Last night, I attended my first Spokane City Council meeting so I could speak against Ordinance C35571, proposed by Council President Ben Stuckart. This ordinance was vetoed earlier by Spokane Mayor David A. Condon. This agenda item was a consideration of the veto. To override the veto, 5 out of the 7 council members had to vote for the ordinance.
The ordinance is described as the “Spokane Fair Elections Code”. Fair is far from the truth. I will describe three main reasons.
First, the ordinance cuts in half the amount that an ordinary citizen can give annually to local candidates, meanwhile such limits will not be imposed on political committees and parties. As a result, the power and influence of political contributions by political organizations will increase while the influence of individuals will decrease.
Second, any entity with a “contractual relationship with the city” valued over $50,000 is prohibited from campaign contributions to local candidates. Conversely, no such restrictions are given to unions. Such provisions create an unequal application of the law, or double-standard valuing the free-speech (i.e., money) that comes from unions more.
Third, the ordinance creates an unequal scenario for those seeking office. Incumbents, who already have a political office can reap benefits from being in power (e.g., publicity, networking). As well, they likely have a bank account of monies collected from previous campaigns. Under the Spokane Fair Elections Code, challengers will not be able to begin collecting campaign contributions until the election year begins on January 1, placing them at an extreme disadvantage. As well, they will not be able to self-fund their campaign prior to the start of the year.
Public testimony was evenly divided. Yet, the council voted 6 to 1 in favor of the motion to override the veto of the mayor. The only conservative on the Spokane City Council, Council Member, Mike Fagan voted against the motion. This outcome may be surprising to many in the eastern side of Washington State that leans Republican Red. Surprisingly, Spokane is governed by liberal blue activists.
This ordinance, proposed with no urgent situation in mind, was not tabled for suggested improvements. Instead, Stuckart sought to quickly move forward. Perhaps to avoid greater public scrutiny.
Being my first time attending a Spokane City Council Meeting, I didn’t know what to expect. When I arrived before the commencement of events, I signed up on the roster to speak. Pleasingly, everyone stood for the pledge of allegiance.
Early on, a gentleman went to the microphone to speak in support of Uber. When finished, I clapped backing his comments. I was immediately chastised by Stuckart for behaving inappropriately. Apparently, rules require attendees to remain silent as everyone speaks. I don’t have a problem with such rules maintaining civility. Although, it is sad that such rules are needed.
When it was my time to talk at the microphone, I focused on calmly reading my notes. The ball of the microphone seemed as large as my face blocking my view of the council members. I was nervous and worried my fears would impede my presentation. As I began, I kept my head down looking at my paper. About half-way through, I developed more confidence and started to look up more. The council members had a wide range of facial expressions. At the end of my delivery, I sought to counter a comment made by a previous speaker. My nervousness impaired my impromptu comeback, but I don’t regret trying. Of course, afterwards I felt more confident for the next time.