Involvement in change is important

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 14, 2003

The right of the people to vote sounds like an easy thing to support. Heck, being against letting "the people" decide would be downright un-American, right?

That's what some would have you believe. But an idea like the reverse referendum initiative being discussed at the state Capitol, though it's got that democratic feel on the surface, has the potential to drive up costs for taxpayers and turn local politics into a mess.

It would allow local voters to demand a referendum on tax increases. All they would need is signatures of 5 percent of the voting population. The local government would then have to hold a referendum that could reverse the tax increase if voters so choose.

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However, forcing a referendum on a local government would undermine the authority of the elected officials who are supposed to make the decisions. The majority already has a recourse if it doesn't like the way its government is being run. It can elect new leaders. The reverse referendum, on the other hand, could allow a minority to force special votes on tax increases that would cost even more money to hold.

Democracy doesn't mean holding a referendum on everything controversial. It means getting involved, speaking out, promoting candidates you favor, maybe even running for office. That's the way to effect change at the local level -- it just takes a little more effort than calling for a vote on everything.