Civic Engagement Draft Published

What in the . . . ?! A guide to all those words on the ballot this year

For all of you used to just seeing a list of names and some ovals on your ballot, this year’s city elections may come as something of a shock.  Our ballots regularly feature one or two big giant blocks of legalese, asking us to vote to fund street repair or storm water management, but this time there are no less than six such questions on the ballot.  And some of those questions are really weird.  So for those of you who don’t relish trying to figure out what in the world is going on with those while standing there with your pencil in the voting booth, here is Seeing Red’s quick guide to the crazy charter questions of 2019.

Flooding strikes the Nebraska National Guard

Stormwater Management Bond Issue: FOR

This one is serious.  Given the way our state was slammed with flooding this spring, voting to approve money FOR stormwater management should be a no-brainer.  But let’s make sure it gets a big enthusiastic yes! from Lincoln.

Bond of Councilman: FOR

Enter the ghosts of city councils past.  This is the first of four questions asking Lincoln’s citizens to erase language from our city charter because it’s way out of date.  This particular question refers to the requirement that elected councilmembers cough up $2,000 to help insure the city.  Lincoln has better ways of insuring itself now, and voting to abolish this will also make the city more democratic.  After all, putting a $2,000 requirement on taking a seat on the council did more than insure the city, it ensured that only people who could easily cough up a fair amount of money could presume to run for office.  It guaranteed that only the wealthy would continue to run the city.  Now we have other ways of guaranteeing that, so this language from the charter is all around outdated.  We recommend voting FOR its abolishment.

The ghosts of councils past.

Citizen Aid in Law Enforcement: FOR

Did you know all citizens are required “to aid in the suppression of a riot or to help enforce any city ordinance” when asked by the Mayor or Police Chief under penalty of being fined?  Wtf?%!?  This is strange and objectionable for all kinds of reasons.  We are definitely FOR its total erasure from the charter.

Municipal Coal and Fuel Yard: MEH

So this one’s an interesting one.  If we vote to delete this part of the charter, we’ll be eliminating the city’s ability “to establish, conduct and maintain a municipal coal and fuel yard for the purpose of engaging in the general business of buying and selling coal and fuel to the inhabitants of the city.”  We agree that coal is yesterday’s news, and renewables are the fuels of the future.  But do we want to take away the city’s power to buy and sell “fuel” to city residents?  This is unlikely to be used in the immediate future, but there’s an argument to be made for keeping some control of critical resources in the city’s hands, given the sketchy track record of corporate energy companies.  To be clear, this charter provision doesn’t take anything away from those companies at all; it just gives the city a right to put a hand in if it deems it necessary.  We don’t have a strong recommendation for this one.

Auditorium, Additional Bond Issue: FOR

This looks like it’s going to ask us to approve some money for an auditorium.  It’s not.  Apparently we already did that years ago, and it was helpful, so thanks everyone!  Now it’s over, and we should just vote FOR removing it from the charter. 

Gender Neutral: FOR

You’ll be shocked to learn that the charter refers pretty much only to men.  Rather than rewriting it to include him/her slashes or a million he or she ors, this question asks us to just approve adding a line that specifies that all language in the charter is gender neutral “and should be interpreted as such”.  This is a good solution, since it also avoids excluding non-binary genders in the process.  Hard to figure why this one wasn’t spelled out years ago.  But in any case, we should all definitely for FOR adding it to the charter.