Opinion » Note

Simpler Doesn't Always Mean Dumber

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Last weekend, a friend's fiance was pretty surprised to learn that I am the editor in chief of this here paper. Fair enough--our relationship doesn't extend beyond drinking crappy beer and playing Words With Friends. In fact, it's possible his fiancee would be surprised to know that I spend much of my time obsessing over Boise Weekly. I mention this because he told me that as a school assignment, he's been tasked with getting an op-ed or a letter to the editor published and he wanted to know two things: would I publish something from him and, more importantly, what should he write about.

My advice: Boise Mayor Dave Bieter's push to put a local-option initiative on the ballot in November. When Bieter spoke to the audience at City Club of Boise Feb. 16, he said a local option is the most important issue for Boise, bar none. Them's mighty strong words.

Time will tell whether the mayor will successfully gather the number of signatures he needs to put the issue to vote, and my guess is that his success will rest with thousands citizens like my friend's fiance, who gave me no indication that he agreed or disagreed with a local option. Maybe I should have rephrased the issue and said, "you should write about whether you should be able to vote when, on what and for how much the city can tax you."

And, if you ask me, that's a lesson Dems could take away from those incendiary conservatives who so successfully get their supporters riled up. Use the words "local-option initiative" and your audience's eyes start to gloss over--unless, of course, you're in the company of Bieter, any member of the Idaho Legislature or possibly City Club.

Among the people from whom almost 50,000 signatures will have to come, however, you're almost guaranteed to lose a few using phrases like "local-option initiative." If Bieter and Co. really want to get their message out, they'll take a layman's approach when they hit the streets, clipboards in hand. At a time when so many people are writing checks to the IRS, the question shouldn't be: sign here if you think a local-option initiative is a good idea, but rather, should you be able to have some say-so on whether your city government can tax you? My guess is, they won't find 48,000 people who can correctly explain local option tax or why it's an "initiative," but 48,000 people who think they should be able to vote on a tax? You bet.