Sunday, March 14, 2010

Editorial: City should shift money to needs

Today the unnamed Courier makes the case that elections don't matter and the City should just do what the editor wants.

We know, of course, that the editor vehemently opposed the open-space allocation of sales-tax funds in the 2000 initiative. He and most of the representatives on city councils since have complained continuously about that vote and worked diligently to subvert it.

Somehow it's impossible for these people to understand that in voting to allocate money to buy open space, the voters of Prescott defined purchased open space as a need. So for Council or the editor to turn around and say it isn't is just beating a still-opinionated but entirely dead horse.

People don't vote to tax themselves thinking it might be nice if we could have this. They decide that the thing is necessary to their community at cost to themselves personally. That's fairly persuasive, if you ask me. I'm not saying that voters can't or don't make mistakes in the process, but that's our system, like it or lump it.

The editor can argue all day that we should overturn that initiative and spend the money on streets. He can't argue that such spending is objectively unnecessary -- the voters said otherwise, explicitly, and it'll take another vote to change that -- and he can't argue for just using the money to repair streets instead -- that's not legal or ethical. Given that revenues from that sales tax have far exceeded projections at the time and actual open-space purchasing is far behind intended schedule, he can't say with any authority that open-space purchases have impeded the intent of the initiative in terms of street repair. If the editor believes we need more money for streets, he is arguing in favor of higher taxes to pay for them. He should be advocating a new initiative for additional sales tax to cover better projections of how much money will be needed, and specifically overturning the open-space allocation.

Somehow I don't expect we'll see him doing that. It's so much easier to call for ignoring the will of the people. Things were so much simpler when we had kings, huh?

The language of the 2000 initiative left sensible room for Council to to operate in terms of specific allocations of funds at a given time. The voters trusted Council to follow the clear intent of the initiative rather than bind the City to hard schedules. Council has instead taken advantage of that trust and sensibility to resist the initiative. This short-term political opportunism risks long-term loss of options if the voters decide they can't trust Council. I'd urge sitting Councilors and staff to be very careful about treading on that flag.

1 comment:

lora said...

Yes, this is typical for the City of Prescott. Voters were told to expect $75 million to come in when they voted in date $108.6 million has come in. Originally $35 million was to be spent on streets, $40.7 million on Open Space. So, since less than $16 million has been spent on Open Space, what happened to the $55 or so MILLION extra that came in? Park Ave, McCormick, Rosser (Cliff Rose), etc have still not been taken care of. As a Council member, even I don't know where it's all gone! I see it on paper, but it looks like voters were promised maintenance, not NEW roads. I bring up issues during our Council meetings, and they don't get printed in The Courier, so I am looking for other ways to get the public informed, and the Courierwatch is one I will be using.

Lora Lopas
Frustrated Councilmember