A victory for Madison County taxpayers

November 20, 2013 

We doubted that grass-roots organizers could get the Madison County Jail bond issue on the ballot, but we're delighted to be proved wrong.

Organizers collected about 23,000 signatures -- about 5,000 more than needed to get the question on the ballot of whether the county should borrow $18 million to renovate the jail.

It's a tremendous accomplishment, especially given the narrow 30-day window they had to do it. The law is written to make it almost impossible for the people to get bond issues on the ballot. The task was great and the time short, and yet they did it.

Their success is heartening not just for this specific issue, but for what it says about the public's engagement in their county government and the taxes they have to pay.

Too often people delegate away their civic responsibility by not voting, not attending meetings or not being informed about issues. Clearly, Madison County residents are engaged in this issue and have indeed sent a resounding message to county leaders.

It's no longer good enough for proponents of the jail renovations to say, "Trust us to know what's best for you." Now they will have to justify the renovation and why the county should borrow rather than use the millions of dollars it has in reserve from taxes that have already been collected. Opponents also will get to make their case to the people.

Maybe the voters will give the go-ahead, maybe not. Either way, it's great to see the people work so hard to call the shots.

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