Proponents, Opponents Debate Community Bill Of Rights

By Steve Jackson

Backers of a community bill of rights are hoping the third time is a charm as the issue comes before Spokane voters this fall.
This will be the third attempt to pass a community bill of rights in Spokane. Two years ago, the measure failed by less than a thousand votes.
Sponsors say they believe the four simple sections of the bill of rights clearly resonate with Spokane voters.
Among those provisions: allowing neighborhoods to decide the fate of any planned development, either commercial or residential, rather than city planners or the city council.
Bill proponent Kai Huschke of “Envision Spokane” says the concept is to give power back to the citizens.
Huschke: “This comes out of years and years of residents seeing unwanted or not the right type of development coming in to play, and having no recourse, but really no decision making power”
Spokane businessman and Greater Spokane Incorporated Board member Michael Senske feels the current system of zoning and approving development is perfectly adequate. Senske says he fears the new proposal would be bad for business and the economy:
Senske: “The city of Spokane raises tax dollars to fund various services. If this were to go through, corporations that were building say a big box stores, may choose to locate outside city limits or jurisdiction where they wouldn’t be paying taxes to the city of Spokane, yet serving our population, and from my perspective that would be a great loss for the city of Spokane.”
Huschke does not believe the measure would make all neighborhoods completely anti-development:
Huschke: “If it doesn’t fly, what you may hear is the neighborhood saying we don’t want this particular development, or what the developer may hear is ‘go back to the drawing table,’ or better yet, if you are looking at doing something that better matches what a neighborhood wants”
Senske feels there is another flaw in the plan to allow neighborhoods to decide the future of development, that being, who is allowed to vote.
Senske: “That it is really registered voters who have voted in the last election, that are able to participate in that process. So when we talk of a majority, it could in fact be a minority of the people that live in a given neighborhood that end up mixing a proposed development”
Spokane Public Radio will present several more reports on the various facets of the community bill of rights before the election.
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