Spokane Special Election Overview: Vote so you can Gloat
Special elections are some of the most important elections with the lowest voter turn out. In the special election of February 2012, we saw a 48.48% voter turn out in Spokane County, but in the general election of 2012, Spokane County was representing hard with a 80.47% turn out according to Spokane County Elections. As of February 8th, Spokane County Elections is reporting that only 23% of registered voters in Spokane have turned in their ballots. Are you one of them? Ballots are due Tuesday, February 12th before 8pm.
The issues on this year’s special election ballot, for the first time in many years, have drawn together a few local, vocal campaigns for and against the three issues. People are rallying– rightfully so. These three propositions mean serious business for Spokane.
According to the Spokesman-Review, Proposition 1 would establish within the City Charter a Police Ombudsman Office with the authority to independently investigate alleged police misconduct. It also would create a Police Ombudsman Commission.
This proposition has been a long time comin’. Spokane has been trying to get some decent police oversight for, like, ever. The issue is that we, like many other cities, have problems with our police. Yeah, sometimes the police can be very helpful, but sometimes they can be straight-up a-holes. The problem with such a powerful organization is lack of oversight from the people it serves, so the power hungry can satisfied their appetites without being questioned, which translates to the cops taking things way too far. Since the police bruality related death of Otto Zhem in 2006, people all over Spokane have taken notice to the important issue of police oversight; Spokane has been successful in securing a Police Ombudsman, but not one with independent investigative authority. Meaning, as it stands, the Police Ombudsman can only work with the current investigative system within the Spokane Police Department and not step outside of those bounds. Which is basically useless. Giving the Ombudsman independent investigative power is a game changer in the way our city works with police.
This is the biggest piece of conservative BS I have ever seen.
Short version: It would give Republicans (or whatever council members are against raising taxes in general) a disproportionate amount of control.
Long version: On the state level, we’ve passed a ballot initiative a number of times to require a 2/3 majority to vote for any bill that raises taxes. But on a state level, the power is and has been for decades in the control of Democrats, who have shut out Republicans attempting to have a conversation about budgeting more conservatively. In other words, the 2/3 requirement is an attempt to *create* a more balanced power structure and force conversation instead of steamrolling anyone against raising taxes. In the city, however, we have a pretty good back-and-forth between the two parties and a balanced system. Right now, for example, we have a Republican mayor, a Democrat city council president, and a Republican-leaning council. In the last term, we had a much more democrat-leaning situation. If the Republicans fuck up, the Democrats will have a pretty good chance of shaking up the current situation.
Part of the benefit of a situation like that is that candidates are forced to examine the weak points in their platforms on a regular basis. If Republicans only need three seats to have the “majority” on anything involving taxes, they’ll have less of an incentive to fight for those more hard-won seats. That means we’ll be stuck with all the wackys that think pro-life issues and stopping the UN takeover of Spokane are the most important issues our city faces, and none of the Republicans who know how to build alliances, find middle ground and actually get stuff done.
By Erika Prins
According to the Spokesman-Review: Proposition 3 is a levy lid lift that would increase property taxes by 7 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. (That’s $7 for a $100,000 property.) The tax would be used to prevent the closure of branch libraries and likely will be used to also increase hours at the city’s three neighborhood library branches from 22 1/2 hours a week to 40 hours a week.
This one is a no-brainer. Well, if it doesn’t pass, Spokane will be full of no-brainers (That sounded like a joke my grandpa would have made. SORRY). Libraries in Spokane are such a huge asset for so many people– they provide access to a large quantity of books (Duh), free computer access, meeting rooms, community events and even movie rentals! Spokane Public Libraries have faced some serious budget cuts in the past, including cuts to hours and other services. Libraries are vital to thriving communities. Like most cuts to social services, a cut in the library budget disportionately affects low-income people; the library in the East Central area of Spokane has lower usage than the branch downtown or on the South Hill, the only difference is the need for a library is much greater in East Central than on the South Hill. The library in East Central is often used to access the web to pay bills, apply for jobs and even do homework for families without computer access at home. It’s a big deal.