Ward 3 Voter Guide 2014: Referendums

Should controversial issues be settled by ballot referendums?

[ezcol_1third] JeffN_200

JEFFREY NOEL-NOSBAUM

I am generally not a fan of government by referendum.  I see what has happened out west, particularly in California and I think it puts the people’s representatives in too much of a straight-jacket and expect citizens to be as informed as the people they choose to make their governing decisions for them. That said, I am addressing each of the listed issues:

Safe Grow—This is basic regulation and referendums on regulations do not work.

Voting rights—Are only recognized to exist and are not granted by the will of others.

Management residency—This makes sense for the people to decide.

Charter amendments—Generally, but not always, should be voted on by the people.

Would you vote for ordinances written by or for outside special-interest groups? Would you vote for ordinances written by or for outside special-interest groups?

I do not believe in discriminating based on where ideas or language for ordinances comes from.  It is my stance that council members should read the ordinances themselves and make sure they understand the ordinances’ texts and effects.  If it seems like an idea worth of my vote, then that is all that matters.  That is not to say that I would not suggest amendments for improvement if I think necessary.

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[ezcol_1third] Roger-Schlegel-200

ROGER SCHLEGEL

I believe that the voting rights question should have been settled by ballot referendum. The other two questions should have been addressed in a more forthright manner by the council.

Would you vote for ordinances written by or for outside special-interest groups? Would you vote for ordinances written by or for outside special-interest groups?

My short answer is “No. I would not vote for an ordinance written by an outside special-interest group.”

However, I would certainly consider voting for an ordinance whose draft language originated with an outside special-interest group. In practice, many ordinances build upon the language of existing ordinances in other places, and many of these ordinances were drafted by special interest groups. There’s no logical reason that Takoma Park should draft all of its ordinances from scratch. There is a great efficiency in using existing language from elsewhere as a starting point. When Takoma Park is considering doing something that has not been attempted before or is still a very unusual approach, we should be very cautious about relying on pre-written language as a starting point.

Regardless of the original source of the draft language of an ordinance, we must carefully consider the context in which that language was written and consider how well it responds to the economic, social, political, and environmental context of Takoma Park.

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[ezcol_1third_end]  kates-200

KATE STEWART

Ballot referendums are appropriate for some issues but not others. In particular, individual rights such as voting rights should not be determined by a referendum. We have a long and unfortunate history in this country of putting to referendum very important rights and too often the majority of voices restrict the rights of others.

The job of elected officials is to take the time to study the issues and protect the rights of individuals. Referendums are also costly to taxpayers and should be used cautiously. We currently have a procedure in place that allows residents to put an issue on the ballot if they secure enough support through a petition process. 

Would you vote for ordinances written by or for outside special-interest groups? Would you vote for ordinances written by or for outside special-interest groups?

What matters to me is the quality of the ideas and proposals presented to the Council.  The key question with any piece of policy is whether it makes sense for our city and its resident. We should be open to ideas and proposals from other municipalities, policy experts, and outside groups.  An insular government is an ineffective one. We need to make sure, however, that policies we adopt—whether drawn up by a think tank or a group of residents at a dining room table—work for Takoma Park.

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