The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

April 17, 2011

Our View: Ignoring voters

JOPLIN, Mo. — Dumb voters. That’s the message elected officials sent their constituents last week.

First, the Webb City City Council turned a deaf ear to voters who, in a straw poll, said they wanted their town to go smoke-free. Then, later in the week, the Missouri Legislature overturned a ballot initiative passed by the voters in November that placed more restrictions on dog breeders.

The state’s action is causing a statewide uproar among voters who cast their ballot for Proposition B last fall, many of whom are asking themselves why they even bothered to show up in the first place. And in the Webb City straw poll, residents are left to wonder why the council asked for their opinion if it already had its mind made up about a smoking ban.

Getting voters fired up enough to show up on election day is no easy task. Voter apathy, especially in local races, is at an all-time high.

So why do elected officials continue to thumb their noses at the people who sign their paychecks?

The answer lies in the unwillingness of our representatives to listen to their constituents in the first place. In Webb City, council members should have rejected the smoking ban during a regular council session if that’s what they wanted to do. We suspect they thought the voters would do it for them. When that didn’t happen, they made the decision they wanted all along.

At the state level, legislators could have dealt with the issue of bad actors in the dog-breeding business by strengthening laws and putting more inspectors on the job. An initiative petition would not have been necessary if they had been minding the store in the first place.

In both cases, elected officials have failed to listen and that could cost them their jobs.

We can only hope then that voters will still have the last word.

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