RTC: Part of the problem

Last week, Sparks conservative activists Janine Hansen and Zachary Triggs were gathering signatures on two ballot petitions at the Citifare bus depot operated by the Regional Transportation Commission.

State law requires signature gatherers to notify RTC in advance. They were dealing with RTC’s lawyer Stan Peck, so Hansen notified him—a mistake. He’s not the proper person.

But that’s not the only thing they did wrong because Peck says even if they had notified the correct person, they still wouldn’t have been permitted to petition. It seems RTC has overruled state law and created additional requirements beyond mere notification—submission of paperwork, which Triggs says discourages volunteers. Since Hansen and Triggs insisted RTC observe state law, they were jailed.

Peck says the paperwork allows the agency to check and make sure the petition is officially registered. Yes, there are lots of people in this world, where people generally loath getting involved in politics, who are out there circulating phony petitions.

It’s clear that RTC is trying to discourage signature gathering. Listen to Peck: “The RTC has generally considered their property closed for these purposes.”

It’s offensive to hear about appointed and elected trustees treating the public property as their own. But suppose someone did want to use RTC property to circulate unregistered petitions. Why isn’t RTC helping them do it? Today, people have to be dragged kicking and screaming into political involvement. Yet when some do get involved, they’re harassed about forms and notifying the correct person.

Hansen and Triggs weren’t annoying anyone. They didn’t obstruct buses or panhandle for money. They were being involved in the democratic system. They should be embraced and assisted by RTC and all of us, not handcuffed, arrested and jailed.

When Peck refers to illegitimate petitions, he’s talking about petitions other than initiative, referendum or recall petitions, the only three protected by the state law. But if someone wants to circulate a petition about litter to give to the city council, why is the RTC not encouraging that form of civic involvement?

Over the years we’ve seen the State Fair try to prevent political booths, the Nevada Day Parade try to prevent political entries, innumerable public agencies try to prevent the collection of signatures on “their” property.

How about, instead of whining and crying about the inconvenience, responding to concerned citizens with this question: “How can we help?” If RTC wants to exceed state law, it should be more open to petitioners than the law requires.

The RTC says it has procedures. Change them. Make them work for the convenience of the public, not the agency. Make them work like other public agencies that do accommodate petitioners.