Ballot Issue 9 provides a lesson about petitions
There is a lesson to be learned from the fiasco of the Issue 9 vote, which created much gratuitous expense and effort to defeat a dubious referendum. Fortunately, voters steered clear of the reputational harm a "yes" vote would have caused. Next time, as you are walking to your car and approached by an earnest petitioner with a clipboard, do not sign it—at least, not without asking some questions.
Let’s not make a habit of government by referendum. Petitions and referendums have saddled Cleveland Heights with such time-wasting and misguided resolutions as a day devoted to anti-business speeches (deceptively named "Democracy Day"), and the [designation of the city as a] “Nuclear-Free” zone.
Our republic has moved beyond the ancient Greek-style of democracy by referendum. We elect representatives—a mayor and city council—and they hire professional staff and outside experts, as needed, to study issues. Impacted or interested community members have a chance to weigh in. Our elected officials then reach a decision. When their terms expire, we can judge the results.
This system has its faults and failures through cronyism, vested interests, and back-door deals, but it is better than the alternative chaos of petition-signing activism.
So, challenge the petitioner to address both sides of the issue. Ask if they have discussed the matter with City Hall staff or elected officials. Find out why no officials support the initiative. Ask who might be adversely affected or oppose this petition. Do your own research, and speak with someone in government, local business, or with knowledge of the issue. Post the idea on social media for feedback. Then, when you are convinced that you have uncovered some conspiracy against progress or justice, and not one official will listen, sign the petition.
Robert Shwab is an arbitrator for FINRA and a business consultant. He has lived in Cleveland Heights since 2000.