contributions from a handful of companies that gave at least $10,000 apiece:
  • BNSF Railway ($74,500)
  • Coal companies Lighthouse Resources Inc. ($64,500), Cloud Peak Energy ($50,000)
  • Union Pacific Railway ($35,000)
  • Tesoro ($25,000)
  • Montana Rail Link ($10,000)

Safer Spokane, on the other hand, received most of its donations in smaller amounts from citizens, with the six largest single contributors giving between $284 and $2,350.68:
  • Michael Bell ($2,350.68)
  • Candace Schmidt ($1,300)
  • United Unitarian Church ($1,045)
  • Wayne Attwood ($550)
  • Candace Battle ($500)
  • Anonymous contribution ($284)
As of Wednesday morning, the Spokane County Auditor's Office estimated there were 15,000 ballots left to count; election results are scheduled to be certified on Nov. 28.

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About The Author

Samantha Wohlfeil

Samantha Wohlfeil covers the environment, rural communities and cultural issues for the Inlander. Since joining the paper in 2017, she's reported how the weeks after getting out of prison can be deadly, how some terminally ill Eastern Washington patients have struggled to access lethal medication, and other sensitive...