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2011 Briefing Tour of the American West

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Briefing Tour News:

America West Briefing Tour: Time to say "auf wiedersehen" to the 2011 Tour of Modern Direct Democracy in the west

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By Al Ortiz and Kelly O'Keefe

Ballopedia Travel Journal

PORTLAND, Oregon: Now, the sad part. All good things must come to an end. The 2011 Briefing Tour of Modern Direct Democracy in the American West has come to a close. Goodbyes (or auf wiedersehen's) were said to our friends from Germany, as well as Iceland, Sweden and the Philippines, as flights had to be caught and hotels had to vacated.

However, as the trip winds down and natural reflection on the past week sets in, here's a look back at our travels:

American West Briefing Tour: Bill Sizemore speaks exclusively for the first time out of jail with our tour group

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By Al Ortiz

Ballopedia Travel Journal

PORTLAND, Oregon: The legend of Bill Sizemore, a tale heard told throughout the entire tour, was finally presented to us in person at a lunch at El Capitale restaurant in Salem, Oregon today. This was the last event in the 2011 Briefing Tour on Direct Democracy in the American West, capping off a wildly successful trip.

Sizemore, a well-known ballot initiative activist from Oregon, is a proponent of fiscally conservative ballot measures in the state. In 1993, Sizemore founded Oregon Taxpayers United and became its Executive Director. He is noted as the author and driving force behind a number of ballot initiatives in Oregon.

What he is more infamously known for, however, is his accusations of tax evasion in November 2009. At that time, Oregon Attorney General John Kroger announced that Bill and his wife, Cindy, were indicted for tax evasion. In the grand jury indictment issued October 27th Sizemore and his wife, Cindy Sizemore, allegedly failed to file state tax returns for the years 2006, 2007 and 2008.

Sizemore was sentenced to three years probation and 30 days in jail after pleading guilty to felony tax evasion charges on Thursday, August 4, 2011. Sizemore was released on August 22, 2011 after serving 18 days of a 30-day sentence for tax evasion. He was released because of good behavior and holding a job while in custody.

Bill Sizemore speaking to the tour group, recently out of jail for tax evasion

However, Sizemore stated that this dark area of his life was attributed to his opponents disagreeing with his efforts in the state initiative process. According to Sizemore: "I don't deserve that evil from my opponents. The fact is, is that they don't like what I do [in the initiative process in the state], and they don't like that I'm good at it."

Shifting focus to his efforts in direct democracy in the state, Sizemore stated that he knows the process in all phases: "I come up with ideas, I come up with ballot language, I know how to raise money, I know how to run signature drives, I do campaigning. I've had 29 years in the initiative process, and I'm condemned for what I do by others."

His opponents, he says, are disingenuous: "They are not sincere. They don't like the initiatives that go around, so they simply attack the process."

In an insightful breakdown of what he deems the "areas in the initiative process to help you be successful," he states that submitting similar ballot initiatives with little differences in ballot titles will help an effort get approved for circulation.

Ballotpedia reported an example of this, among many, when in February 2011, initiative supporters in Colorado filed its proposal six times, leading to successful circulation approval.

Another key area in the initiative process that must be fulfilled, Sizemore claims, is that preparations must be made in order to give ample amount of time for signature collection. He stated: The amount of time left in signature circulation will directly affect costs. It will cost three times as much if the deadline is shorter. At the end of the drive, costs will skyrocket."

He later stated: "When people ask me, 'Hey, I have an initiative I want to get on the ballot can you help me?' I respond: 'Do you have $200,000 or $300,000 to spend?' If they say no, then I tell them not to continue their efforts."

Another piece of advice along those lines: "If you poll a measure and it doesn't do well in that poll, stop. Do not go forward with it."

Sizemore does the polling as well for the initiatives he helps obtain ballot access, adding to his jack-of-all trades resume in direct democracy.

With all of his advice in mind, it begged the question: Would you move to an I&R state to help implement the initiative process there?

"I really don't see those states adopting the process."

For all the criticism he has taken in the state, he at least was straightforward with his answers.

  • Current City: Salem


Learn more about the tour and its participants here.
...more Briefing Tour news

Participants:

  • Janice Thompson, writer, involved in establishment of European Citizens’ Initiative
  • Daniel Schily, co-founder, More Democracy
  • Salvör Nordal, professor of ethics and philosophy, University of Iceland in Reykjavik
  • Ralf-Uwe Beck, activist, More Democracy
  • Ramon Casiple, director, Institute for Political and Electoral Reform
  • Kelly O’Keefe, director of development, Lucy Burns Institute
  • Itamar Marom, activist, More Democracy
  • Dane Waters, chairman, Initiative & Referendum Institute
  • Joe Mathews, journalist and fellow, New America Foundation
  • Bruno Kaufmann, president, IRI Europe and co-president, Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy

Al Ortiz and Kelly O'Keefe are covering the American West Briefing Tour for Ballotpedia.

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Notable quotes from the trip

Oregon initiative activist Bill Sizemore: "I don't deserve that evil from my opponents. The fact is, is that they don't like what I do [in the initiative process in the state], and they don't like that I'm good at it."


Joe Mathews on a historical event in California in 1906 that helped shape the state's direct democracy process: "[The initiative and referendum process in California] doesn't have any flexibility, not a lot of room for negotiation, because these people were not negotiating. They were coming out in a political fight where people were being shot and cornered and dying. And that kind of culture in that terrible moment in San Francisco really helped shape the personality [of the I&R process]."


Hastings College Law Professor Michael Salerno: "I'm not against direct democracy. It is California's version of direct democracy that I do not support."


Dr. Eric Novak, on his initiative experiences in Arizona: "Losing is a good thing. You can learn more by losing than from winning...Losing keeps you humble."


Portland Mayor Sam Adams on Ballotpedia writer Al Ortiz's Texas roots: "Welcome to civilization. And that is on the record."

Videos

Joe Mathews describes to tour participants the events surrounding the 1908 graft prosecution that he says helped shape the California initiative and referendum process to how it is today.

Dr. Eric Novack addressing tour group about his experiences with the Arizona initiative and referendum process.

External links