In Defense of the Referendum 5 December, 2008Posted by David Anderson in Uncategorized.
LEAD (Leadership in Educational Achievement in Delaware) committee chairman Marvin “Skip” Schoenhals made a controversial recommendation to limit referendum oversight for operating expenses. It was not a radical proposal. It did not seek to abolish, but limit the people’s oversight. A limit would be set and if the limit is surpassed then a vote would be necessary. I oppose this in principle. I could tolerate a low limit of 3 percent or less to allow flexibility to deal with energy spikes or make reforms, but that does not seem to be the intent. The want to begin the process of cutting us out of the loop.
I favor the right of the people to have oversight over their property taxes. More importantly, I favor the right of referendum more broadly. Referendum is an expression of the basic right of the people to alter their form of government. That right is hindered by the political class in Delaware. We are the only state which does not even allow the people to vote on Constitutional amendments. The idea of rolling back the very limited referendum we do have is repugnant to me. It is our government and I am sick of people saying “There, there let us take care of everything”. They do it now and what has it gotten us?
Have we had a great economic development plan? No. Have we had a great educational system? No. Do we have a some of the worst infant mortality, drug treatment, and cancer rates in the nation? Yes. Do we have some of the highest state government spending per person in the country? Yes. For all of that spending, we have little to show for it. Why? There is little accountability even in half of the legislature. The state senate is run like a closed club not a legislative body. About every 20 or 30 years we elect a governor to get us on track like DuPont and hopefully Markell then the political class rides the tank for the next two decades with little innovation.
We need the ability to bring active oversight from the people into the process. The best mechanism is the power of the ballot.
Our experience in the schools has not been negative. Sure sometimes referenda are voted down, but when the need is communicated, they also pass. The system works. What happens when there is no oversight? Look at the lack of control in the VoTech system. They spent money on lavish meetings and care little about controlling costs. Has it given us better education? The LEAD committee recommended significant cost savings in its first report, but little happened. It appears they have given up on much of the cost savings and have settled on tax increases. That is a shame. The people will pay for real reform, but they want to see our money used better first. Don’t be afraid to trust us, but do be afraid to continue the current scam.