Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Early ballot time

There are March elections all over the state, and early ballots for those elections are hitting mail boxes now.

Some are regularly scheduled municipal elections (such as Tempe's), school override-related special elections {such as the Kyrene school district's), or a mixed-bag special election (such as Scottsdale's).

Since I live in Scottsdale, that election ballot is the one that showed up in my mail box.

That one has six questions on it - five related that changes to the City's charter and one proposing to raise the City's bed tax (hotel tax) and apportion the funds raised to tourism promotion efforts.

The election pamphlet is here.

The charter amendment questions look to be relatively harmless ones. The ones to watch will be the ones that come up for consideration in August. Those will contain the language changes written by The Orange Coalition/Goldwater Institute/Arizona American Water that seek, under the guise of "protecting private property rights," to make it practically impossible for the City to acquire any private property without the highly-overcompensated consent of the current owners of said private property.

However, that's a post for another time, perhaps once the proposed language is finalized.

Back to the current election...

Proposition 100 would change the method of calculating what constitutes a majority for the purposes of determining the winner of a general election. In municipal elections, there is generally an early general election and a run-off election. The run-off is held if a candidate doesn't get a majority during the first election, which is frequently the case when there are more than two candidates for a single office. The proposed change would change the standard from the number of ballots cast to the number of legal votes cast. It sounds like a small change, but the first standard allows for the inclusion of spoiled ballots in determining the total necessary for a majority. This can create a problem when there is a close election between two candidates and the vote total difference between the two candidates is small and the number of spoiled ballots pushes the number of "ballots cast" high enough that neither candidate gains a "majority."

It actually happened in Scottsdale's mayoral election in 2008 between incumbent Mary Manross and eventual winner Jim Lane. The second election didn't make a difference in the outcome.

Proposition 101 would remove the need for a general (first) election for offices for which only two candidates are on the ballot.

Proposition 102 would change the names of the City's general (first) election and run-off (second) election to "primary" (first) and "general" (second).

Proposition 103 would change the notice requirements for an election to whatever the requirements are under state law, however those may change.

Proposition 104 would specify that any referendum/initiative questions that are approved by the voters but that conflict with the charter would not be enacted until the charter has been changed.

Proposition 200 would raise the City's bed tax and earmark the revenue for tourism-development activities.

My take: the first four propositions look like harmless housekeeping measures and I will have no problem voting "yes" on them. Prop 104 looks like it may be a way to inhibit the electorate's ability to override some of the changes that will be proposed for ballot consideration later in the year. I'm not sure how I will vote on that one.

However, the one that I am really not sure of is the bed tax. In a year when services and schools are being slashed all over the state, including in Scottsdale, and voters everywhere are being asked to approve levies to mitigate some of those cuts, this proposal is for a tax that directly benefits big businesses, not Arizona's residents.

Yes, this tax increase would be paid for by tourists, but I'm not sure that taxing outsiders because we have been shortsighted for decades is fair.

On the other hand, tourism is a big part of Scottsdale's economy.

I'm really not sure how I will vote on this one.


1 comment:

Thane Eichenauer said...

I'll share how I voted on a similar question (Proposition 100) on the Tempe ballot.

The city wants to increase the hotel tax from 3% to 5% to support the Tempe Convention and Visitors Bureau.

I chose to vote no because a tax increase would make Tempe hotels less competitive with hotels in adjoining cities (e.g. it drives business away).

There is nothing to keep Tempe hotels from collecting money voluntarily from willing hotels to increase marketing efforts with the Bureau.