Trust must be earned

Trust me?

The mayor says trust me?

All you taxpayers don’t need no stinking information about all those proposals to build a new arena. The bureaucrats will make sure everything is done in your best interest.

This comes while trial testimony over at the federal courthouse reveals that various county commissioners used developers like a perpetual ATM, spewing cash.

As the editorial next to this column points out, this comes days after the city sold land to a former city councilman for millions less the appraisal.

This from the city that practically gave Boyd Gaming a 3.4-acre parcel of land downtown after the casino company shrugged and said there was really no longer a need for that parking garage they agreed to build in exchange for the land.

This from the City Council that voted to lift a deed restriction on a golf course in exchange for a fraction of the land’s appraised value before the attorney general stepped in and questioned whether the deal was a breach of the public purpose doctrine.

This in light of all those sweetheart airport land exchanges that enriched by millions of dollars a former mayor’s grandson and his business partners.

This from the folks who used eminent domain to snatch downtown land for the fabulously successful Neonopolis.

Trust is something earned. We are waiting.

Besides, why should there be a bidding process in the first place? Let each of those who would like to develop an arena come forward in public and ask for the proper zoning, showing they have adequate parking and traffic access. Let the market forces, not government central planning, dictate who wins. They don’t require casino companies to come in and bid under the logic that nobody needs more than one casino.

Splitting hairs

This past week, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional a tiny portion of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law that prohibited corporations, unions and other organizations from broadcasting “issue” advertising specifically mentioning a candidate for office within 60 days of a federal election or 30 days before a primary or caucus. But the ruling let stand a ban on ads that specifically call for the election or defeat of a candidate.

It is a distinction that defies definition.

The case involved the Federal Election Commission preventing a group called Wisconsin Right to Life from running a television commercial urging viewers to call their senators and ask them to not filibuster federal judicial appointments. The ads did not say anything about electing or defeating Sen. Russ Feingold, who was running for re-election at the time, but were found to be the functional equivalent of campaign speech.

As Justice Antonin Scalia rhetorically asked in his concurring opinion, what is the difference between criticizing what the king does and criticizing the king?

The whole concept on which McCain-Feingold is built is that money corrupts elections because it can buy more speech than the other side can afford, totally ignoring the persuasiveness of the speech itself.

In his opinion, Scalia quoted campaign finance reform backer Dick Gephardt as saying, “What we have is two important values in direct conflict: freedom of speech and our desire for healthy campaigns in a healthy democracy. You can’t have both.”

Free speech is not a deterrent, but a precursor to democracy.

The court should’ve struck down the whole law as meddlesome abridgement of free speech. Instead, it’s clipping off a fingernail instead of lopping off its head.

Jefferson speaks

As we approach another anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, we should recall what its author said as the 50th anniversary of its signing approached. He had been invited to attend a celebration in Washington on the Fourth, but declined because of failing health.

“That form (of government) which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion,” Thomas Jefferson wrote to Roger C. Weightman from Monticello on June 24, 1826. “All eyes are opened, or are opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.”

Jefferson died July 4, 1826. Our rights, sometime later.

Thomas Mitchell is editor of the Review-Journal and writes about the role of the press and access to public information. He may be contacted at 383-0261 or via e-mail at

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