Confluence Project Referendum Questions
Posted: January 31, 2014
This week's Eau Claire city council deliberations over the proposed options related to the petition for direct legislation were enough to make a veteran reporter wish he had brought along some other reading material while council members debated the merits of the proper wording of various amendments to the different pieces of legislation.
The proposed Charter Ordinance that would have required that certain building projects constructed with city funds be submitted to referendum prior to construction was thankfully voted down. But the resolution to place a referendum on the April 1st ballot regarding a petition for Direct Legislation was unfortunately placed on the ballot. I say it's unfortunate not because I don't think the voters of Eau Claire should have a say on the proposed Confluence Project. It's not that at all. It's unfortunate because the voting public in the city will think they are voting for or against the Confluence Project - when in fact, they are really voting on a change in the way the city does business.
I learned long ago when I first started covering the Eau Claire city council in the late 1980s that everyone was in for a long night when council members made attempts to write their own amendments to what city staff had prepared the full council to consider. This past Tuesday was one of those nights when Council Member Dave Duax made numerous attempts to change the wording so that things "were much more clear". Never did it sound like the end-result of his efforts made much more sense than what was first proposed.
It was painstaking to watch and listen to council members go over the semantics of sentence structure, use of the word "shall" instead of "should" or wondering whether certain items needed punctuation. Granted, I write for a living, so I may be a bit biased when it comes to how an amendment is composed. But even the most gifted writer would have a tough time trying to break down the verbage and make it sound "clear" to the average voter.
That's why the referendum question put the Eau Claire County voters will be easier to understand. It clearly states, "Should the county give $3.5 million to help build the Confluence Project's arts center?"
Even though I wish neither referendum question were on the ballot, I'm not a resident of Eau Claire County - so I don't get a vote. If I did, I would vote against the city referendum question and vote for the county question.