Open-Ended Ballot Questions Deserve Defeat

Every bond issue on the Baltimore City ballot ends with these weasel words: "and for doing any and all things necessary, proper and expedient in connection therewith."

by Lynda Lambert

I don't trust government. Perhaps it is because I am a product of the times in which I was raised; but, more likely, it is simply that history shows us that government, as an entity, is not trustworthy.

Our forefathers believed this. That's why they built into our Constitution the right to revolution. And that's why, even though I personally don't believe in guns, I never oppose the "right to bear arms.”

Jefferson and the gang believed––and I trust their judgment––that when only the government and its army has guns, the people are at their mercy. The right to bear arms is, in fact, an early form of a balance of power.

Of course, we have other ways to try and balance power; to try and keep our government from getting too full of itself. One of these is our ability to restrict funding through voting on ballot questions.

The Bond Issues on the ballot this election seem, on the surface, to require "yes" after each one. But once you read the language, it is another story.

The language that the government has been using to craft these bond issue statements has been getting broader and broader over the years. This year, the language is its broadest yet.

Every bond issue on the Baltimore City ballot ends with these words: "and for doing any and all things necessary, proper and expedient in connection therewith."

These words equal carte blanche––a blank check.

I am not going to hand over $43,500,000 to the Mayor and the City Council to do anything they want to do in connection with planning, developing, executing and making operative the community development program, for instance. (See Question A: Community Development Loan.) Or $27,650,000 in connection with planning, developing, executing and making operative the commercial and industrial economic development program. (See Question B.) That's over 70 million dollars! "...for doing any and all things necessary, proper and expedient in connection therewith."

Do you really trust the powers-that-be to do what you want with this money? I don't.

In Questions D (Pratt Library loan), E (Waxter Center loan), F (National Aquarium loan), G (Port Discovery loan), H (Maryland Science Center loan) and I, J, K, L and M (The Lyric, The Walters, The Myerhoff, The BMA, and the Zoo, respectively), the City asks us to give them another $13,350,000 to be used for acquisition of land or property; and the construction...oh yes, there is also the word renovation in there somewhere, but "alteration," "reconstruction," and "improvement" scare me, as does the land acquisition line.

First of all, many of these are private businesses or foundations. What is the City doing asking us to fund these institutions at all? And, secondly, acquisition of land where? What kind of construction? What do they mean by alteration”?

I don't trust them. I will vote NO to Questions A& B, and D through L.

When the City government can come up with some specific projects on which it wishes to spend this $84,500,000, then we'll talk.


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This story was published on November 4, 2002.