A healthy, democratic petition mania continues to grip South Dakota. The Sioux Falls Historical Society is hosting a meeting tomorrow (Wednesday) night at 7 p.m. at the Sioux Falls downtown library to discuss putting the controversial renaming of Powder House Road to a public vote:
I would have thought that folks unhappy with the Sioux Falls City Council’s decision to rename Powder House Road “Veterans Parkway” (there is no apostrophe in the official ordinance) would simply refer the July 7 ordinance to a vote. Yet the meeting announcement talks about floating an initiative petition, which would propose a new ordinance.
Municipal referenda and initiatives both require signatures from 5% of the city’s registered voters, which, based on the 2014 count, would be about 4,900 signers. However, municipal referendum petitions must be submitted within twenty days of the official publication of the ordinance voters want to overturn (see SDCL 9-20-6). Municipal initiative petitioners may collect signatures for up to six months (see SDCL 9-20-2). If the Veterans Parkway ordinance has already been published, the Sioux Falls Historical Society and friends may not have time to organize a 5,000- (wait, we need cushion: make that 7,000-) signature petition drive. Besides, you want your petitioners to be able to work every day of the Sioux Empire Fair!
I share the Sioux Falls Historical Society’s sentiment that “Powder House Road” is a better, more historically rooted name for the road in east Sioux Falls. The question for the historical society and for Sioux Falls voters is whether the matter warrants a petition drive and a public vote. Given the crowded petition environment—South Dakotans have already referred two laws this year, and they may have nine statewide initiative petitions before them by State Fair time. Can a road name get traction with voters when they are also being asked to sign petitions to check predatory lenders with an interest-rate cap, adopt an independent redistricting commission, and legalize medical marijuana?
Taking the six-month initiative route could allow the defenders of Powder House Road to wait for the statewide petitions to clear (those petitions are due November 9) so their circulators can have the hot Sioux Falls petitioning spots all to themselves. But they’d have those spots to themselves in November and December, when both the weather and public attention to the matter will have gone cold. Head to the downtown library in Sioux Falls tomorrow night to find out what the organizers are thinking!