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OPINION: Not all ballot issues are created equal



480px-chuck-muth-150x150-8598164-2234997There were at least three efforts to increase taxes on the ballot this month.  All three went down in flames, laying to waste this notion by Gov. Sandoval and other moderate Republicans that voters are clamoring for elected officials who are “open” to higher taxes.  That said, consider the following:

If voters wanted to place an issue on the ballot to reduce spending or CUT taxes, they would have to go out and collect tens of thousands of signatures to qualify their measure for the ballot to demonstrate some level of public support for the measure.

On the other hand, if a government organization – such as a school district or library board or even the Legislature – wants to place a measure on the ballot, they just do it without demonstrating even a scintilla of public support via the expensive and time-consuming signature-gathering process.

That’s bad enough…and reason enough that taxpayers should never vote for any tax hike that isn’t placed on the ballot through the same signature-gathering initiative process that, you know, we citizens have to go through.

But there’s an additional insidious aspect of government-proposed initiatives, and that has to do with how PR campaigns supporting the government’s position are funded.

“While not directly campaigning for a ballot question to raise property taxes,” reported the Las Vegas Review-Journal on October 31 about the Clark County school district’s tax hike proposal, “school officials have intermingled related expenses and activities with a political action committee, the School Improvement Committee, created by four former Nevada first ladies to support the issue.”

The RJ further noted that the school district “spent $22,000 on glossy brochures that were sent to all 225,000 families of students in the country’s fifth-largest district” at taxpayer expense.  “The three-page brochure argues a ‘crucial need’ for the estimated $669 million for improvements at 40 schools, calling the tax increase a ‘fiscally conservative plan.’”

As Victor Joecks of the Nevada Policy Research Institute argues, while the brochure doesn’t come right out and say “Vote for the Tax Hike,” the message – again, conveyed at taxpayer expense – was unmistakable.  Tax dollars were used to promote a tax hike, plain and simple.

There was additional “co-mingling” reported that may or may not have technically violated state laws against such coordinated campaigning, but the point is that regular citizens opposed to the tax hike had no such access to taxpayer-funded assets and communication pipelines and soapboxes.

We the taxpayers were fighting on a very uneven playing field.

That we prevailed nevertheless speaks again to the depth of opposition to raising taxes despite claims to the contrary by the liberal tax hike crowd and its “amen” corner in the governor’s mansion.

When it comes to ballot initiatives, the rules should apply equally to the governing as well as the governed.

As such, taxpayers of all stripes should openly, publicly and vocally oppose any and all government efforts to place any tax increase on any ballot anywhere in the state that does not fulfill the same signature-gathering requirements imposed upon us, the great unwashed citizenry.

So let it be written; so let it be done.

Looking back through the crystal ball

Looking back on pre-election predictions, I really thought there might be a “silent majority” that would rise up and turn out at the polls to turn out Barack Obama from the White House.

There wasn’t.

While disappointed, I wasn’t exactly surprised.

The GOP managed, once again, to put forward an “electable” nominee who didn’t excite the electorate in general, or conservatives in particular.  Indeed, Noel Sheppard, editor of NewsBusters, notes that Romney got “the least votes of any major presidential candidate in 12 years despite the head of steam the GOP had coming out of the historic 2010 midterm elections.”

And despite running against the worst president since Jimmy Carter!

And despite the GOP establishment raising and spending more than a billion dollars on television ads that apparently no one watched except political reporters looking for something to write about, rate and critique (fact check!).

But while we’re talking about pre-election predictions, let’s give some credit where credit is due.  Longtime GOP political strategist Pete Ernaut predicted that Obama would win Nevada, as well as Republican Sen. Dean Heller.

“I don’t think there’s a Romney-Berkley voting bloc,” Ernaut said on Nevada Newsmakers, “but there’s clearly an Obama-Heller voting bloc.”

Nailed it.

As a close confidante of Nevada Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, Ernaut’s prediction of a win for the Democrats in the presidential race here caused a bit of a stir that stretched all the way back to Capitol Hill.  As such, the Romney campaign trotted out Sandoval’s paid consigliere, Mike Slanker, to tell everyone to move along; nothing to see here; all is well.

“Pete and I have known each other for a long time and usually we agree,” Slanker explained in a written rebuttal to Ernaut’s pre-election prediction.  “But on this one I couldn’t disagree more.  Mitt Romney has the momentum and will carry Nevada.”

And the rest, as they say, is history.

The further adventures of Mark SureWould

As noted earlier in the week, FORMER Assemblyman Mark Sherwood started up his own lobbying firm last week despite co-sponsoring a “cooling off” bill that would have prohibited such a quick revolving door after his one and only session.

So let’s add “hypocrite” to the long list of attributes associated with this bonehead.

And in case there are any unsuspecting potential clients out there who don’t know exactly what a dufus this guy is, allow me to share another “true” story in our ongoing “Further Adventures of Mark SureWould” series.*

On his summer vacation to California this year, SureWould was walking along the beach in Malibu. There were many beautiful women lying in the sun, and he really wanted to meet one. But try as he might, the women didn’t seem to be at all interested.

Finally, as a last resort, he walked up to a Frenchman lying on the beach who was surrounded by adoring women.

“Excuse me,” SureWould said, taking the guy aside, “but I’ve been trying to meet one of these women for about an hour now, and I just can’t seem to get anywhere with them. You’re French. You know these women. What do they want?”

“Maybee I can help a leetle beet,” said the Frenchman. “What you do ees you go to zee store. You buy a leetle bikini sweeming suit. You walk up and down zee beach. You meet girl very qweekly zees way.”

“Wow!  Thanks!” said SureWould…and off he went to the store. He buys a skimpy red bathing suit, puts it on, and goes back to the beach. He parades up and down the beach but still has no luck with the ladies. So he goes back to the Frenchman.

“I’m sorry to bother you again,” said SureWould, “but I went to the store, I got a swimsuit and I still haven’t been able to meet a girl.”

“Okay,” says the Frenchman, “I tell you what you do. You go to zee store. You buy potato. You put potato in sweeming suit and walk up and down zee beach. You will meet girl very, very qweekly zees way.”

“Thanks!” said SureWould excitedly…and runs off to the store. He buys the potato, puts it in the swimsuit, and marches up and down the beach. Up and down, up and down he walked…but the women would hardly even look at him.

After half an hour SureWould can’t take it anymore and goes back to the Frenchman.

“Look,” he says, “I got the swimsuit, I put the potato in it, and I walked up and down the beach, and still nothing!  What more can I do?”

“Well,” said the Frenchman, “why don’t you try moving zee potato to the FRONT of zee sweeming suit?!”

Would a former state assemblyman really be that dumb?  Sure Would!

(*Yes, this is satire.  Yes, I borrowed the joke and tweaked it a little.  No, I don’t know who the original author was. So sue me.)

Famous last words

“Here’s lies upright citizen J.R. Ewing. This is the only deal he ever lost.” – What “Dallas” actor Larry Hagman said he wanted to appear on J.R.’s tombstone.  Hagman died on Friday.

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