Friday, March 19, 2010

And here’s the Pitch

“Have you heard about the big changes they are making in downtown Columbia?”

That was the opening pitch of Russ Swatek, the spokesperson for Taxpayers Against Giveaways, as he approached a shopper at the Harpers Choice Village Center in Columbia yesterday afternoon. The shopper acknowledged that they had heard something about it.

Russ went on to say that there was going to be 5,500 new housing units built in Town Center. “They don’t have the roads for that. Our traffic studies show they don’t have the roads for that now.”

Of course there are traffic studies that argue otherwise, not to mention the thirty year development timetable and the whole Adequate Public Facilities process.

This particular shopper knew better. They didn’t sign the petition. They did note that Russ was alone and didn’t seem to have many names on petition sheet.

It’s not that hard to get 5,000 registered voters to sign a petition. It’s not that easy either.

I’m beginning to think that Russ and his Tagalongs may not garner enough signatures to get on the ballot. It doesn’t look like they have a very deep bench.


Anonymous said...

We clearly need to lower the number of signatures required. Between getting sufficient volunteer hours and BoElects dumping 50-80% of the signatures, the figure must be lowered to preserve the right to this direct democracy tool via election ballots.

Amy said...

Lower the number of signatures? Really? Right now the requirment is at 3% of registered voters... Okay, so lets just say that we get a handful of people and call that democracy....Ridiculous! Maybe, our county is full of intelligent professionals who have followed the bill getting passed and actually ARE for it! Imagine...

futurefan said...


The number of signatures required is 5,000 out of 163,000 registered voters in Howard County. That's around THREE PERCENT. In fact, when that standard was established, the population in Howard County was significantly less, and 5,000 signatures was a much higher proportion of that population. So, actually, it’s easier now than it’s ever been to get something on the ballot in Howard County.

But last I checked, democracy was about majority rule. It’s not about the right of a minority (whether that be an elite government, a religious sect, or a tiny group of like-minded citizens) to hijack a majority decision.

The rules for valid signatures are straightforward, spelled out in black and white. There is no reason for signatures to be dumped other than petitioners' failure to follow explicit instructions.

DavidYungmann said...

When the 5,000 figure was set there were 23,000 signatures in Howard Co. Applying the same percentage would be around 35,000 signatures. Anne Arundel requires somewhere around 25,000 and I believe other Central MD counties are in the same range. Referendum exists to protect the masses from an oppressive government - to to protect a tiny group of disguntled citizens from a decision with which they simply do not agree.

Stacy said...

Sounds like you're gloating about how difficult it is to organize and execute a referendum campaign. This is especially true since the Booard of Elections wasn't prepared with an approved format for the petition (even though they knew it was coming). Adding that to the outrageously high invalidation rate (new signature guidelines), it takes a Herculean effort to give voters a chance to voice their opinion.

Let's remember, this is not democracy by the minority. At the end of the day, the petition only gets the issue on the ballot for the voters to decide.

You would think that would be everyone's goal.

Anonymous said...

Stacy is right, Amy. This is not 3% deciding ANYTHING.

This anti democracy campaign is choking EVERYONE else's rights!

Stop trying to control what the voters see. It's everyone's right.

Anonymous said...

And to David Yungman, your continual "argument" to demand everyone prove everything said when the obvious is stated is ridiculous.

Basically what your argument goes "prove the sun is out". Get real. The referenda collected 20,000 signatures in recent years and NO BALLOT ACCESS for VOTERs!!

What is there to prove? GROW UP AND GET A REAL ARGUMENT! (get past the kindergarten 'prove it' phase')

Anonymous said...

Reality check time. Taking a bill to referendum is an extraordinary act, reserved only for those occasions when a large number of people believe that an act of the legislature should be considered by the entire electorate. I think all of us can agree on that.

Back in 1968, when the Howard County Charter was approved, the standard set out in the charter was "five per centum of the registered voters of the County, but in any case not less than 1,500 nor more than 5,000 signatures shall be required."

Using that standard today, when the population is over 300,000 and the number of voters is 163,000, but without the cap of 5000, the petitioners would need 8,150 signatures.

All things considered, the bar is not very high to get take a bill to referendum. The petitioners just need a compelling reason for 5000 people to sign.

futurefan said...

I'm not sure how part of the conversation got off onto this tangent. The point, in response to the comment that the bar should be lowered, was simply that the bar is actually pretty low already. That's just fact.

No one has suggested raising that standard. Petitioners are simply required to meet it. If they can't follow the written guidelines for that (resulting in invalid signatures) or can't find enough people to sign in the first place, that is NOT a failure of the system. It's a failure of the petition.

Anonymous said...

Let me guess Suturefan, you're a member of the board of elections who inexplicably crapped on every voter's right to take an issue to referendum after voters clearly wanted a referendum with nearly double the number of signatures required using SAME rules that were successful for DECADES.

You - out of the gene pool.

Been There Done That said...

Despite having an outstanding professional staff, the three voting members of the Howard County Board of Elections have single handedly found unique ways to destroy every referendum petition brought to them over the past decade.

For anyone who thinks collecting 5,000 valid signatures in three months is easy, try doing it with a cinder block (the BoE) around your neck.

Unfortunately, the status quo will continue to disenfranchise the electorate until the current political appointee system is corrected.

Anonymous said...

and let's keep in mind that the howard county board of elections are state employees...

Anonymous said...

Let's also remember that the voters had their say in 2006 and they overwhelming elected four of the members of the council. The voters' intent was clear. This tyranny of the minority, an attempt to destroy Hoco by a bunch of total newcomers (Swatek moved here in 2003), is disgraceful.

Good thing everyone else can see through this nonsense.

Stacy said...

Anon 2:28 - You can't be serious! How long have you had those rose colored glasses?

It was stunning to see how fast the elected officials distanced themselves from positions they took as prospective candidates. Can you say "lickity split"?

Put this question to a vote and we can all move on.

Anonymous said...

Again, Stacy is right on target. And to those of you pompous superiority deluded humans who think you are the ones to decide what goes on the ballot rather than the 20,000 voters who have signed in recent years, go live somewhere without a Democracy where your powerful class rules and everyone else starves.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:09 AM:

FYI - We already live there.

brian said...

I know someone who was approached by a lone TAG member at Rita's on Friday (free ice day). She asked him if he was for giveaways and he said, "Heck, yes! That's why I'm here!"

Seriously though, he's a supporter of CB's 58 and 59 so he did not sign their petition.

Anonymous said...

A very low percentage are not signing. If this doesn't make it to referendum, there'll be a referendum on incumbents in the fall.