While We Are Sleeping

Three more days until this election over, and since I voted last Sunday and dropped my ballot off at the library two days later, the wait could not be more tedious. After Tuesday most people will tune out of politics and even the politically interested will pay attention to the highlights: inauguration speech, showdowns between Democrats and Republicans over health care, the impending troop escalation in Afghanistan, and whatever soap opera/scandal becomes news cycle fodder.

But not everyone is sleeping. In fact, local tax activist Bill Sizemore, who already has five initiatives on the Oregon ballot this year (and they all suck), is busy preparing initiatives for the 2010 ballot. Quothe The Oregonian:

Sizemore has filed 13 initiatives for the next general election, including ideas voters have already rejected and another they will decide Tuesday.

His proposals for 2010 would curb the reach of labor unions, suspend land use laws for building homes, grant a homestead tax exemption for seniors and give juries the power to ignore “bad” laws.

The early filings show how initiative petitions, once a seasonal venture in Oregon, have turned into a full-time business, especially for Sizemore.

“His main goal is to keep filing dozens of initiatives for which he gets paid a lot of money,” says Scott Moore, a spokesman for Defend Oregon, a coalition fighting Sizemore’s current measures.

“As long as this is his career, and it seems to be a fairly good one for him, he’ll keep filing no matter what voters say.”

If you don’t live in Oregon, you may think, “Well, sucks to be you, Boregonian, but no skin off my nose.” But if you live in a state with a citizen initiative process — a concept that, in principle, I support — you may already be aware of a similar professional initiative filer cluttering up your ballot. He or she may be an opportunist schmuck like Oregon’s Sizemore. Or perhaps a persistent fundie values organization similar to the Oregon Citizens Alliance, responsible for several homophobic ballot initiatives, most of which failed until 2004 when they succeeded in denying same-sex couple equal access to marriage rights. Or maybe you have a Law and Order twit like Kevin Mannix, an Oregonian who usually fails to attain public office, but that has not inhibited him for announcing a future run for U.S. Congress or from putting four stinky initiatives on our ballot.

Here’s the deal with these people. As noted, they mostly fail. And they keep coming back. But it’s not just tenacity, or gumption, or a combination of crack cocaine and Red Bull that keeps them going. It’s how much money and energy it costs labor unions, teachers, social justice groups, environmental organizations and ethnic and sexual minorities as they fight to defeat these reactionary initiatives that threaten the right to organize, to get a decent education, to protect the land and water from over-exploitation and pollution, or to simply function as a full human being with dignity and self-respect. They are the anti-ACORN in every sense of the term.

Bill Sizemore and his ilk make a handsome living by making everyone else crazy, lowering public discourse and scapegoating the vulnerable. And they don’t have to succeed every time. They only need to score once. Then suddenly there is less money for education or programs for the needy; suddenly our prisons are overflowing with petty criminals. Suddenly you don’t have the right to get married. And these guys press on. Not all of them will succumb to their internal corruptions like the OCA. Not even getting found guilty of racketeering and a million dollar fine has stopped Sizemore.

So if at all possible, don’t tune out after Tuesday.

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