Asking the right question (or, this would have stopped Union South)

In 2006, I voted for the Union Initiative, but only because I wanted to invest in Memorial Union. To me, the Union South rebuild was an obnoxious example of the First Rule of Government Spending (why buy one when you can have two at twice the price?) I know that I am not the only person who voted “Yes” for the initiative because they wanted to modernize Memorial Union, despite Union South. I am also sure that many people voted “No” to stop Union South, despite wanting to improve Memorial Union.

The questions should never have been tied together as an all or nothing proposition. Borrowing language from the state constitution, ASM should amend its bylaws to require anything put to referendum to ask each question separately. Had this been a requirement in 2006, there would not be a big hole where Union South was, and students who won’t even be born for another 12 years wouldn’t be stuck paying to fill it.

You may ask, why does this matter now, after the Union question has been settled? The most obvious concern is the upcoming Natatorium rebuild. Some versions of the plan have included a SERF renovation. These are separate questions, and the case should be made individually for each of them.

This is actually not critical to finish in the fall semester. I haven’t heard of anyone trying to put a referendum on the fall ballot. If this were delayed until a council meeting later in the fall, it’d be fine.

For the interested reader, here’s the language that I’m proposing:

Create section 6.08(1)(a) of the bylaws to read:

All non-constitutional questions placed on an initiative, referendum, or recall measure shall be submitted in such a way that members of the ASM may vote for or against each question separately.

Create 6.08(1)(b) to read

All challenges to initiatives, referenda, or recall measure arising under 6.08(1)(a) must be filed within five days of the ballot being published under section 6.05(6). Initiatives, Referenda, and recall measures may remain on the ballot while the SEC and the Student Judiciary review the challenge.

6.08(1)(b) is to try and prevent post-election SJ battles over whether or not a ballot question is really separate as a strategy a losing side could employ.  It may be appropriate for the council move to strike 6.08(1)(b) and just let the SJ figure it out some day in the future.

ps The new Union South really needs a better name, and since students are paying for the thing, we should get to name it. When we come up with a name for it, we should keep in mind that it’s in the heart of the sciences on campus and across the street from the Institutes for Discovery, and that in twenty years there will almost certainly be a third union out on the west end of campus, in the middle of the health complex.


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