I have followed the debate of the Tollgate Farm issue on this page for several months, and after reading the front-page story this week, I feel compelled to put forth my view.
I am opposed to the use of public funds to buy Tollgate Farm, and I submit the following in support of my position.
First, we are widely assumed to be either entering, or already in, an economic recession. Our federal government has passed one tax cut and is considering more in an effort to stimulate our economy. We have been informed by some of the area’s largest employers that they will be cutting jobs, and many of these people who will lose their jobs are our neighbors. In the coming months, it is possible our neighbors will be fighting to keep their homes, and the additional tax burden created by these bonds will make that fight just that much tougher. Raising taxes, for any reason, in such an adverse economic environment is simply unacceptable!
Second, the primary mission of municipal government is to provide citizens with basic services such as water, sewer, streets and police and fire protection. The idea of a municipality raising taxes for the purchase of open space is such a huge departure from its primary mission that it should be rejected outright. I am all for the preservation of open space, but it should strictly be a private-sector exercise.
Third, I think it is likely we have a sizable and growing opportunity cost from the leadership of this town focusing on Tollgate at the expense of more pressing issues. The challenges we face in solving our sewer capacity, water rights and the resulting building permit moratorium seem to go on and on without any end in sight. This is indicative of a leadership vacuum in this city.
I was disappointed to read that there are plans to place Tollgate on the November ballot (and if Ed Carlson has his way, the February ballot) after our City Council and mayor have taken to divining the will of the voters by saying the turn-out in the primary election was too low because people were too stressed out to go to the polls. When Tollgate gets voted down in November, it will likely have been too rainy/windy/snowy/icy for people to get to the polls, and thus be placed on the February ballot.
Let’s move on and focus our efforts on solving our existing problems without creating more.