Let the People Speak

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The great thing about ballot initiatives is they offer the citizenry no scapegoat other than itself. When the elephants have to leave the Cincinnati zoo famous for its endangered species angry residents might remember they just nixed a $52 million levy for a new elephant house. When sports fans in Pittsburgh bemoan the lack of facilities for the Steelers and the Pirates, it may spark the memory of their own votes against new stadiums for the teams.

The same goes for tree-lovers in Maine, after-hours drinkers in Wildwood, N.J., and country-music fans in Branson, Mo., which will wake Friday to find itself with a new 4 percent sales tax. All were victims of their own voter initiatives.

Of course, the ballot initiative is also home to the ugliest part of democracy the wedge issue. There will be no gun locks for children, marijuana for cancer patients or gay rights for workers in Washington State, all because the majority who wouldn't have to pay an extra cent didn't judge any of these proposals morally correct.

Yet dumping such plans on voters' doorsteps is often preferable to the alternative. The Navajo nation showed great restraint in rejecting its leaders' proposals to build as many as five casinos on its territory. And then there was Castlewood, Va., whose residents decided to disband the town and give themselves a refund. "The town should never been formed in the first place and we don't want it," said Mayor Roy Castle. "It was double taxation without representation." The people have spoken.