The problem isn’t initiaives, it’s arrogance

It’s no real surprise that politicians of nearly every stripe resent the state’s initiative process.

U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Belfair), for example, speaking last week in Gig Harbor, informed his listeners that, “We’ve got to stop these crazy initiatives. We’ve got to have some faith in the people in Olympia and some respect for their judgment.”

Meanwhile State Sen. Dan Swecker (R-Rochester) last week introduced a bill in the current Legslature mandating public hearings for all initiatives and referendums that appear in the voters’ pamphlets.

“An informed electorate is paramount when deciding state policy,” said Swecker. “A few paragraphs in the voters’ pamphlet are not enough to describe all the ramifications, all the consequences — good or bad — of a ballot measure. The public deserves more information than the staunchly ‘for or against’ crowd will provide.”

Swecker either labors under the comfortable delusion of most politicians when they come up on the losing end of a vote (“The people just didn’t know what they were doing”), or he’s simply doing his best to derail a process he doesn’t like by creating as many administrative obstacles to it as he can.

In either case, Swecker’s bill — and the motivation behind it — are precisely the reason people have less faith in their elected representatives than politicians like Dicks insist we should.

Washington state’s initiative process, which requires proponents to gather tens of thousands of signatures just to get on the ballot, and then counter the often extremely well-financed efforts of their opponents, is already quite difficult enough, thank you.

The real problem isn’t the initiative process or the desires of those who routinely pass them by landslide margins. The problem is politicians who don’t know or don’t care what their constituents want and, thus, make initiatives necessary in the first place.

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