In Our View: Cheers & Jeers

Keeping elections in the public eye; misleading signs take a toll on truth

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Cheers: To keeping public elections in the public eye. Specifically, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this week rejected a challenge to Washington's policy of releasing initiative and referendum petitions to the public.

The issue was brought to the forefront during the 2009 campaign over Referendum 71, the "everything but marriage" law passed by the Legislature and upheld by voters.

Some opponents of the measure, who had circulated the petitions, had argued that the names of signers should be kept secret. They feared that if those people's names were public, they could be targeted by gay rights activists.

Secretary of State Sam Reed and Attorney General Rob McKenna successfully argued that the state has a right to pass open-government laws and release public documents, and that no one's supposed right of "anonymous free speech" was being violated.

"I am happy that disclosure of petitions has been without incident," Reed said this week, "and that the initiative and referendum process is alive and well, with no apparent 'chilling' of the process we hold dear." Petition signers are attempting to change law, and thus should be identified. Let's hope this is the end of the challenges; the state has better things to do with its lawyers.

Jeers: To misleading campaign signs that appeared to target C-Tran's Proposition 1 and/or support the candidacy of David Madore for Clark County commissioner. The signs warned voters that a vote for Prop. 1 or, apparently, for Madore's opponent, incumbent Marc Boldt, will lead to an $8 toll on the Interstate 5 and 205 bridges. While The Columbian opposes Prop. 1, it's important to note that this measure is for a sales tax increase to fund light rail operations and maintenance on the Columbia River Crossing and construct a bus rapid transit system along the Fourth Plain corridor, not a tolling measure. And the Oregon and Washington transportation commissioners, not county commissioners, would decide on any bridge tolls.

A special jeer within a jeer to the sub-group of these campaigners who have crafted orange signs, which are very similar to road construction signs, and placed them along freeway onramps at rush hour. That's just a plain traffic hazard, not political speech. Though the signs are apparently not part of the official Madore campaign, he should denounce them. The sign wavers announced on Friday that they would change the appearance of the signs.

Cheers: To gas prices declining. Vancouver's average price for a gallon of unleaded gasoline fell a dime between Oct. 17 and Oct. 24, according to AAA, and a check in our neighborhood shows that prices have gone down a few more cents since. The higher prices we have endured for much of this year (due to refinery fires and other supply problems, according to the oil industry) have been a drag on consumer confidence and the economy in general.

Jeers: To the "Sign Thug." First of all, it's important to acknowledge that the right to post political signs, in appropriate places, is a part of the freedom of speech that makes this nation great. It's not appropriate to destroy campaign signs. But the problem remains widespread.

So here's the other problem: An anonymous vigilante has emerged to offer as much as a $100 reward for information about destruction or defacement of political signs. Though reducing vandalism is a good goal, Vancouver police say the appropriate response is to report lawbreakers to law enforcement for appropriate justice, not to an anonymous posse for vigilante justice.

Cheers: To Enzo, the Vancouver Police Department's newest K-9 officer. The 2-year-old German shepherd is training with Officer Brian Viles. Enzo has big pawprints to fill: Viles' current canine, Leo, 5, is facing early retirement due to health issues. We'll hope Enzo can continue to help find and arrest barricaded or fleeing suspects, and find illegal drugs.