The gold standard
As reported earlier in the week, the Newport City Council will once again consider the issue of a ban on plastic checkout bags. Six years ago, the council referred the issue to voters, and the measure was rejected in a May 2013 election. I’m now one of two remaining council members from that time, the other is the current mayor. Another councilor is in his third year in office, with two newly-elected and two newly-appointed councilors now comprising a seven member council.
There is no bright line for a council referral of this type of issue, as was the case in 2013 when Newport residents last voted on it, and I realize there are differing viewpoints on this from folks residing within or outside the city. But I also agree with and support the statement in the city manager’s report for this agenda item at the last council meeting that “the ultimate vote of the citizens is the gold standard of public involvement with policy making.”
Recently, some have said the council should impose a ban without another referral because voters won’t be informed enough on the issue, and would also be influenced by outside money in an election campaign.
A concern over outside money could be said of many election campaigns, but that shouldn’t be a reason not to let voters decide an issue. And, as an aside, I also share in the concern there is too much spending in election campaigns, whether by candidates (local, statewide, or national) or for ballot measures, which is why I’ve always kept my campaign spending to a minimum over the years, out of principle.
But, as for the argument that voters won’t be informed enough, that type of reasoning not only disappoints me as an elected official, it also undermines the concept of what public involvement can truly mean in deciding this type of issue, especially given the fact it had been referred out previously just six years ago.
David N. Allen
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