It is a fundamental right of American citizens to petition their government for the redress of grievances. However, the city of Lewiston requires citizens to travel to City Hall during business hours to sign a petition started by citizens upset with an action taken by City Hall.
This is wrong on a couple of levels. First, the requirement to travel to City Hall during business hours is an undue burden on the citizens. How many citizen-initiated laws do we have that never would have made it to the ballot if people had to travel to their city or town halls to sign it? Very few, if any. If it starts with the citizens, it needs to be done by the citizens.
Second, this is a case of a complaint against an action of City Hall, but city hall is in control of the petitions? That seems a bit like the fox guarding the henhouse.
I work for Common Cause, which has for 35 years worked to make democracy work for the betterment of the public. We do not take any stand on the particular issue being petitioned, but we do want to see that the petition process is fair and in the interest of the public.
Our elected officials must always remember that any and all power they have is derived from the people. The people of Lewiston should have the power to petition against City Hall without City Hall creating an undue burden on that process.
Jon Bartholomew, Portland