Be Prepared: This is a Lot More Important Than an Algebra Test
With the election now only days away, I have only one request. Regardless of your voting history or your political leanings, I ask that you prepare yourself properly for this most important civic duty. With the current status of the economy and the fragile nature of world governments, now is not the time to leave your vote up to the same type of decision making process usually reserved for picking reading material in the checkout line at the grocery store. On many of the ballots, there are more than twenty choices (not counting uncontested candidates), all of which will, like it or not, affect your life and livelihood. And I feel inclined to point out that, unlike high school, you can take notes into the voting booth. In fact, I personally recommend a full-fledged cheat sheet.
To that end, you can start by visiting the County Board of Elections website at http://boe.cuyahogacounty.us and selecting “Election Information” from the menu. This will give you the opportunity to view and even print out a sample ballot for your city, ward and precinct. While I hope you are at least close to making up your mind as far as your presidential pick, now is the time to scan the list of candidates for many of the other elected positions. In addition to checking out the names that grace the ballot, just as important are the several ballot issues. The only thing tougher than picking a representative by name only, is trying to figure out how each of these legally worded proposals will affect our city, and more importantly, our wallets.
To save you some time, here’s what we’re looking at (at least in Lakewood Ward 2):
ISSUE 1: “To provide for Earlier Filing Deadlines for Statewide Ballot Issues”
As far as I can tell from the brief description, this issue merely resets the deadline for filing “citizen-initiated, state-wide, ballot issues”, granting more time and setting more standards for legal challenges and court decisions that have become an all too familiar path for new legislation proposals.
To me, this is like giving the “D” student more time and more guidelines for his term paper. What’s the point of changing the rules if you don’t have confidence in them completing the project in the first place? Right now, our county offices are under federal investigation and our elections board is overwhelmed with even the basic task of voter registration. The bigger issue is whether or not anyone will follow the rules, not whether or not we need new ones. Voting yes or no on this issue means nothing if we don’t first elect competent people to enact it.
ISSUE 2: “To authorize the State to issue bonds to continue the Clean Ohio program for environmental revitalization and conservation”
Well, as far as I’m concerned, a bond issue is better than a tax increase. But we also need to be careful, because when it comes to government, money is money, and acquiring any additional debt right now is a tenuous option at best. Two hundred million is a lot of money, and while I think it would be wonderful to have more natural preserves, wetlands and wilderness, right now I’m a little more concerned with the state of our own infrastructure than worried about whether the spotted owl has a cushy nest. If you’re worried about the environment, then perhaps step one should be a concerted effort to make sure our bridges don’t collapse into our rivers.
ISSUE 3: “To amend the constitution to protect private property rights in ground water, lakes, and other watercourses.”
Like the first issue, the way this is worded makes it impossible to tell whether or not this is good legislation without first knowing how the courts will interpret several key phrases. At the end of some clauses are the words “subordinate to the public welfare”, which sounds a lot like the foundation of the arguments for eminent domain. I’m all for increased private rights, but more than the outcome of this vote, I’ll look forward to hearing the courts' decision as to the meaning of terms like “reasonable use”.
ISSUE 4: Withdrawn by Petitioners Committee
ISSUE 5: “Referendum on legislation making changes to check cashing lending, sometimes known as ‘payday lending’ fees, interest rates and practices.”
Let’s do the math: If this issue passes, a ‘payday lender’ will only make about five dollars on a two hundred dollar, month-long loan. Now, before we go any further, ask yourself, what do you think would happen if you walked into your local bank, plunked a five dollar bill down on the counter and asked them to borrow that amount of money? Yeah, good luck with that. Like so many other things in life, this issue boils down to three simple words… Personal Financial Responsibility. The government can’t regulate responsibility, and well-intended or not, this legislation does nothing to address the problems of poverty and debt. This issue is akin to telling a drowning man what he can or can’t use to try and stay afloat. Well the flood always looks a bit different when you’re already in it up to your neck.
ISSUE 6: “To amend the constitution by initiative petition for a casino near Wilmington in Southwest Ohio and distribute to all Ohio counties a tax on the casino.”
Here we go again with the casino issue. This time, it’s for a one-time allowance for a resort casino near Dayton and Cincinnati, one that promises us new jobs, and a dramatic influx of tax dollars to individual counties. Once again, let me make it clear. This issue is not about legalizing gambling. We already have gambling in Ohio in the form of lottery, Keno, horse racing, harness racing, bingo, and even year-round charity poker in the flats. Do I trust that this group will deliver everything they promise? NO. But do I think we will EVER see the kind of legislation that will bring the appropriate balance of regulation and control to the issue? Again, NO. Take all the monetary promises off the table, and at the very least, passage of this issue should open the door for a few thousand jobs to be created in the state. If that’s good enough for you, then go ahead and vote yes, otherwise be prepared for a long wait for someone to come up with something better.
This might not have helped you make up your mind one way or another, but I hope it will at least prompt you investigate further. I have no problem with you voting your conscience, as long as that conscience is well-informed. You expect your representatives to put forth an effort once elected, but that expectation is only a reflection of the same effort you put into selecting them.