Opinion

Applying common sense to initiatives

Statewide ballot propositions for this November’s general election don’t outnumber the candidates, even though it may feel that way.

For those of us who prefer a republican form of government — in which we elect people to do the hard work of examining the issues and arriving at the best practical solutions — these ballot propositions are often worrisome.

How are individual voters supposed to learn enough about any given issue to make a wise decision when casting their votes?

The voters’ guide attempts to explain each proposition and to provide arguments for and against each one, but explanations and arguments are so brief that voters often cannot gain the depth of knowledge needed to make wise choices.

When any particular proposition has little or no direct effect on South Kitsap, voters can rarely gain additional knowledge from daily conversations and news reports as election day approaches.

Perhaps we would all be better off if voters generally follow a rule of thumb by which they reject any ballot proposition that would, if approved by the voters, do one of two things — repeal a law enacted by the Legislature or enact a new law governing a subject which they, the voters, have rarely heard about before looking at the guide or ballot.

Such a rule of thumb would put the burden on the proponents of a ballot proposition to make a good enough case to support going outside the usual legislative process to make new law or to reject existing law.

It would also shorten the time needed to read through the voters’ guide, since voters could concentrate on the arguments offered by the proponents and move on to the next proposition when those arguments fall short.

Here’s how easy it is to apply this practical rule.

Initiative 872 would be rejected by the voters. The proponents offer an argument based in fantasy, stating that their proposed primary election process would cause political parties to “run campaigns that appeal to all the voters.”

If it were possible to appeal to all voters, we would only have one political party already.

Initiative 884 would likewise be rejected, since the arguments in favor of it contradict common sense.

Its proponents argue that I-884 creates a trust fund for the new sales tax revenue and “builds a firewall between the Trust and the Legislature.”

Our legislators aren’t our enemies. Indeed, those same legislators would still need to provide 10 times as much money to our K-12 public schools as would be provided by the initiative’s 15 percent increase in the state sales tax.

Reforms that would improve South Kitsap schools and lighten the property tax burden on homeowners would all require new revenue, but I-884 promises new revenue without requiring any of those reforms.

Even South Kitsap voters who don’t perceive how I-884 would make matters worse for our own schools should still be able to see how nonsensical the arguments in favor of it are.

Initiative 892 would be approved by the voters. A form of gambling which now exists within our state, but only on tribal reservations, would be authorized in establishments that now offer other forms of gambling.

The tribes would no longer have a government-provided competitive advantage, and the state would have a new source of revenue that would slightly reduce our property tax burden.

Referendum Measure 55 would be approved by the voters, thereby keeping in effect a law enacted by the Legislature to authorize a limited number of charter schools in our state.

The people who put this referendum on the ballot want the voters to reject what the Legislature did, but offer no good argument for their position.

Charter schools would be publicly funded public schools, yet the referendum’s proponents tell voters to “reject taking money away from our public schools.”

Unlike our existing public schools, charter schools would lose their authority to continue operating if they don’t live up to the charters granted to them; yet the referendum’s proponents argue that these schools wouldn’t be accountable.

There is little chance that one of the 45 new charter schools authorized by the Legislature will be established in South Kitsap, so you might wonder why you should allow any district to establish one.

The idea behind charter schools is to provide more opportunity for innovation. If good ideas are developed and proven, they can be copied by our own schools.

We could benefit from the successes of others and learn from their mistakes.

Initiative 297 would be disapproved, since it proposes a new law for something that isn’t a problem.

The argument in favor of I-297 is demagoguery at its worst: The federal government wants to use “Washington as a national radioactive waste dump.”

When we begin to hear the Washington and Oregon congressional candidates screaming for change as they campaign for votes, it will be time to worry about what the federal government is doing in the handling of hazardous waste in the Columbia River watershed — not before.

Robert Meadows is a Port Orchard resident.

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