St. Louis County Executive Dooley Panders to Direct Democracy to Decide Health Policy

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Direct Democracy sounds so appealing. What’s not to like? Ask California. Missouri isn’t yet at this point, we have seen relatively few ballot initiatives. And perhaps some things can be decided by simply “asking the people”. But why would we employ this type of governance when dealing with health policy? Why not “ask the people” what the Federal Reserve interest rate should be? Or maybe how many FA-18 Super Hornets the Navy really needs? It’s ludicrous.

So St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley has punted on the issue of a smoking ban, saying, “I think it is imperative that the people of St. Louis County deserve to be heard at the polls.” And “…people should have the opportunity to vote on this important health issue.”

As if because the issue is important that a ballot initiative is needed. What we are witnessing is a failure in civic leadership, an abdication of responsibilities of elected officials. It’s taking the immediate popularity contest of politics too far, as if we should vote for the person who lets us do whatever we want. It’s lazy, irresponsible and simple pandering.

If an elected representative cannot act upon a clear and unambiguous threat to public health without asking for popular permission at each step, what role does that person play in civic life at all? Perhaps we scrap Mr. Dooley’s job and we can each vote on-line when matters requiring a decision arise.

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