A tax that will tell voters a lot | Editorial
May 1, 2012 · Updated 1:52 PM
Island County Commissioner Kelly Emerson, a Republican with a tea party background, has never hid the fact that she’s against taxes but she picked a telling one to tackle by proposing that the Conservation Futures tax be placed on the August primary ballot for an “advisory” vote on whether it should continue.
Commissioners Helen Price Johnson and Angie Homola shot down the proposal after a long and heated debate, arguing in part that we have a representative form of government in which the electorate expects their representatives to make tough choices.
But there’s nothing tough about the Conservation Futures tax, adopted by an all-Republican board of commissioners in 1991, back when the county was growing rapidly and natural areas were under assault by developers. For a small tax, it has worked wonders.
The tax costs someone with a $300,000 property a piddling $15 a year. There is not enough space here to list all the good it has done over the years, but without it we wouldn’t have Ala Spit, Oak Harbor wetlands, the Greenbank Farm, Double Bluff beach, a critical heron rookery on Camano Island, and a host of other protective land acquisitions. The Conservations Futures tax has been a tremendous success, providing open spaces, wildlife habitat and waterfront access at very little cost to the public.
Emerson may be hoping that the word “tax” would turn voters off and they’d vote against Conservation Futures out of ignorance. There is a certain percentage of knee-jerk, anti-tax voters out there, but most Island County voters are thoughtful, love their public open spaces, and would vote to keep the Conservation Futures tax if such a vote were required. But and advisory vote would be a waste of time and money for all involved. The two Democrats were correct in rejecting the idea. They’re also correct that we have a representative democracy, and if you want change then vote someone new into office.
This year the two Democrats on the board are up for election. This is where the Conservation Futures tax may be decided. Don’t let any candidate, Republican, Democrat or Independent, wiggle out of answering directly whether or not they support the Conservation Futures tax. The answer will tell you a lot about the future they envision for Island County.