McCall Newspaper Endorses GUARDIAN Amendment Stance

Tom Grote, Editor and Publisher
The Star-News

“Amendments an assault on voter’s rights”
Three proposed amendments to the Idaho Constitution to be placed before voters on Nov. 2 would deprive citizens of their basic right to tell government what it can do and cannot do. This is an attempt by bureaucrats to wrest away the decision-making process from the people who pay their salaries.

The proposed amendments, called HJR 4, HJR 5 and HJR 7 on the general election ballot, are an hysterical reaction by cities, counties and public hospitals to a reasonable ruling by the Idaho Supreme Court in 2006. That ruling confirmed that state laws said exactly what they seemed to say – which is that cities, counties and hospitals must receive voter approval before going into debt to expand airports, enlarge hospitals, build new sewer plants, construct police stations or otherwise expand their basic infrastructure.

The ruling has been widely misinterpreted and deliberately twisted to make it sound as if local governments cannot buy a ream of copy paper without holding an election. Dire warnings of government being “shut down” because of the ruling have been tossed about, but those warnings are groundless.

The supreme court ruling did not say large infrastructure projects could not be built, only that they must first pass muster by the people. Proponents of the amendments note that a vote would still be required if a government wanted to pay back a bond issue with property taxes, and the amendments would only apply to projects paid by fees. That is a bit of semantic sleight of hand that is an insult to anyone who pays a monthly sewer or water bill. Fees are just another name for a tax, in that they must be paid or else someone’s freedom or property will be sacrificed as a result.
Holding an election is a horrifying prospect for most government officials because they must then justify the need for a new airport parking garage, expanded water plant or new library wing. They must admit they do not have the ultimate wisdom to make decisions on behalf of the people and must accommodate the nuisance of public assent to their schemes. If a project is needed and the government agency does an adequate job of stating its case, then the projects will move forward. But if the taxpayers suspect a project is premature, too large or too fancy, they just might send the agency back to the drawing board to come up with a more responsible proposal.
That’s the way democratic government is supposed to work. But there will be a tragic disconnect between the people and their government if the constitutional amendments on the Nov. 2 ballot are approved.

Tom Grote, Editor and Publisher
The Star-News
1000 First St. McCall, ID 83638
(208) 634-2123

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Are we in some kind of constitutional crisis? What we have and what we require has kept Idaho taxpayers debt free from those who would like to assume “GOLD CARD” status with our money and go into debt without our approvals.

    Granting elected officials the right to go into debt by hocking public assests as collateral is just plain goofy. They ask and we decide. Time is not of the essence in any of this stuff. If it is a good deal then hold a bond election and ask our permission.

    The other option is capital planning, save up the cash and they pay for it in full when they buy the stuff they want without our permission.

  2. What is Mr. Grote talking about? The amendments on the ballot will have no impact on sewer plants, library wings or police stations.

  3. Lisa- Grote is talking about the what the 2006 decision confirmed.

    Glad to see the editorial pages across the state opposing these ammendments. It may be the only voter education that some see.

Get the Guardian by email

Enter your email address: