“We Didn’t Vote on This”

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{a portion of the $350M Page Avenue Extension in St. Louis}

The Cincy Streetcar blog has an incredible post up on Issue #9. That’s a ballot initiative in Cincinnati that if passed would require a popular vote for any and all public money expenditures on passenger rail. Groups hoping to pass Issue #9 argue, in part, that huge public expenditures should go to “the people” for approval and that our elected representatives cannot be trusted with such decisions.

Issue #9 only pertains to passenger rail, a reaction to growing support for a Cincinnati streetcar. No one has proposed submitting road projects such as highway widening to a popular vote. But considering the argument; what would be built if every project over $10M required approval in the form of a popular vote? Here in St. Louis would the “New I-64” have been built? Would the new Mississippi River Bridge be breaking ground soon? What if the entire St. Louis region had been required to approve funding for the Page Avenue extension?

The fact is that neighborhoods, cities, regions and beyond require planning and leadership, and not exclusively the “guidance” offered by popular opinion. It’s tempting to want to govern as the proponents of Issue #9 would have us do. Perhaps no more Interstates would be built, lacking consensus in a city. Maybe sprawl would decrease as people would more clearly be able to see the cost of various road and infrastructure projects.

But this is foolhardy to say the least. So check out the Cincy Streetcar post and consider what an equivalent “Issue #9” would mean for St. Louis.

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