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GO Ask Voters

A ballot drive on bonds

by James Leonard

posted 6/21/2009

Pat Lesko has a simple but radical idea: require voters' permission before the city issues "general obligation" bonds. She got the idea after working on a petition drive last year that tried to force a vote on the bonds for the City Hall addition. That group needed to collect 10,000 signatures in forty-five days but fell 4,000 short.

Now Lesko, a publisher and sometime Observer freelancer, wants to amend the City Charter to make such votes mandatory. She hopes to get the required signatures by August so her "GO Ask Voters" proposal will be on November's ballot. "If we can get it on the ballot this fall, it'll have a better chance of passing," she says, "because we only need 6,000 votes in the off-year elections."

Mayor Hieftje says he has "no idea" how he'd vote on the proposed charter amendment but notes that waiting for an election before every bond issue would "slow things down." The city could schedule special elections, but council member Sandi Smith (who defeated Lesko in last August's First Ward primary) says that could cost $50,000 to $75,000 per vote-not to mention the staff time and money needed to explain the issue. But Lesko doesn't think that's too onerous a burden. "If the city wants to issue bonds," she says, "they will have to educate the populace."    (end of article)

[Originally published in June, 2009.]


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