Monday, May 24, 2010

Referendums and American Democracy

My favorite political science professor in college, Paul A. Woelfl, S.J., liked to shake up young idealistic students with the notion that America is not a Democracy; it's a free enterprise system, not a democracy, he'd insist.

I thought of him today when I read this blog post by Frank Hecker. Frank took up the intellectual ball I dropped in this post about the latest effort to legislate by referendum.

Frank reminds us that the concept of the referendum in American democracy is a relatively new idea.

“… it’s important to note that the idea of direct democracy through referendums and ballot initiatives isn’t sanctified by association with the Founders. It didn’t gain traction until the advent of the Progressive movement in the late 19th century, in reaction to the perceived corruption of state legislatures by corporate interests.”

He then proceeds to dissect the reasoning and intent of the ballot initiative process and how that relates to both the GOP Taxpayer Protection Initiative and the Taxpayer Against Giveaways effort to overturn the Town Center redevelopment process.

“I’ll leave to others the task of providing a full argument against the proposed Town Center referendum. I’ll simply say that given the long period of public consultation and the fact that the entire county council voted unanimously for the GGP plan, it’s hard to make the argument that an unjust outcome was forced on the populace by a legislative minority captured by special interests.

With the Taxpayer Protection Initiative I think it’s also hard to make the argument that the popular will is being thwarted in a manner that makes it imperative that the normal legislative process be bypassed. Given the recent
4-1 council vote to pass the Howard County 2010 budget and the lack of any apparent major public outcry over that vote, I think a more reasonable take on the situation is that Howard County voters have elected a solid council majority in favor of the current fiscal strategy, and for the most part are fine with that approach. Why then is the Taxpayer Protection Initiative necessary?”

An interesting read for all concerned.


Anonymous said...

Yes, it is very interesting. The history seems right on from what I've read.

The fact remains, it's a legal right (not a priviledge) that is illegally being denied.

People with positions that diminsh Democracy as stated in our current Constitution are playing with fire. But then, I also thought that when all that lending and derivatives thing was going on and Wha La! They just

Sarah said...

Thanks for all the posts about Klein's announcement-- I don't live in his district, so my vote doesn't count, but it's good to know anyhow.

Anonymous said...

who is your council rep? You seem pretty aligned with my sensibilities and i'm wondering if you have interviewed the person and could give us your perspective.

Anonymous said...

Responses out of order......from the last 24 hours

1:jessiex ....thanks for your compliment, it was
pleasant to have a chuckle together... .:-)
never anonymous, Mary Pivar

2,Dennis, back to the Hug statue and Mort H. I am very reluctant to assign any value system relating to current issues and specifics thereof, to dead people. Therefore, I must rely on what live people say. When Alan posts his remarks where concerned, or interested folk can read, it will be revealed without fanfare, drums or fireworks, that Alan Klein supports development in town center.

anonymous @ 7:32 am 5-25-2010 points out some
of the frustrations of ordinary Americans, if there are any besides Columbians, about situations way, way , way out of control.

anonymous @ 8:52 am 5-25-2010 I applaud
those who want to know what is going on out of
their particular context, because, in the big picture,
it is in their and all of ours' context.

As far as referenda are concerned, that is a longer
issue than this blog site can manage. But, if you
believe that democracy means ordinary ones among us, of which I am one, should
have a collective voice at election time on specific issues which will have an effect of one sort or another, then it is an issue one can push for with a few keys on a computer.

response to the blogger who wanted to know more
about Alan and works all day.. When that was posted, his announcement wasn't even 24 hours old. In the meantime, check
out the Coalition for Columbia's Downtown (CCD) and read the position paper. That is the background and Alan is the spokesperson.
Mary Pivar, never anonymous