Tuesday, October 18, 2016

‘Safe roads’ amendment one of those things you ignore ‘til it's too late

You probably received a little booklet printed on light blue paper a couple of weeks ago, and promptly tossed it into the trash (or your recycling bin if you’re environmentally conscious).
Story in the red box easily dwarfed by Cubs

If you bothered to look at a printed copy of the Chicago Tribune on Monday, your attention was dominated by the full-color photograph and copy about the Chicago Cubs’ 1-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The fact that there was a news story also on Page One above the fold probably got lost in the Cubbie trivia.

AS A RESULT, you’re going to walk into your polling place on Nov. 8 (or perhaps earlier if you’re conscientious-enough to show up at an Early Voting Center) and suddenly be hit with a referendum question that you won’t have a clue what it’s about.

You may well let out a little curse and exclaim that “Nobody Told Me About This!!!” You may well think of people to blame for this lack of information.

So because I’m going to want to throw your cluelessness back in your face, I’m going to take a crack here at trying to explain the Safe Roads Amendment, which is the measure that all voters across Illinois will be asked to say “yes” or “no” to when they also decide whether they detest the concept of “President Hillary R. Clinton” so much that they’d vote for a lame-brain like Donald Trump instead.

It’s actually a simple concept. There already are taxes being charged whose purpose is to raise money for road maintenance projects in communities across the state.

THOSE GAS TAXES that make the price of gasoline for your car cost more in Illinois than if you fill up your tank in Indiana (which some Chicagoans insist on doing) are among those taxes.

But what happens sometimes is that political people, in order to fund special projects, divert some of that money. What officials want is for an order that says all money raised by these taxes for road repairs must actually be used for road repairs and related projects.

No diversions whatsoever!!!

If you buy into that line of logic, vote “yes.” In fact, a group called Citizens to Protect Transportation Funding has come up with new television spots that may catch your attention (unless you’re the type who deliberately blanks out when you see partisan political advertising on TV) that tries to say the only sensible vote one can cast on this measure is an “aye.”

AFTER ALL, THE reason those particular taxes are in place is to provide the state with money it then distributes to local communities to pay for the road resurfacing projects it needs to do in any given year.

Unless you happen to live in one of those communities (usually more rural places) that believes pot holes are a part of nature and it’s not normal to have a perfectly-smooth road surface on a road that has a few years accumulated on it.

Yet I have to admit I haven’t fully made up my own mind how to vote, largely because I wonder how much this initiative is motivated by the lobbyists for the construction industry – people who want to view those road fund monies as their own private source of income and resent the idea of officials tapping into it for something else.

I do think government officials ought to have a certain amount of discretion to decide what to do with funds, and am not sure that anyone is entitled to a guarantee of tax revenue proceeds.

AS IT IS, the Chicago Tribune report acknowledged that the lobbyist group pushing for this amendment is one that represents the International Union of Operating Engineers – which represents the construction workers who would be employed by future road repair projects.

The Citizens to Protect Transportation Funding has raised some $3.3 million thus far to support their lobbying efforts, of which about $1 million will be spent to air those partisan commercials on television in coming weeks.

You’ll have to decide for yourselves who you back, and which way that swings your vote. Keeping contractors busy, or trusting your local government official to be able to decide when discretion should be used and funds should be shifted elsewhere?

It’s something to think about. The real losers will be those people who keep themselves clueless all the way through Election Day, then try to figure out whom they can blame for their lack of information about the issue.


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