Editorial: It’s your voice: Sign Rec Center sales tax petition | Editorial

To boil down what two City Council members said last Tuesday, North Platte’s voters can’t be trusted to decide whether they want to pay an extra half-cent sales tax to expand the 1976 Recreation Complex.

Even if — get this — supporters turn out in force and say they’ll risk our voters saying “no.”

We can’t imagine that sitting well with anyone in North Platte. Of all places.

We’d wager that’s true even if you don’t think raising the city sales tax from 1.5% to 2% to renovate and grow the Rec Center, improve Cody Pool and rebuild the skate park elsewhere is wise.

Based on Tuesday’s debate and vote to table the question until Aug. 16, it’s doubtful enough council members will vote to put it on the Nov. 8 ballots.

People are also reading…

You’ll have to make them put it there.

Petitions are circulating to exercise the people’s right under Nebraska law to force the council to send the extra half-cent tax to voters.

Time is short. It’ll take at least 1,059 verified signatures from registered voters inside North Platte’s city limits to give council members no choice.

Organizers want to submit verified petitions for the Aug. 16 meetings. It can’t be put on this ballot after Aug. 25.

If you want to vote up or down on the Rec Center sales tax, stop by the North Platte Area Chamber & Development Corp. office to sign the petition. Others are circulating petitions around town.

Sign it if you support upgrading the Rec Center. And — let’s be clear about this — sign it even if you don’t.

This is about your voice.

While you’re at it, write us a letter to the editor. The Telegraph will publish as many letters as possible, pro or con, so there’s no doubt how the so-called “silent majority” thinks on this issue. Please submit letters online at https://nptelegraph.com/site/forms/online_services/letter/letter_editor/

We can’t recall a more appalling spectacle in any North Platte local government meeting than watching Councilman Ed Rieker and Councilwoman Donna Tryon lecturing the packed council chamber — and viewers at home — that it’s their call whether you vote on the sales tax.

Rieker, who considers it “imprudent,” declared: “We don’t live in a democracy. We live in a constitutional republic, where we have elected representatives who represent us…

“So from my perspective, in no way, shape or form, regardless of how I vote, am I going to take a vote away from you — because, by our constitutional process … we have to have a 70% margin in favor to put it on the ballot.”

Look at Nebraska’s “constitutional process” again, Councilman Rieker.

Statewide voters in 1912, adopting key reforms urged by the Populist movement that swept this state in the 1890s, added the following language to Article III of the state constitution:

“The first power reserved by the people is the initiative… The second power reserved is the referendum…”

Yes, those words apply to state government powers. But the Legislature extended Nebraskans’ petition powers to local governments — including the power to recall local elected leaders.

Section 77-27,142.03 of state law lets them enforce their right to approve or reject sales taxes, like the one proposed for the Rec Center.

If the people collect enough valid signatures, “the governing body shall submit the question” at the next election.

We also would tell Councilwoman Tryon that people with families most certainly do look at a community’s “amenities” in deciding whether to move or stay there.

“I have never moved because of amenities,” she told her audience, half of whom had just urged the council to let them vote. “I moved here because of jobs.”

Tryon surely is entitled to her judgment that we shouldn’t spend big money on our Rec Center until all those beef plant and rail park jobs show up.

But North Platte residents know good and well that the council bloc that opposes new taxes would be all for letting the people vote on this tax if they believed the answer would be “no.”

Don’t ever tell the people, in effect, that they have no right to vote on this tax. Not in Nebraska.

Sign the petition to put the Rec Center sales tax on the ballot, if for no other reason than to insist on your rightful, legal power in cases like this.

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