County Administration Building
April 24, 2000
We called this press conference today to officially announce the Home Rule Charter Committee of Polk County's Term Limit and Reduction of Politician's Salary by 50% petitions. As you may know these petitions were presented to the Supervisor of Elections yesterday and are now ready for distribution.
We also called this press conference so that you could see and speak directly with some of the people who have played a vital role in getting this first Polk County Charter government petition ever off the ground. Let me get just this one statement out of the way first and I'll let the others say what they want to say.
Regarding our efforts to place initiatives on the ballot by petitions signed by average citizens we now clearly understand why the Ledger wrote in its August 30, 1998 editorial that the charter document is a "sham".
THE CHARTER IS A SHAM.
The charter allows local officeholders to have an effective veto over real change, and the charter was written in such a way as to make petition requirements almost impossible to achieve. Also calling any of these politicians to account would require the signatures of 7 percent of the registered voters equally per district. Without an expensive petition drive run by professionals, some think getting any amendment on the ballot would be virtually impossible to accomplish.
The thing the charter didn't tell us about was the restrictiveness of the ballot language requirements. In this area alone we spent six weeks studying, writing and rewriting petitions renderings, and conducting surveys all with the needed assistance of two attorneys and two out-of-county charter experts. Needless to say this has all been very expensive and something no group of petitioners should have to incur.
However, there are several reasons why we the people will overcome the fraud in this charter. The first reason is the extreme circumstance some have mentioned that would be needed. We have this extreme circumstance in the voters overwhelming resentment of past and current county commissioners, and resentment of current and past constitutional officers who have repeatedly violated the people's trust.
Another reason we will overcome the fraud in the charter is because we have the money and the professionals to get the job done, and it will be done. We also have something else that assures success. We have the overwhelming willingness of the people wanting to help get the petitions signed.
On our board, we have one of the few charter commissioners who have truly been an advocate of the people, he is Carl Strang our Vice Chairman. We also have the only attorney-critic of the charter, Phillip Kuhn. Mr. Kuhn in not just our attorney in this matter, he is the first attorney to come out and speak for the need for term limits and reduction of politicians' salaries as an ordinary citizen. Gene Roberts, a long time term limit advocate and successful businessman is our treasurer. Chris Outlaw is our research analyst and we have our secretary Russell Hancock, the publisher of the Monday Night Minutes.
Just one more word: On October 12, 1999 the county commissioners refused to allow the voters the right to decide two very important issues for themselves. These issues happen to be term limits and reduction of salaries. We asked them to simply put these issues on the Ballot. They apparently think we should not have this right, so now we must do all we can legally to get the job done through petitions. A petition is nothing more than a formal written request to the governing body of Polk to cause a referendum on a proposed new law or amendment to the book of rules, the charter.
So the Home Rule Charter Committee of Polk County embarks on an attempt to give the citizens access to government. Who will stand in the way? As the old saying goes, "What are you afraid of?" The answer is obvious. Two major fears of some current governments are those of not getting re-elected, and giving citizens access to government, but the very bedrock of good government is an informed citizenry.
We're going to put term limits on the ballot, and we're going to put the proposition of cutting their salaries by 50% on the ballot also. We're going to do these things not out of spite for any individual politician but to protect ourselves from all of them collectively. Then maybe only those who truly want to serve the people will get elected and there will be less dishonesty in government.