The voters have spoken. What, exactly, did they say?
Pretty simple. Most voters didn’t like a sales tax proposal floated by the city government because it just amounted to a blank check.
Voters here — and the local government, by extension — are reasonable, intelligent and forward-thinking people. It’s not a town run by ideologues. So we doubt very much that a vote against the sales tax proposal was simply a knee-jerk anti-tax reaction. (Sure, there was some of that, and the mailers from the Koch brothers against the tax probably boosted that contingent a little.)
But in the same election, the same voters picked two candidates who tend to lean left of center. Linda Morse was the leading vote-getter, and Aaron Estabrook finished third. If anything, that means the City Commission might be slightly more inclined to spend money than it had been before. It’s a matter of degree, if anything.
The point is, as we said, it’s not that voters just wanted to turn off the money spigot. Had that been the entire thrust of the election results, Kaleb James and Vincent Tracey would have joined Mark Hatesohl as the new commissioners.
Elections are always more complicated than that.
The trouble for the sales tax proposal, in our view, was that it had no end date, and it had no particular list of projects tied to it. It was a never-ending tax, and the money it generated was just going to be dumped into the regular city till.
It also probably didn’t help that city officials went around saying that if the sales tax didn’t pass, they would probably just raise property taxes anyway. True or not, that sounds like a gun to the head.
It’s hard to feel all warm and fuzzy about such a proposal. On this page, we endorsed it because the list of projects that city leaders said they were going to support with the money seemed worthwhile, and — when you get right down to it — we trusted voters to hold elected representatives accountable.
But the voters here are always right. Always. The majority decided that was not the best way to move forward, and so city leaders are going to have to figure out a different way forward. That might involve choosing to not do some of those projects, or it might involve choosing another way to pay for them. Or perhaps there will be another proposal to voters, structured in a more limited way.
Figuring that out will now be the job of Commissioners Morse, Hatesohl and Estabrook, along with holdovers Wynn Butler and Usha Reddi. We’d like to congratulate those folks, and we’d encourage them to get to work. There are some tougher choices to be made now. The first order of business is to get clear about what voters were saying.