Apathy, not obstruction to blame

The High Plains Patriots are in the process of getting petition signatures to require a referendum election on the Clovis City Commission’s May 5 vote to approve an affordable housing plan. The petition came less than a week after citizens upheld a gross receipts tax increase — also in a referendum election forced by the High Plains Patriots.

How are they doing it? Section 8-2 of the Clovis city charter states that within 30 days of an ordinance’s adoption, a special election can be forced by “a petition signed by registered voters in a number more than 20 percent of the number of voters who voted at the previous regular municipal election.”

What’s my opinion on this whole thing? Sorry, you won’t find it here. Opinions for and against the affordable housing plan, gross receipts tax hikes and the usage of petitions are best left to our readers, and they’ve been expressed through letters to the editor, an editorial I didn’t write and guest columns.

Reporters serve their readers when they don’t wear opinions on their sleeves. If you want my opinion on something, you’ll have to wait until either you’re my trusted friend or they’ve invented those memory erasers from “Men In Black.”

Only time will tell if an affordable housing plan will be approved by voters, or if the petition to get it to voters is successful.

But we don’t need another minute to decide if we need to rewrite the city charter in response. The answer is no.

You can’t rewrite the city charter to make petitions more difficult in the wake of petitions done by one group, then claim that you’re not politically targeting that group. Right or wrong, the High Plains Patriots are doing nothing outside of the parameters the city has created.

The city charter is not the problem. Neither are the High Plains Patriots. Voter apathy is.

It goes back to voter turnout. Just 15 percent of registered Clovis voters, 2,276 to be exact, exercised their voice in the 2010 municipal elections. That’s why it only takes 456 voters — slightly more than Saturday’s graduating class at Clovis High School — to force a $17,000 election. That’s also why it would take less than 200 voters from any city commissioner’s district to force a recall election.

When I buy a dozen eggs from the grocery store, I don’t throw 10 of them out on the drive home. Why are Clovis citizens taking that approach to democracy?

Give me any reason you want. You were busy that day. The mayor’s race wasn’t on the ballot. Your commissioner ran unopposed. All I hear is, “I don’t care.”

Voter turnout was 33.6 percent in 2008, when the mayor’s race was on the ballot. Apply that same turnout to the 2010 election, and those petitions need 1,097 signatures — difficult, but doable.

Do you think the High Plains Patriots are a loud, disgruntled minority? Don’t let voter apathy strong-arm them. Go cast your ballot March 6, 2012. That’s Clovis’ next municipal election. Every five voters requires one more petition signature to advance their cause.

Do you believe in what the High Plains Patriots are doing? Vote with them March 6, 2012. Let the voter rolls show they’re a voice to be reckoned with, and that they have enough voters to petition anything they don’t trust the city commission to do itself.