1st Amendment Fight at Spokane City Council

By Faye Higbee

Spokane, Washington  – The Spokane City Council has banned a word. Yep, it isn’t the “N” word, nor even the “F” word, it’s the “H” word.  The Council has banned the term “Hookerville.” And some of the citizens aren’t happy about it.

The fight stems from a particular resident, George McGrath, who frequently attends Spokane City Council meetings. He has used the term in reference to a proposed pedestrian bridge that will span an area between the city’s University District to East Sprague. East Sprague has held a reputation for prostitution for an uncountable number of years. Hence, McGrath’s use of the term “Hookerville.”

1st amendment

Resident George McGrath utters the “H” word at a City Council Meeting and is told to stop

At the May 4 meeting the council asked him to not use that term any more.

First amendment issue

“My first amendment rights are gone because I’m at a meeting of the Spokane City Council and some people don’t like the terms I use?”  George McGrath

And that set up the next meeting on Monday, May 10 for even more citizens to complain.

“Are you embarrassed as a council that there is a prostitution problem in this city. You should be. Is that why you are attacking his constitutional rights?”

“You invite Spokane citizens, the people you are supposed to be serving, to share what’s on our minds and then you ban our words… outrageous”

One councilman, Mike Allen, told them that it was a slippery slope to ban words.

“We’ve had someone come down and testifies here on a regular basis, two times this year, talking about how human flesh is good for you yet this council said nothing. It’s very difficult and very dangerous when you start playing and being word police.” Mike Allen


Spokane Prostitution map 2/2015

The Spokane council has received complaints from the East Sprague district about the term. East Sprague has had a longstanding prostitution problem – if they want to put in a pedestrian bridge, they might want to consider the potential danger to local residents. Concerns about the terms someone uses at a council meeting should be the least of their worries.