Vail Daily Editor and Publisher Don Rogers: Put open space back on ballot
September 21, 2012
We endorsed the open space property tax for Eagle County back in 2002, and I voted for it wholeheartedly.
The measure passed by all of 51 votes, about as close as Bush-Gore.
Fortunately, we all settled for majority rules, no matter how narrowly, and didn’t need the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority to trump the liberal leanings of Florida’s highest court.
The tax that generates about $4 million a year has had about as many critics as supporters ever since.
I support every project the county and Eagle Valley Land Trust took on since then, with some lingering reservations about the infamous Edwards gravel pit. And I love the purchases of Colorado River access points.
I also believe that conservation easements – in which landowners sell their development rights – align with what conservative ideology is all about. This is a great free-market way to accomplish a public good.
Too bad our local conservative blowhards have been too dense – or lost in their little war against anything a Democrat could like – to recognize the simple logic here. And vice versa. I’m still registered as a Republican for a reason. The tea party equivalent of a Dem is just bat guano crazy.
But times have changed. Can you seriously tell me that a county that is 85 percent public wildland needs open space more than educational funding for kids? With a straight face?
I think if we’re honest here, and put our open space ambitions in perspective, education is a higher priority for this amount of money.
Yes, I’ve been blunt, even brutal about what I think the school district needs to do to build trust with the citizenry. They, like you and me, are far from perfect, true. But this is a question of detail, not concept.
County officials will explain – properly – that the school district is an entirely different entity that already commands the lion’s share of property tax proceeds. But the county already contributes funding for early child education in partnership with the school district.
A well-crafted ballot measure that benefits K-12 education in Eagle is within reason. I’d consider trading the luxury of an open space tax for school needs at the same tax burden.
The notion that a controversial ballot measure should not be revisited under vastly different circumstances is … poppycock.
Any candidate for commissioner who claims to listen to the people should be willing to put this back on the ballot.
Fifty-one votes? That ain’t no mandate.
Editor and Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-748-2920.