Making Ballot Questions Confusing

People have already started voting.

There are so many ways to cast a ballot these days. The absentee ballots are all mailed out, and the only magic left is to get people to make their choices and cast their ballots. That could be the toughest part of a voter’s responsibility: knowledgeable participation. Even that may not be enough, because there are some tough decisions on the ballot related to raising and collecting revenue for special funds.

It was fortunate for the public that the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Oct. 16 ran a story about the City Council wanting special-funds power by way of amending the City Charter. It’s the first airing of a very controversial idea in city and county government. Generally speaking, there is already a process to create special funds, but it requires a recommendation from the mayor’s office to the City Council.

Mike Hansen, director of the Department of Budget and Fiscal Services, said it best: “The process was not broken, why change it?” They probably shouldn’t.

This is how the proposed amendment to the City Charter appears on the ballot. Read it carefully. It’s ballot question No. 2. “Should a minimum of one-half percent (0.5%) of annual general fund revenues be appropriated for grants in aid to be awarded by the city to federal income tax-exempt nonprofit organizations to provide services to economically and/or socially disadvantaged populations or provide services for public benefit in the areas of the arts, culture, economic development or the environment?”

Question No.1 on the ballot is just as vague and creates the same kind of problems for the general public: accountability of taxpayers’ monies.

What’s interesting is that discussion on both these ballot questions have received very little exposure. It seems the powers-that-be are counting on the public to vote for the measures out of ignorance.

Let’s hope that voters consider the ramifications of both measures and vote accordingly.