Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Dane County – where you can have your cake, and eat it too, as long as you’re a Democrat.
Y’see, in my state, they have these things called “RTA’s,” or Regional Transit Authorities. They’re areas where you get the privilege of paying a $2 fee on rental vehicles and such in order to pay for investment in the transit infrastructure. Well, that’s what it *used* to be.
Now, in the new budget, they’ve changed that. Instead, the RTA is now an unelected body that gets to charge up to half a percent in sales tax for investment in the transit infrastructure. Supposedly, it will be for an investment in any sort of transit, but the big thing that they’re pushing for in one of the new RTA areas is very limited commuter rail.
Now, that *sounds* like a good thing. I know that I would prefer commuter rail to get me from home to work, if done properly, and when it is done correctly, I support such a thing. But every single study and test of the proposed rail system has said that it’s not going to work. There’s just not the population density in Madison here for it, and the rail system is limited to Madison. It won’t even go to Verona, Monona, or Fitchburg, which are communities that Madison has basically grown around. Because of this, every time they’ve tried to get the people to vote to support it, they’ve voted it down.
Here’s the fun part. The RTA is going to tax all of Dane county (including Verona, Monona, and Fitchburg) in order to build this thing. So if you don’t live in Madison, but do live in Dane County, you get to pay an extra half percent sales tax for the privilege of saying “I paid for that train I never get to use!”
And they don’t need a referrendum to pull it off… or do they?
Well, you see, after the spring elections they modified the proposal to require a non-binding referrendum before they enact the RTA’s. Non-binding, but hey, the folks in the county here have promised they’ll listen to it. So that’s not so bad, is it?
Here’s where the title comes into play. They did that after the spring elections… when they saw that it wouldn’t matter. Dane County had a county-wide election this spring, for the county supervisor. One candidate was supported overwhelmingly outside of Madison.
But the incumbent was supported inside of Madison, and that meant she won the whole thing. Madison (like a Certain School in my hometown) has enough of a population that they can swing the entire election in the larger district. Madison is the city that (theoretically) will benefit most from the RTA being put in place.
So, how do you think the referrendum’s going to turn out?
This is *why* we have the electoral college, broken though it is. If we did a straight-up popular vote election, California and Texas would be the states that traded off deciding who the president was. An electoral system gives each region an equal say in things (or, at least, a more equal say in things – Rhode Island and Texas are a *lot* more even in an electoral system than they would be under a popular vote.) This is why we elect city council members instead of having a straight-up vote on all major issues in town.
So the next time you’re screaming for a popular vote… ask yourself if you want the major population centers being the only people with any say in things. Because odds are, if you don’t live in one, it’s because you didn’t like how things were being run there.