A recent letter argued that Measure C “will make it easier for special interests to influence local government” (“Vote no on Iowa City’s Measure C on Nov. 8,” Oct. 22). It’s an interesting claim, considering that “special interests” are about the only ones who can take advantage of the Iowa City’s current initiative and referendum process.
The status quo requires petitioners to spend anywhere between 1,000 to 1,500 hours amassing signatures, simply to bring an issue for discussion before the city council and/or the voters. That’s 6 to 9 months of full-time work. This means that the only people who can afford to petition local government are those with deep enough pockets to hire paid staff to collect signatures for them — i.e. “special interests” and their ilk.
Lowering the signature requirements makes little difference for “special interests” — for any entity you’d label as such, $3,600 ($1 per signature) is pocket change. But a more reasonable signature count makes all the difference in the world for citizens who are passionate about an issue, but also have jobs, families, kids, extracurriculars, aging parents.
As things stand right now, a corporation or a single well-off person doesn’t have to sacrifice anything to put forward an issue, but regular citizens have to literally put their and their families’ lives on hold. Public Measure C evens out the playing field — not fully, but enough so that the citizens don’t have to kill themselves in the process of campaigning for something that matters to them.