More on the charter amendments

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Among the many important decisions facing us as a community this November, is the issue of several proposed amendments to our county charter.
Much has been written about the process by which these amendments were composed, aside of whether each is a good idea or not.
In a subsequent column we will discuss the merits of each proposed change, but here, let’s talk about the process itself, and specifically logrolling, because we want to correct some erroneous comments in this area.
Logrolling is the practice of combining multiple unrelated topics so that different constituencies will vote for the “whole,” although they only support a “piece.”
 Most of the discussion about the structure of the ballots relates to whether the four proposed amendments constitute “logrolling.”  However, the key word that distinguishes logrolling is “unrelated,” not “multiple.” For example, a citizen initiative to clamp down on loose dogs (a leash law, fines for not cleaning up after your dog, fines for excessive barking, etc.) would certainly not be considered logrolling because the multiple parts of the initiative form a consistent multi-pronged approach to address a community issue.
Similarly, citizen concern with unsightly signage (or business concern with overly restrictive signage), might lead to a petition to tighten or loosen a whole range of sign requirements, again in a consistent effort to address a community issue. However, if Alice wants a stricter sign code, and Bob wants a stricter dog law, they can’t join forces and have a single petition to gather  support from both camps.
That would be logrolling, and a court challenge would likely ensue.
Some people who do not understand this complexity have argued that each subtopic in a ballot should be voted on separately, e.g., a ballot on a leash law, a ballot on dog poop fines, a ballot on barking, etc.
That is certainly legal, but the point is that this is not necessary, and often not even appropriate. The courts (and common sense) indicate that it is impractical to separately vote on each aspect of a related whole that consistently support a similar general philosophical outlook.
For example, it would take a decade and hundreds of thousands of dollars in county funds to change the sign code this way.  A citizen with this myopic view of logrolling could argue that one could not delete a whole ordinance, but rather have to  delete each individual section separately to avoid “logrolling” of deletions!
Returning to this November’s ballot, each of the proposed amendments addresses one of four areas related to citizen petitions: initiatives, referendum, recall, and process for further charter amendments. Each of these areas is appropriately packaged into individual ballots by our county attorney in a way that avoids logrolling. In a future column we’ll discuss the merit of each of these “packages,” but we are confident that each ballot is a fair and appropriately presented decision for the citizens of Los Alamos County to make.
David Izraelevitz
Mike Wismer
Los Alamos County Councilors


Charter Amendment ballot questions and logrolling perception

David & Mike

Dog and sign laws are recognizably very distinct on multiple levels in our local codes, particularly because enforcement occurs through different components of the county government organization. It would be most useful if you would address the Charter Amendment ballot questions directly and in comparison with the previous legal assessments by County Lawyers, Administrator and Council regarding petitions for amendments to the County Charter (see the issues reported in LA Monitor 1/21/2010). For example, I would like to read the details of your comparative assessment for the coupling of petition processes and excluded scope for both ballot questions 1 and 2.

Thank you, David Janecky