The mayor is dead-set against it. The local paper says it may cause “a wound that never heals.” Wow, scary stuff. Until you realize they’re talking about simple democracy, in the form of a citizen initiative.
Mayor Victor Ashe, the News-Sentinel, and the town council want to build a $10 million dollar state-of-the-art hotel in downtown Knoxville. Why? To bring in new business for the publicly-funded convention center already costing taxpayers there an arm and a leg. Yet politicians are looking to raise property taxes to cover an existing $10 million deficit. The voter initiative they’re so afraid of would forbid the city from using taxpayer dollars to build the hotel. It’s true, as the mayor charges, that owners of the hotels currently in downtown Knoxville are underwriting the cost of the petition drive.
Well, no big sin if folks don’t want their own tax dollars used to put them out of business. But it is a sin to ignore the taxpayers the ones who’ll have to cough up their hard-earned dough. A recent poll shows 80 percent of Knoxville voters opposed to a new city-funded hotel. The citizen initiative is a building block of a free society. It’s one way citizens have of keeping elected officials from getting out of control. Here we have a special deal being awarded to the few at everyone’s expense.
It’s cases like this that are why we must have the citizen initiative process. Special interest schemers will never want their schemes put to a popular vote, but so what? The people do.
This is Common Sense.Â I’m Paul Jacob.