Should you sign the petitions?Written by Maggie Thurber | Toledo Free Press Writer | firstname.lastname@example.org
If you haven’t yet heard, there are two petition initiatives under way in Toledo.
Take Back Toledo is working to gather signatures to recall Mayor Carty Finkbeiner. They have 90 days in which to collect 19,753 signatures to put a recall question on the November ballot.
The Coalition Opposed to Spending and Taxes is working with local activists to put a charter amendment on the ballot that would change how red-light and speed cameras are used in Toledo. They need to gather about 5,000 signatures, but have a longer time in which to do so.
It’s very likely that you, at some point in the process, will be asked to sign a petition.
My recommendation is that you should — but not just because you agree with the position of the backers of these drives.
We have a representative form of government, which means we elect individuals to represent our best interests, and they usually do so.
However, as our founders believed the ultimate power belong to the citizens, procedures were put in place to give voters a say in decisions.
Toledo’s charter and municipal code give citizens the right to respond to decisions of the council and the mayor through a petition process. In many cases, such petitions are the only option voters have to express their choice. In the recall and charter amendment efforts, the goal of the petition is to put the measures on the ballot so that all citizens — not just the elected officials — can have a voice in the decision.
From a personal perspective, when eligible to do so, I’ve signed nominating petitions for Democrats and Republicans. My philosophy on those requests is that any individual willing to run for office, to embark upon a campaign, be subject to the process and to offer voters a choice deserves the ability to be on the ballot. My support of their access to the ballot does not equate to a decision to vote for them in an election.
I approach issues the same way and have signed petitions to put measures on the ballot that I know I will vote against.
“But Maggie,” you say, “you opposed COSI going on the ballot. Isn’t your position now a contradiction?”
No, it’s not.
COSI was a private enterprise that was seeking a levy of public tax dollars. Until they lobbied legislators in Columbus to write a special rule just for them, they didn’t even have the legal ability to ask for such funding. My basic core philosophy is that tax dollars should be used to fund the core functions and responsibilities of government — not in providing a source of funding for private organizations, regardless of their purported “public benefit.”
Then, after having the law rewritten, COSI had two chances to get voters to say yes and they failed, so they certainly did not deserve a third chance, regardless of the outcome.
Additionally, the rules for entities wanting money and the rules for citizens wanting to cancel such funding are not the same. A citizen can only put a measure to repeal such funding before the voter once every five years, while entities can go to the voters at every election if they want to. I believe the rules should be the same for both efforts.
In the case of the recall and the charter amendment, the processes are standard procedure, found in most cities and states. They provide citizens with the ability and process to carry out our oversight of government.
By using the methods and provisions detailed in our charter, we send a message to the elected officials that we know our rights and we have the ability to exercise them.
Many times, elected officials feel free to make decisions that they know are not popular simply because they do not believe the electorate will do anything about it. By supporting the effort to put issues on the ballot, you send a message to the elected officials that they need to pay attention to your instructions to them or they will face more such campaigns in the future.
When it comes to these specific measures, I hope you will sign the petitions so that voters will be given an opportunity to cast a vote for or against them, with the will of the majority determining the outcome. Because Toledo’s charter gives us this ability, we should all support access to the ballot … and then work for or against the individual measures as we see fit.
Former Lucas County Commissioner Maggie Thurber blogs at http://thurbersthoughts.blogspot.com.