Last week, ten communities in Linn County approved a one-cent local option sales tax that would go into effect on April 1st, and last for the next five years. This proposal failed in five other Linn County communities. It failed to muster the needed votes in Marion, Hiawatha, Robins, Center Point, and the Linn County portion of Walford.
Citing “voter confusion,” the Cedar Rapids City Council is now allowing the five communities who rejected last Tuesday’s to vote again on the proposal on May 5th of this year. Maybe part of the “confusion” that occurred in these five communities was due to the wording of what the additional money would be used for.
Cedar Rapids and in the unincorporated areas of Linn County both passed the one-cent tax increase. The ballot clearly stated that these additional funds are needed for flood-related expenses. Yet, when you look at the language used on the ballots of the five communities that failed to pass the one-cent tax increase, it doesn’t state specifically that these funds are needed in response to last year’s floods.
The following is the language from the ballots in the five communities that didn’t pass the one-cent local option sales tax last Tuesday:
Marion: The specific purposes for which the revenues shall otherwise be expended are: Road improvements, expenses associated with the expansion of the trunk sewer, and other community improvement projects.
Haiwatha: The specific purposes for which the revenues shall otherwise be expended are: Street improvements, public safety, park and recreation improvements, water and sewer system improvements.
Robins: The specific purposes for which the revenues shall otherwise be expended are: Streets, water, sewer and other community improvement projects.
Center Point: The specific purposes for which the revenues shall otherwise be expended are: Community improvement projects and essential corporate purposes.
Walford: The specific purposes for which the revenues shall otherwise be expended are: One hundred percent (100%) for infrastructure.
So, on one hand, you had Cedar Rapids and rural Linn County asking for funds that will help rebuild the community. On the other hand, you had communities asking for a tax increase for non-flood-related items, which the voters rejected.
The voter confusion that many now claimed happen does not justify a “do over” election. Those who wanted the one-cent tax increase passed in these five communities failed to educate the voters and thus saw their campaigns fail just like John McCain saw his campaign fail last November. Candidates who lose on Election Day don’t have the option to constantly challenge their former opponents until the voters finally get it right. Why should we allow local ballot initiatives to get more than one bite at the apple?
The Iowa legislature needs to look into changing how and when special elections like Local Option Sales Taxes, School Bonding Referendums, and Gambling Referendums take place. Holding these elections on a Tuesday in March or May guarantees a low voter turnout. Additionally, allowing schools and communities to immediately reschedule another vote if the measure for which they are advocating fails is also wrong. It turns these types of elections into a drawn-out war of attrition, which doesn’t respect the will of the people.
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