The ballot questions

There are two ballot questions about rewriting parts of the city charter “in plain language.”

I’m of two minds about these questions.

Offhand at first, I was very suspicious of the idea – legal language is specific and tedious because it needs to be specific, and because nailing down exactly what’s meant is in fact tedious. Aiming for the least common denominator of readability when we write out how we want the city to run seems like a bad, bad idea. And spending city money to re-write the existing code sounds like an expensive way to introduce errors, ambiguities, and changes of meaning.

But then I looked into it (meaning: Googled) a bit more and unsurprisingly found out that there’s a little more to it than that. Most of the re-writing has already been done, and has been done in a way that’s pretty open, so it’s not as open-ended or risky as it first sounded. And it turns out the the tediousness of the current charter is rather extreme, so the whole undertaking is actually reasonable. And because there’s a state-imposed limit on the length of a ballot question (and a weird puritanical requirement that anything to do with alcohol must be separate, and get not 50% but 55% of the vote), we can’t see anything more specific on the ballot itself.

So right now I’m leaning yes on both ballot questions, but I’m persuadable and will update this post if I change my mind.

Update Nov. 5: I voted yes on both. I read yesterday that there’s language in the revision that the interpretations of the old version should be the basis of the interpretation of corresponding new sections. So it look like, in fact, they’ve been very careful in these revisions not to introduce new meanings, and added that clause just to make sure.

Written Tuesday, November 5th, 2013. Back to the main page, or onward to similar pages. Trackback.