This week’s election results come as no surprise. Predictions about the outcomes made when the ballot issues and proposals were announced proved true.
The one thing the issues held in common was the fact they needed no opposition in order to fail. Any request for additional taxation was sure to be turned away. True, poor planning in some quarters and occasionally deceptive tactics in others aided in their demise, but 3B and 1A were doomed from the outset. They were, essentially, victims of the times.
These measures failed due to the uncertainty of the economy. Set aside that group of voters who, regardless of the situation, will oppose any additional tax burden and the prospects for the measures were still bleak. If one considered the school bond issue proposal solely in light of the extra burden it would have put on the owners of commercial property and vacant land, its imminent failure was clear. That burden would have put some local commercial property owners in jeopardy of failure — citizens and taxpayers who, in more positive conditions, would gladly have voted in favor of an issue.
They will get their chance to do so again. Why? Because new school buildings must be constructed some time in the future. It is a community’s obligation to do so, and to the long-term economic benefit of a community to do so. Given more positive economic circumstances, given clear and effective planning and a well-demonstrated need, the outcome will be different.
The most intriguing election result is the heavy vote against the county request for a time-limited mill levy increase to provide funds to deal with roads. It is interesting because so many residents of Pagosa Country complain so loudly about the condition of roads, and demand action from the county. Anyone who reads accurate information on the matter, who follows the creation of a five-year road plan and analyzes recent consultants’ reports, understands there is not enough money in the county coffer to deal with the problem. With present resources, the best that can be attained is status quo.
The “no” vote means residents must now do one of three things: remain dissatisfied and accept roads as they are, with the caveat that the county use existing funds effectively; vote to approve a future proposal to increase the mill levy; form improvement or metro districts and take on the problem in league with neighbors (along with the resulting costs).
The vote puts pressure on the county to use its limited funds in the most constructive ways possible, but it also gives the commissioners (a couple of whom, we suspect, with us, favor the district scenario) with the ultimate political out. When the howls are heard, the answer is easy: “You voted against additional money when we asked for it. Now, we work with what we’ve got, and it is up to you to figure a solution.”
The specter looming in the background of both local votes is the question of the importance of infrastructure — and of a community’s willingness to invest in the shared elements necessary for a healthy future. That question is not going to go away. We are going to have to deal with the need to improve basic elements in Pagosa if we want the community to prosper, if we want it to be a viable place for our families and others to live and work. Each generation must consider what it is willing to pass on to citizens to come. Times will change, and voters will surely have the opportunity to reflect on their connection and commitment to the community when they return to the polls.