In this off-est of off-year elections, we have just two initiatives in the hopper, and one of them is an initiative to make it easier to file initiatives. Yes, it is just as recursive as it sounds.
I-517 is an initiative that will set penalties for interfering with initiative-gatherers, demand that any initiative making getting sufficient support get on the ballot, and extends the initiative-gathering season. To no one’s surprise, this initiative is being fronted by Tim Eyeman’s group, who has made a tidy profit launching initiatives onto the ballot to keep the government from actually governing.
Now, you would think that I would oppose this initiative just on the grounds that Tim Eyeman is behind it (and indeed, this is a reason the anti-campaign uses in their argument in the voter’s pamphlet), but you would be wrong. I think this is the greatest boon to freedom of speech in the face of an increasingly limiting government.
Quite simply, should this pass, we should all become initiative-gatherers. Think of it. Instead of homeless, we have a raft of signature gatherers at every stoplight who could not be moved on. Instead of bringing your muskets to an anti-government rally, you bring clipboards. The Occupy movement passes out brightly-colored vests so that Westlake Center become awash in people signing one another’s’ petitions. And the government Can’t Do A Thing, because initiative-gathering speech is specially-protected speech.
For companies, it is even better. I can’t advertise my smoke-shop near schools, but I can send in a raft of employees into that same space to gather signatures. Strip joints are illegal in many communities, but I can parachute women in bikinis in to put an initiative on the local ballot that allow sexy barista cafes. And, the cool thing is, if we get enough signatures, it is the responsibility of the community to verify all those sigs and put them on the ballot! Free advertising! Genius!
I know, we COULD just stop being so draconian about our normal freedom of speech and freedom of association to allow people actually, you know, speak and congregate, but that is so old-school. With the I-517 hack in place, we will be up to our armpits in clipboards and vests, each one pushing its own agenda, and once we get corporate sponsorship (since that’s part of the initiative process already (thank you Citizen United)), we can all turn into our own initiative mavens. I’m thinking of hiring all my unemployed writer friends as signature gatherers for I-522, sponsored by Monsanto.
We the People become We the Petitioners! Brilliant!
(And yeah, the above is all sarcasm. Let us have a good chuckle, then vote NO on this foolishness).