On May 20, Chelan County Superior Court Judge John E. Bridges ruled in favor of the city of Wenatchee, ruling that we sponsors of proposed Wenatchee Initiative No. 1 were prohibited from submitting signed petitions to the city. Our proposed initiative dealt with the use of automated red-light ticketing cameras. What topic may be summarily swept off the discussion table next is anyone’s best guess.
Though Judge Bridges’ ominous ruling specifically prevents petition sponsors from turning in signed petitions, we are nevertheless expressly “allowed” to continue to gather signatures, leading a fair number of people to ask me since: “What’s the point?”
In an era of dwindling citizen involvement with government, “What’s the point?” is hardly commentary to be encouraged. Though naysayers may look at such an answer, given all too frequently regarding failed performance of one’s “civic duty,” and comment “voter apathy,” I argue “voter disgust” is much more likely.
To allow signature-gathering while expressly prohibiting petition submission creates but a hollow shell without substance, allowing the appearance of tradition while prohibiting the very significance which created the tradition in the first place.
We Americans live in a constitutional republic, of course — representative government — where We The People elect legislators, county commissioners, government officers, and yes, even mayors, local city councils and judges, to work within defined parameters for authorized ends. These individuals are charged and empowered to do and oversee much of the government work properly delegated them, so that We The People may be free to pursue other concerns.
What we have been witnessing for far too long now, unfortunately, is a coup by our government servants to become our political masters, so they may throw off the chains which keep them properly operating within their delegated sphere, so they may instead do as they please.
By treating government power not simply as the proper means to pursue authorized ends, but as an end in and of itself, government is being transformed before our very eyes into a fearsome creature that devours our rights as it separates us from our liberties.
Article I, Section 1 of our state constitution acknowledges that “All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights.”
When We The People are judicially deprived of our lawful right to give or deny our consent on a specified legislative topic of our own choosing, the fundamental ends of government are sacrificed to the means, such that the very purpose of government is turned on its head. What was to protect and maintain individual rights instead becomes their most efficient destroyer.
When “consent of the governed” is not even requested, but purposefully and summarily denied, the references to “people” in Article I, Section 1 are lost, in the process nullifying the fundamental purpose of government (to protect and maintain individual rights), leaving power to start and end with government, to be used for its own purposes.
Article I, Section 32 of our state constitution provides keen insight into our current dilemma while providing us our best chance for proper recourse: “A frequent recurrence to fundamental principles is essential to the security of individual right and the perpetuity of free government.”
We would do well to follow this wise counsel. The point, for those who ask the question, is to protect the security of individual right, best done by ensuring the perpetuity of free government — representative government of our own consent. Fundamental principles indeed.
Matt Erickson is the local petition sponsor of proposed Wenatchee Initiative No. 1, regarding Wenatchee’s use of red-light ticketing cameras. He sells hot dogs from his mobile push-cart business, Freedom Franks.