Oct 182010
Authors: Jim Sojourner

Holy misinterpretation Batman! It looks like the Schrader v. Conrad beast has struck again!

Last Tuesday the Associated Students of CSU Senate introduced a bill that would have put the body on record as opposing the proposed Fort Collins sales tax increase.

Under the increase, the city sales tax would increase 0.85 percent and generate $18.7 million annually to help fund a variety of local maintenance projects, police and fire services, parks and recreation and other community priorities –– in essence, the city said the increase is necessary to maintain Fort Collins’s high quality of living.

Many CSU senators, though, didn’t buy the city’s argument and so they proposed their bill to officially oppose the tax. After the dust of the voting circus finally cleared, the vote tally was 12 senators in favor of the resolution and seven against, with six abstaining votes.

And so the resolution failed.

I can already hear your head gears grinding. Twelve to seven makes a simple majority, you must be saying, it’s only logical!

But alas, logic doesn’t always prevail. Back in December of 2006, the ASCSU Supreme Court took on the now-infamous Schrader v. Conrad case. Long story short, the court ruled that, in order to pass, any proposed legislation must meet its constitutional voting benchmark (either a simple majority or two-thirds majority) in proportion to entire elected body, not just the number of senators present or voting.

In practice, this boneheaded ruling means that any abstention votes or absent senators count as “no” votes instead of counting as nothing, like they should under logic and under Robert’s Rules Order –– the standard, one-size-fits-all handbook of parliamentary procedure used by many local, state and national organizations, including ASCSU.

The decision has been such a thorn in the side of our student government that, during the 2008-2009 school year, Sen. Jordan Von Bokern wrote a bill that would have fixed the court’s error by amending the ASCSU Constitution.

It received 12 votes in favor, five against and four abstaining. Under the Schrader v. Conrad ruling the abstentions brought the effective total to 12 for and nine against – not the two-thirds majority needed to pass an amendment.

The irony is so thick I could slurp it down like yogurt.

So Schrader v. Conrad was spared the sword, only to rise back up from its black lair last Tuesday to bring parliamentary procedure to its knees once again.

With 12 votes for, seven against and six abstaining, Tuesday’s tax bill vote reached an effective total of 12-13 and died by default. Death by default is not how student representatives should be representing CSU to the city.

When I sat down with ASCSU Director of Community Affairs Chase Eckerdt, he stressed to me that the Fort Collins City Council thinks the tax increase proposal is of utmost importance to the community. As students’ best representative body, the ASCSU Senate should be advocating for the needs and wills of the students and the tax vote was an excellent chance to send a crystal clear student perspective to City Council either in support of or opposition to the tax.

Instead, ASCSU sent the City Council murk, the bill killed by abstentions despite what seems like majority support.

In the month leading up to the tax bill vote, Eckerdt said he and Anderson worked hard to educate the Senate on all arguments for and against the tax. Eckerdt said he pleaded with senators to come to him for help.

At the same time, the duo was also advocating for CSU students at the City Council, letting them know that students are serious stakeholders in the community and need to be taken seriously. And they’re right.

But if Eckerdt and Anderson are to have any success working for students in Fort Collins, the Senate needs to demonstrate unity and clarity, and failing to pass resolutions due to abstaining votes is a really bad way to do that.

So my plea to you, ASCSU senators, is two fold:

First: When an issue like the tax resolution is in ASCSU’s sights, take advantage of resources, get educated and vote. You are the voice of the almost 30,000 students here at CSU. Learn about the issues and take a stance. Vote them up, vote them down but don’t let them die by abstention default.

Second: Please, for the love of God, somebody slay the Schrader v. Conrad nightmare. For far too long it’s paralyzed your affairs and rendered you ineffective. Take up the sword of logic, put down the beast and get back to really representing students once and for all.

Managing Editor Jim Sojourner is a senior journalism major. His column appears Tuesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 4:59 pm

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