Friday, November 11, 2011

The minority rules, but not well

If a referee allowed one fighter in a boxing match to strike an opponent twice for each blow delivered by the opponent, crowds would scream wildly about the ref's unsporting rule.

If players on one baseball team were allowed more than six strikes and players on the opposing team were allowed only three before being declared out, the field would likely fill up with empty soda cups and hotdog wrappers thrown by fans enraged by the unfairness of it all.

But when a state legislature or the U.S. Senate imposes the same kind of rule on voters or themselves, so-called statesmen nod sagely and declare how responsible, reasonable and right such rules are.

The sports fans know how wrong this is. Why don't state legislators? Why don't U.S. senators?

The rules of the U.S. Senate that require a super-majority vote to stop filibustering, a tactic that delays or obstructs a measure by preventing it from coming to a vote, have brought work on a host of critical issues to a halt and have left the nation in gridlock.

Residents of the city of Sun Valley are about to find out how wrong a 66 and two-thirds percent vote requirement is for passage of bond issues.

In Tuesday's election, 63.91 percent of voters cast ballots approving a $14 million bond issue to pave crumbling streets and paths and to buy a new aerial-tower fire truck. Just 36 percent of voters opposed the bond. Because of the super-majority required for approval, the bond failed by 2.75 percent.

A similar vote occurred in Bellevue, where 58 percent of voters approved a $375,000 bond issue for equipment upgrades, additional property and a fire truck that would have cost property owners a tiny $16.82 per $100,000 of valuation annually. Yet the bond failed.

Consequently, Sun Valley residents will likely see more crumbling roads and bike paths. Residents may experience higher insurance rates. Bellevue will have to make do with decrepit fire-fighting equipment.

The super-majority requirement gave naysayers twice the power at the polls.

During the various election campaigns, one local candidate said that one answer to a city's inability to pay for sidewalk repairs would be to tear up the sidewalks and let pedestrians walk on road shoulders. This is common in some neighborhoods and some small towns.

Apparently, national gridlock, dirt streets, dirt pathways and fires that may best all efforts and equipment available to put them out are more likely than ever to become commonplace as well.

The minority rules, but it's not ruling well.

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