Category Archives: Our million dollar vote

Confused Voters Rarely Vote Yes

Anyone who works ballot question campaigns will tell you, confusing language almost always results in votes against the question. Ballot titles are a big deal. If voters don’t understand they will often vote it down because they don’t understand it. I’ve written about misleading ballot titles here.

What do you think of these recent ballot titles?

San Antonio, Texas, Voters approved an amendment to require public votes before allowing for light rail or streetcar track.

SHALL THE CITY CHARTER BE AMENDED TO PROVIDE THAT NO GRANT OF PERMISSION TO ALTER OR DAMAGE ANY PUBLIC WAY OF THE CITY FOR THE LAYING OF STREETCAR OR LIGHT RAIL TRACKS SHALL EVER BE VALID, AND NO FUNDS SHALL BE APPROPRIATED AND NO BONDS OR NOTES SHALL BE ISSUED OR SOLD FOR THE PURPOSE OF STREETCAR OR LIGHT RAIL SYSTEMS, UNLESS FIRST APPROVED BY A MAJORITY OF THE QUALIFIED ELECTORS OF THE CITY VOTING AT AN ELECTION CONTAINING A PROPOSITION SPECIFICALLY IDENTIFIED FOR AND LIMITED TO SUCH PURPOSE?

Yes or No

Some reports claimed this was confusing, but voters approved it by about 2-1.

 

Arlington, Texas, Voters approve a ban on red light cameras.

Addition of Section 12 of Article X of the City Charter to prohibit photographic traffic signal enforcement.

For or Against

I consider this a little more confusing. Voters approved it 59% to 41%

 

Michigan voters denied a tax increase measure to fund roads.

A proposal to amend the State Constitution to increase the sales/use tax from 6% to 7% to replace and supplement reduced revenue to the School Aid Fund and local units of government caused by the elimination of the sales/use tax on gasoline and diesel fuel for vehicles operating on public roads, and to give effect to laws that provide additional money for roads and other transportation purposes by increasing the gas tax and vehicle registration fees.

The proposed constitutional amendment would:
• Eliminate sales / use taxes on gasoline / diesel fuel for vehicles on public roads.
• Increase portion of use tax dedicated to School Aid Fund (SAF).
• Expand use of SAF to community colleges and career / technical education, and prohibit use for 4-year colleges / universities.
• Give effect to laws, including those that:

o Increase sales / use tax to 7%, as authorized by constitutional amendment.
o Increase gasoline / diesel fuel tax and adjust annually for inflation, increase vehicle registration fees, and dedicate revenue for roads and other transportation purposes.
o Expand competitive bidding and warranties for road projects.
o Increase earned income tax credit

Should this proposal be adopted?

Yes or No

Confusing? Voters shot this down 80% to 19%.

 

A referendum can be even more confusing. Sturgis, Michigan voters voted to keep this law 69% to 31%.

Should the City of Sturgis repeal Part II – Chapter 10 Animals
– Article II Dogs and Cats –
Section 10-33 of the City of Sturgis Code of Ordinances?
Sec. 10-33. – Operating a dog kennel in city prohibited.
No person, group of persons, association or corporation shall keep, operate, or maintain a dog kennel within the limits of the city. A dog kennel, as used in this section means any establishment wherein or whereon more than two dogs are owned, kept, or harbored. This section shall not apply to the owning, keeping, or harboring of any dog pups until they attain the age of four months.
Yes or No

As you can see, ballot titles are not always easy to understand.

 

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Filed under Ballot measures, Ballot Question, charter amendment, Initiative, Our million dollar vote, politicians

Elgin, Texas Mass Transit Amendment

The Elgin Petitioners Committee successfully gathered signatures on a petition that will require voter approval before the city spends taxpayer money on passenger train service.

From their website:

An Important Message For The Citizens Of Elgin

From the Elgin Petitioners Committee

The Austin area population is growing rapidly. This growth has led to major congestion on roads like IH 35 and MoPac. Elgin, and other communities in the US 290E corridor, are projected to experience similar growth in coming years.

TxDOT had planned for improving 290E to a 6 lane divided freeway. CAMPO, the regional planning agency in Austin, had pledged $148 million towards the 290E project but 4 or 5 years ago the Elgin City Council allowed TxDOT and CAMPO to divert our 290E money into other projects.

The official long range transportation plan for the 5 county region now calls for no improvements whatsoever for 290E until sometime after the year 2035. The only road improvement scheduled for the Elgin area between now and 2035 is the adding of 2 lanes to N Ave C between SH 95 and County Line Road. (SH 95 is to be widened in Williamson County in the year 2024.)

We believe that members of the City Council who advocate building a passenger train project between Elgin and Austin (the “Green Line”) may have traded away our road funding to get approval of the train project. The Elgin Petitioners Committee supports building a train line but only after the improvements to 290E and other important arteries are upgraded.

To that end, we are circulating a petition which would require the City Council to place a measure on the ballot. The ballot proposition will allow the citizens to vote for roads first, or trains first. We believe that 90% of the citizens agree that this is a good idea.

We want 290E put back into the list of transportation projects and we want our funding restored. The alternative is having 290E just as congested as IH 35 or MoPac.

The ballot language:

“The City has the power to spend taxpayer money to construct and maintain streets, roads, highways, bike trails, sidewalks and mass transit facilities, except that no taxpayer money may be spent on or contractually pledged to any passenger train project unless a public bus line shall have first demonstrated a need for train service by having 500 intercity boardings in Elgin per weekday, averaged over three months, connecting to the City of Austin.”

 

Sample Ballot

TX_Elgin_5_9_15_CitySampleBallot

Notice of Election

TX_Elgin_5_9_15_NoticeOfelection

 

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Filed under Ballot measures, Ballot Question, charter amendment, crony capitalism, Initiative, Our million dollar vote, Petition Drive, politicians

Changing The East Lansing Charter

There is a ballot battle being waged in East Lansing, Michigan. An old charter provision requires 60% voter approval before the city can sell property valued at greater than $4/resident. Todd Heywood has written a concise rundown of the issue here.

From Todd’s article:

In 1944, the City of East Lansing formally adopted its charter, bringing it into compliance with a state law that required a supermajority to sell property (which it was required to follow anyway). In 1948, the state repealed this requirement. The city did not move to amend the charter.

He’s referencing this provision of the East Lansing Charter:

4.8. – Restriction on Powers of the Council.

a.The Council shall not have the power to contract with or give any official position to any person who is in default to the City, except any contract to cure the default.

b.The Council shall not have the power to sell any real property of a value in excess of four dollars ($4.00) per capita according to the last preceding U.S. Census, or any parkland, or a cemetery, or any property bordering on water, or vacate any street or public place leading to a waterfront, or engage in any business enterprise requiring an investment of money in excess of ten cents (10¢) per capita, unless approved by three fifths (3/5) of the electors voting at any general or special election.

c.Except as otherwise provided in this Charter, no ordinance or resolution shall be adopted or passed except by the affirmative vote of at least three (3) members of the Council.

d.There shall be no standing committees of the Council.

On May 5, 2015 voters will get to decide this question:

“Shall Section 4.8 of the East Lansing Charter be amended to change the requirement for voter approval to sell certain real property from a three fifths (3/5) majority vote of the electors to a simple majority vote of the electors and add an annual inflation adjustment, tied to the consumer price index, to the current four dollar ($4.00) per capita dollar limitation to sell real property?”

I am curious how many additional Michigan home rule cities include this 3/5ths provision in their charters.

 

Update: May 6, 2015

Local Proposal 2

The passing of Prop 2 will allow the City Council to sell property with a simple majority vote from citizens.

Mayor Nathan Triplett has strongly endorsed the passing of the local Prop 2 so City Council can proceed with selling blighted property, but as of 10 p.m. Tuesday, results are too close to call with 53 percent of voters in favor of the East Lansing charter amendment proposal. Nine more precincts have yet to report results.

He previously told The State News Editorial Board that East Lansing is one of only three cities in the state that requires a supermajority to sell land. All other cities require a 50 percent-plus-one majority.

In November, Fifty-seven percent of voters approved the city’s proposed sale of the blighted Park District area to DTN Management Co.

However, because of the current 60 percent voter approval requirement, the sale could not go through.

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Filed under Ballot measures, Ballot Question, charter amendment, Our million dollar vote

Requiring A Streetcar Vote

San Antonio, Texas will be voting on a city charter amendment on 5/9/2014 to decide if any future streetcar or lightrail projects constructed with tax dollars must be approved by voters.

Sample Ballot: SanAntonio5_9_15citysample

Ballot Title:

CHARTER AMENDMENT NO. 1
SHALL THE CITY CHARTER BE AMENDED TO PROVIDE THAT NO GRANT OF PERMISSION TO ALTER OR DAMAGE ANY PUBLIC WAY OF THE CITY FOR THE LAYING OF STREETCAR OR LIGHT RAIL TRACKS SHALL EVER BE VALID,AND NO FUNDS SHALL BE APPROPRIATED AND NO BONDS OR NOTES SHALL BE ISSUED OR SOLD FOR THE PURPOSE OF STREETCAR OR LIGHT RAIL SYSTEMS, UNLESS FIRST APPROVED BY A MAJORITY OF THE QUALIFIED ELECTORS OF THE CITY VOTING AT AN ELECTION CONTAINING A PROPOSITION SPECIFICALLY IDENTIFIED FOR AND LIMITED TO SUCH PURPOSE?

From www.mysanantonio.com:

In the upcoming San Antonio city elections, voters should give themselves the right to vote on any future light rail project by voting “yes” on the city charter amendment.

When Mayor Ivy Taylor pulled the city’s funding for the streetcar last summer, County Judge Nelson Wolff said at the time, “VIA has done a horrible job of articulating why they’re doing streetcar. It’s been a tremendous failure on their part to explain it.” But without a vote before rail is built, there is little incentive for any public agency to provide adequate public information.

Indeed, VIA has gone to great lengths to avoid a public vote on rail. VIA obviously had the streetcar in mind when in 2011 its cadre of paid lobbyists asked the Texas Legislature to pass a bill allowing VIA to issue bonds without going to the voters, as the law would otherwise have required. The charter amendment will simply reverse this ill-advised legislation.

City Published Voter Guide:

SanantonioVoterGuide_5_9_15

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Filed under Ballot measures, Ballot Question, charter amendment, crony capitalism, Initiative, Our million dollar vote, Petition Drive, transparency, Uncategorized