ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Regardless of one’s personal stance on issues like abortion and a minimum wage, Albuquerque’s recent enthusiasm for government by plebiscite brings with it dangers the nation’s founders understood well and which have rendered California, in the words of The Economist, ungovernable.
As my colleague Dan McKay reported last month, our City Charter has provided the tools of direct democracy for years, in the form of what the charter calls “direct legislation by voter initiative.” It’s just that until last year no one used those tools.
That year, activist groups gathered enough signatures on a petition to put a measure raising the city’s minimum wage on the November ballot. Labor unions used the initiative process this year to force a special election to modify requirements for runoff elections for city offices. Another group of activists is trying to get an initiative onto the October ballot to limit abortions after 20 weeks.
None of the local initiatives came to Albuquerque’s ballot out of some sort of groundswell of public opinion. They were organized efforts managed by people with an agenda.