We are now nearly five months past a special election in which Johnson County voters defeated a ballot measure intended to impose a 1% sales tax designed to improve, repair or replace several publicly owned assets. Whether the plan was too complex, there were too many projects or it was just the wrong time to present a new tax doesn’t really matter at this point.

What remains clear is that the vast majority of voters were not willing to tax themselves to pay for this scale of infrastructure projects, but the infrastructure needs have not gone away. 

In a post-election statement, Chris Williams, who was involved with the organized effort to defeat the tax, said that it wasn’t necessary to do all the projects at the same time, and that the attempt to do so had put people in a “difficult position.”

“This election was always about how, not what,” Williams said.

And David Iverson, founder of the political action committee that opposed the tax said that his group would be happy to work with the city and county to come up with another proposal. His focus, he said, would be on private fundraising, “an avenue that hasn’t been explored. I’ve got a couple of different avenues that I’m working on.” He declined to go into specifics, though.

Now that some time has elapsed, it is fair for the community to expect to learn greater details on the timelines and funding plans for these projects that organized opponents of the tax have acknowledged are necessary. 

The Patriot Conservatives of Johnson County have been busy recruiting candidates to run for all levels of elected office in the city, county and state — from city council to the state House. We applaud the PAC’s efforts to engage more individuals in governing. We hope their recruits are likewise invested in this community and interested in solving problems — there is a big difference between governing and electioneering. 

Elected officials are expected to govern. This involves making strategic decisions about laws, policies, rules, regulations, government-sponsored programs and projects. Governing takes a long-term view of the pros and cons of an issue and concludes with a collective decision. It provides structure. 

In the meantime, the boards that manage these public assets must begin to make contingency plans of their own. They must radically change how they plan for the future. It is clear from this election that these organizations cannot rely on additional taxpayer support. The voters clearly said they feel that those who use these facilities must step up and pay for any improvements.

It is time for the Harold Jarrard Park Board, the Gatchell Museum Board, the library board, the golf board, the YMCA board and the fair board to consider and enact membership and user fees that align with this new reality. They should charge members and users more while simultaneously reducing free or subsidized services in order to stockpile reserves to pay for future infrastructure needs. 

This newspaper will work diligently to support any workable ideas that will achieve the goal of repairing, remodeling or replacing these valuable public assets for our community. 

 

 

 

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