EDITORIALS Oct. 31 edition

I-747 undermines local government

Initiative 747 would limit property tax increases by local taxing districts to 1 percent annually. Anything extra would take a vote of the people.

The effects of the initiative would not be immediately devastating. Leaders of Whidbey Island’s hospital, emergency services, port, and recreation districts are not crying wolf. To their credit, they’re saying the can live with the minuscule annual revenue increases, particularly if voters continue to support them at the polls.

However, over the long term the impact of I-747 would be highly detrimental to small communities throughout the state. Budgets can’t be sustained with a 1 percent annual increase. Any business person will tell you that. The initiative is like the wet leather noose in the old cowboy movies. It feels fine at first, but as time goes by the noose tightens and eventually strangles the victim. Over time, fire service, ambulance service and law enforcement all would suffer.

Of course, voters could bail them out at the polls, but who wants half a dozen special elections each year to approve modest budget increases of 2 percent, for example? No doubt, many routine capital purchases would have to go to special elections, as basic budgets could no longer provided the necessary upgrades in fire, rescue, medical and law enforcement equipment. Voters would quickly tire of going to the polls and would likely vote “no” out of frustration.

I-747 strikes at the heart of local representative government. Our local taxing districts are governed by volunteers, not paid bureaucrats or self-serving politicians. Our friends, neighbors and relatives sit on the school boards, hospital boards, city councils, and fire boards that make the budgeting decisions. They are directly answerable to the people. We don’t need a statewide initiative telling us how to run our communities. In fact, I-747 cynically implies that representative government at the local level can’t be trusted.

What I-747 says is that Island County residents can’t provide for their own needs without the heavy hand of a statewide initiative telling us how to conduct our public business. The truth is, we’ve been handling our own affairs very well for many years. People who appreciate self government at its most basic level would be wise to vote against I-747 on Nov. 6.

Support our military by voting on Nov. 6

While the men and women at NAS Whidbey Island and elsewhere in our military defend our way of life in the new war, what can the average citizen do to help?

One way is to simply exercise your right to vote by mailing in that absentee ballot or going to the polls on Nov. 6. Despots can’t stand the thought of people making their own decisions at the polls.

We firmly believe that people throughout the world share the same basic values and want the same things for their families. They want freedom, peace and equality. Unfortunately, in the Middle East there are few places where those desires can be expressed. Certainly not at the polls. Elections when held can be overturned by a dictator or board of clerics. There is no free debate of the issues, and public opinion is the product of propaganda, not free wheeling discussion.

On Whidbey Island, voters have a solid slate of candidates seeking election in city council, school board and other races. Their view have been expressed in this newspaper, at public forums and in the local voter’s pamphlet. They’re doing their part to sustain democracy.

We each have a role in our democracy. For most of us, just voting is enough. The simple act of casting a ballot is our way of telling the Taliban and other despotic regimes that our way is better. Only when democracy comes to the Middle East can our military people finally rest. Until that time, we can support their efforts by participating in democracy at home.

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