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Judge rules Spokane camping initiative can appear on November ballot

Rebecca White/SPR

A Spokane County Superior Court judge has cleared the way for a ballot initiative that would ban camping near parks, schools and homeless shelters in Spokane to appear on the November ballot.

Earlier this month, Jewels Helping Hands, a non-profit homeless service provider, and Ben Stuckart, executive Director of the Low-Income Housing Consortium, sued to stop the initiative from appearing on the ballot. They argued it was beyond the scope of the initiative process, taking authority away from the city council, and illegal under a federal court ruling that bars local governments from criminalizing homelessness.

Judge Tony Hazel disagreed, saying the city might have enforcement issues because of the Ninth Circuit ruling, but it would be improper for the court to block it, according to The Spokesman-Review.

Mark Lamb, an attorney representing the initiative’s sponsor, Brian Hansen and the group Clean and Safe Spokane said he was pleased, but not surprised by the decision.

“The people in Spokane have the right to legislate by initiative, and that's something that the court upheld, and that the people are entitled to have a voice in the legislative process, which is precisely what the Spokane charter holds, it’s what our Washington constitution holds, and it’s what our state laws hold,” he said.

Ballots will go out in October.