Thoughts On Referendums - And Response (2)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Isn’t it a good thing that President Eisenhower didn’t ask the citizens of Little Rock, Arkansas to vote in a referendum on school segregation? 

Wasn’t it a good thing that President Reagan didn’t call for a referendum on whether or not he should fire the striking air traffic controllers?

Isn’t it a good thing LBJ didn’t poll the citizens of Alabama before calling up the Alabama National Guard to protect the marchers in Selma? 

Do we think the Supreme Court should call for a referendum every time it has a controversial decision?

I am one of those old fashioned Americans who believe that “yes,” it is a good thing that Presidents don’t call for referendums.  I think it’s an even better thing that the Supreme Court doesn’t call for referendums when they have decision to make.  We elect leaders to make decisions, once made, we have the right to not vote for those leaders if we do not like the decisions they made.  Like it or not we live in a Constitutional Republic not a Greek Democracy, taking every item to the people is a recipe for disaster.

Referendums are the reason California is in the financial mess it is in, and referendums are typically not even a fair reading of what most of the citizenry really think about a particular subject. There is a reason the Founding Fathers did not write them into our Constitution.  

Whether or not you agree with the Chattanooga City Councils’ vote on insurance benefits for domestic partners I strongly urge you not to sign the petition asking for a referendum on the subject.  

Granted Chattanooga’s Charter does allow for referendums on City Council votes, which frankly is silly.  It probably seemed like a great idea when the Charter was written, but the reality is something different – it is a mess.  The Citizens for Government Accountability and Transparency group is opening up a potential Pandora’s box of issues, with this petition drive and I am afraid they are too  politically inexperienced and single minded to realize it.

If this referendum is forced on the citizens of Chattanooga, I see others coming forth with their own referendums, which the Citizens for Government Accountability and Transparency, the Chattanooga Tea Party, and the affiliated church groups, may not be so excited about, and thanks to their support of this one, they will be in quite the pickle.

But, you see, consequences are not often thought about when one is embarking on a crusade. 

David Barto 

* * * 

Mr. Barton calls citizens down for being political inexperience.  Sadly, it is clear that Mr. Barto does not understand how the new charter revision was enacted, just this year.  Our community wanted the ability to petition under citizen initiative provisions of the charter, and that is why our elected officials and voters all agreed to change the charter this year. Of course Mr. Barto may not live Chattanooga and be aware of this. 

First and foremost we are a government, by the people and for the people, not a special interest that is in full play on the passage for the ordinance for the taxpayers to provide health insurance for  non-employee roommates of city workers. 

Earlier this year, the City Council legal committee headed by Council Peter Murphy drafted the “citizen initiative” on the City Council’s recommendation to amendment to the charter to allow citizens to have a voice in their voting actions. Then, the citizen initiative process was presented to city council and adopted not once, but twice voted  by ordinance, and then placed up the city ballot so the voter could vote for the citizen initiative in the charter.  The citizen intuitive has passed through elected approval and voter approval. It is law.  

Perhaps Mr. Barto may not live in Chattanooga, and was not involved in the public process prior to passage of the citizen initiative that allows we the people to vote on city business.  The city council and voters approved petitioning with specific constraints.  This is what the voters wanted, was a citizen intuitive.  

This is an issue for Chattanooga voters, only. 

April Eidson 

* * * 

Perhaps Mr. Barto should consider the four references he made dealt with civil rights issues, determinations on constitutionality and public sector workers striking to the detriment of the nation. These are not at all analogous to the domestic partner ordinance in Chattanooga. Sorry, but I am not at all convinced homosexuality rates the same consideration as gender or race discrimination - the major conditional issues of civil rights. 

The majority of those who will file for health benefits will be heterosexual couples who have made a choice not to get married. They have never been discriminated against in any way. They have always known all they had to do to get health benefits through the city was to get married. Simple.  

A majority of City Council allowed itself to be led by a member championing the desires of a small special interest group, of which he himself is a member. The constitution of Tennessee does not recognize same-sex or common law marriages. In 2006 Chattanooga, along with the rest of the state, passed a referendum specifically defining marriage by an 81 percent to 19 percent margin. In many parts of Chattanooga it passed by over 84 percent. I would argue this fact would seem to indicate the majority of taxpayers in the city would not favor elevating unmarried couples to the same status as those who are married, regardless of their sexual orientation.  

Furthermore, I believe a reasonable person might ascertain the majority voice of the citizens of Chattanooga was not truly represented by five members of the council. They voted they own personal opinion, choosing to ignore the local results of 2006 and the overwhelming socially conservative nature of Chattanoogans on this issue.  I firmly believe if Councilman Anderson had campaigned on the issue of this ordinance he would have never been elected. This is why there are legal remedies available for the voters to demand recourse against this ordinance.

It remains to be seen if enough Chattanoogans will rally against the ordinance and force it to be decided at the ballot box. 

Councilman Larry Grohn

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