- Special Sections
- Public Notices
It’s a fact that the charter amendments, if passed in the upcoming election, would shorten the time to collect signatures for local initiatives, referendums, and recalls and increase the number of signatures needed for some petitions.
Think about that: With the proposed charter amendments, if we citizens don’t like the direction or a decision of council, we will have even less time now to collect an even higher number of signatures just to get something on the ballot (which then goes to a public vote anyway).
For that fact alone, these proposed amendments unquestionably limit public participation and further restrict the public’s few checks and balances allowed in the current county charter against potential or future governmental abuse.
But are these processes in need of improvement? Hardly. George Chandler’s description of the four times these processes were used in charter’s 40-plus years of existence can hardly be described as abuse. I count that as the system working.
It’s ironic to me that Chandler supports further suppressing public input when he himself as a private citizen took unprecedented legal action against the county in 2010 as councilors attempted to put a public initiative petition up for vote to see what residents wanted for their town’s municipal building. Would he call that his own private check and balance against council decisions? That’s all well and good if you’re a lawyer like Chandler, but as a regular public citizen, I count on our initiative, referendum, and recall processes as a last resort to express dissent, and I would hope it’s not made any harder or stricter than it needs to be.
It’s even more ironic that one of the strongest councilor supporters of the proposed restricting of public participation, county councilor David Izraelevitz, was appointed to his position, and not elected to office by the public.
Maybe that’s not ironic. Maybe that’s just sad—sad that he and others devalue a longstanding process for public participation so as to try to further constrain it even in its current, rarely used, form. And sad that some councilors and a handful of vocal county residents are working so passionately to put ever greater restraints on the expression of public dissent in our local county government decisions. It almost makes me wonder what they’re up to.