Many of you will recognize the words from “It’s a Wonderful Life” spoken by George Bailey to Sam Wainwright when they were discussing where to locate the “new” plastics factory.  But this is July not December and what does Bedford Falls have in common with Springfield, Missouri?

Well, just as George couldn’t believe that Sam hadn’t even considered his home town for the new factory, many people are just as incredulous when they see what is taking place in Springfield these days.  Southwest Missouri is generally considered to be the most conservative part of the state and Springfield is known as the “Queen City” of the Ozarks.  It’s probably natural for people to think that because of all this, Springfield is just naturally pretty conservative.  They wouldn’t be entirely accurate in their thinking!

Springfield has engaged in such big government ideas like spending $600,000 on very pretty Wayfinding signs to tell people how to get to various locations in the City that the “old” green direction signs apparently were unable to do any longer.  The City officially opposed Proposition A in 2010 that prevented the establishment of an earnings tax.  Then, the City voters passed a total smoking ban that has negatively impacted not only city coffers but private, family owned businesses.

We could come up with many other “good” ideas City government has developed over the years but I want to highlight to you three charter amendments that are very bad ideas voters in Springfield will be asked to pass on August 7, 2012.  If people didn’t know any better, they might think these ideas were good government.  That would be false!

The three charter amendments are:

  • Charter Amendment No. 2012-1 Eliminate the February City primary election
  • Charter Amendment No. 2012-2 Add restrictions to the initiative petition process
  • Charter Amendment No. 2012-3 Base the number of signatures required for initiative petitions on registered voters

What does each of these changes accomplish?

Charter Amendment No. 2012-1 would likely save the City some money by not having to pay for a February election.  It would also lead to the elimination of the run-off requirement if someone received less than 50%+1.  That’s what the primary election served to do, weed out all but the top two contenders. It is likely at some point that the City will elect a Mayor that does not have 50%+1 of the voters.

Charter Amendment No. 2012-2 makes a number of changes to the requirements for submitting initiative petitions to the City.  The proposed charter amendment for initiative petitions adds bureaucratic hurdles and would discourage citizen efforts to change their city government through the initiative process. It would insulate City government from citizen involvement and reform proposals. It also appears to add an unconstitutional provision to the process.  It’s not hard to believe that most voters would agree that more citizen participation should be encouraged rather than discouraged.  This charter amendment would definitely do the latter.

Charter Amendment No. 2012-3 is in my opinion the worst of the three proposals and it’s not because the first two are that good.  The proposed charter amendment would increase the number of signatures required for an initiative petition by more than 300% and gives equal weight to inactive voters who no longer live in the City or who may be deceased as it does to active voters.

I don’t know if you noticed that these charter amendments all benefit the CITY not the CITIZEN voters.  Reminds me of the “pool” scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life“.  The City Council is hoping that as you are dancing over the covered pool that you don’t notice them retracting the floor underneath your feet.

They hope that as you are voting on these proposed charter amendments that you don’t really notice that you are surrendering more of your control to City government.  Stay tuned for more educational information on these issues before August 7th!