What motivates the supporters and dissenters of our current ballot measures? The usual answer is 'to follow the money.' But often there are other motivations.
Take Measure 50, for example: Supporters want to discourage smoking and to improve health care for children, both positive public benefits. A few folks oppose it on principle, saying the law should not interfere with their choices or that a tax measure should not appear in our constitution. The pragmatist would say that those principles are nice but this is the best compromise the Legislature could reach.
Measure 49, though more complex, threatens the profits of some timber companies who would rather build houses on their land than grow more trees. The original Measure 37, which Measure 49 would reform, disappointed many who expected a cash payout but only got waivers of some zoning restrictions. It appealed to the old principle of individualism: 'My right to do with my land anything I wish.'
That principle harkens back to the need of rural America and the pioneers to be self-reliant. In those times the amenities of towns and cities were rare and it was 'everyone for themselves and the devil take the hindmost.' (To their credit they did join in barn-raisings, crop harvesting, and charitable works.) Today Measure 49 addresses the principle of preserving for the greater good a community of urban, agricultural and forestry uses.
Locally, the motivation behind Measure 3-269 seems to be partly financial but more of a relapse to the self-reliant individualism of a by-gone era. The burden of keeping the West End Building is estimated to cost the average homeowner about nine bucks a month. But, more seriously, the proponents of 3-269 seem bent on setting obstacles in the way of acquiring real property for municipal uses that for all practical purposes are insurmountable. They resemble the stripe that wants to reduce government to the lowest possible level of effectiveness and to have little care for the needs of people (maybe our children) who will someday join our fair city.
Both motives are flawed. The nine bucks a month pales in comparison to the cost of a few lattes or other minor vices on which we all splurge now and then. Much worse is the failure to meet the obligations of living in a community. That position seems to say 'I've got mine and I do not need to contribute more to the quality of life of our growing community.'
Will that vocal minority have their way or will community-minded people take the future in their hands and vote no on Measure 3-269? We'll find out in November.