May 1, 2005
I have a little bone to pick. And while I've written about this before, I've got a few more things to say about referendums. First of all, let's take a look at who, so far, is in favor of the Hennepin County plan to build a new Twins stadium:
- Steve Sviggum - R, Speaker of the House
- Dean Johnson - DFL, Senate Majority Leader
- Tim Pawlenty - R, Governor of Minnesota
- Mike Opat, Randy Johnson, Mark Stenglein, and Peter McLaughlin; 4 of the 7 Hennepin County Commissioners
- R.T. Rybak - DFL, Mayor of Minneapolis (and his DFL competitor Peter McLaughlin)
- Randy Kelly - DFL, Mayor of St. Paul
So, given how many of our political leaders have come out in favor of this plan, and given how much they have studied, discussed, and argued about this issue over the years, forgive me if I feel less than comfortable turning this issue over to the voters of Hennepin County.
The typical resident of Hennepin County is an idiot when it comes to this issue. I'm sorry if I offend, but I include myself in this. We know what we read in newspapers, and we can spit back the sound-bites we hear on the local news. However, there is no way any typical resident of Hennepin County is as informed and educated on this issue as the legislators who we have elected to represent us concerning matters of fiscal and cultural importance such as this.
Let's look at some facts. The Mall of America ... did not have a referendum. The Hiawatha LRT ... did not have a referendum. The Metrodome ... did not have a referendum. The Xcel Energy Center ... did not have a referendum. The Guthrie ... did not have a referendum. How many of these projects would have been built if referendums had been held to let the "informed" public decide whether or not these projects were worthy of their tax dollars? I would wager none. However, given the choice now, and given how successful all these projects have been, how many people would decide to turn back the clock and not let these projects even begin? Again, I would wager none!
Referendums are the enemy of progress and an excellent way for our legislators to get out of the jobs we elected them to do. Oh, and by the way, referendums on school funding are also a huge mistake. Who wants to bet that the same people that right now are using the "education first" card against stadiums are the same people that voted down over half of the public school referendums in our state during the last elections? Education first my butt.
Lori Sturdevant said it best today in an editorial in the Strib in which she challenged those who would argue that "direct democracy" is the right way to go in situations like these.
That's what's wrong with direct democracy. It's susceptible to enormous influence by whatever side of a given issue can spend the most. That's because most people don't have time to bone up on the complexities that government must address. They go with what they hear, and they hear those with the biggest advertising budget.
I know, I know. The 21st century is being called the Century of the Individual. What people don't know about government, they make up for with their mastery of consumerism. They demand choices in other realms, and the market provides them. Why not in the making of laws too?
To those who make that argument, I have a proposition: You support a big improvement in citizenship education in grades K-12. You support several days of paid time off work in the month before an election, for the purpose of studying ballot questions. You support funding of public libraries adequate to open them seven days a week for purposes of public education on ballot questions. You support an extension of the public campaign financing system to campaigns for and against ballot questions, so both sides might be heard.
That is just beautiful. Let's all ponder that for a while. More tomorrow, including my take on the always informative Minnesota Poll, and my take on the chances of the legislature actually passing a state budget on time (not good!).
Posted by snackeru at May 1, 2005 8:14 PM | Stadiums
I also don't recall getting to vote on Block E, or the downtown Target Store, both of which received some hefty subsidies if I remember right. Why should the stadium be any different? Having a referendum for just about any remotely controversial issue is a big part of the reason why California is such a mess. We don't need to go there.
Posted by: Stacie at May 2, 2005 8:48 AM
Referendums are the enemy of progress.
Posted by: SBG at May 2, 2005 4:37 PM