Why Not Just Take a Poll?
I came across an article in the Nashville Scene earlier today and found it to be an interesting take on the idea and practice of a non-binding referendum.
The issue at hand is a non-binding referendum in Nashville to gauge support for a new convention center. The County estimates that to conduct the petition drive and vote on the non-binding referendum would cost the taxpayers about $300,000. The author’s argument is that this would be a complete waste of taxpayer money for a vote that isn’t even binding. He suggests that a professional poll would work just as well, have the same non-binding outcome, and cost significantly less money.
When I first read the article, my initial reaction was that he made a very good point. Why spend all that money to do something that has no teeth, no binding rule of law? The government already wastes enough taxpayer money on pointless stuff, and if you can get the same result with a cheaper method that’s what should be done. I agree with the thinking that brought the author to that conclusion, but there is a better solution to all of this…truly put the citizens in charge, and make the citizen initiative & referendum process binding.
If the process is non-binding what is the point? Elected officials know the outcome doesn’t really matter, sure public opinion might be opposed to what they want to do, but has that stopped them before? The best way to not waste $300,000 on a non-binding referendum is to not have a non-binding referendum…have one that is binding, and counts.