Opinion Columns & Blogs

An informed insider’s look at the local ballot

I would like to indulge in a few personal observations from the recent election. By happy circumstance, I was privileged to participate at a deeper level than the individual voter. Along with two other Lacey libertarians, Christopher Rohloff and Kevin Hochhalter, I was selected by the Lacey City Council as a member of a the committee to develop the voter’s pamphlet statement against Lacey Proposition 1. The proposition would have established a separate Municipal Park District for the city. Normally, I would avoid political identifications, but the “For” committee outed us in their rebuttal. Contrary to their expectations, we do appreciate it.

The first thing we did was to research the issue. We gathered details on the law, the city park system and, especially, the taxes. We discovered that Lacey parks were already quite adequately funded under the present system, which includes property taxes and an extra 1 percent utility tax specifically instituted for park development. The only thing the new district would do would be to allow extra property taxes and debt. There was no indication the city taxes would be reduced. The city council would still govern Lacey parks. The only logical conclusion was that the council majority, the vote for the district was 6-1, wanted to build high cost, limited use, special purpose facilities.

The committee worked together bringing our separate skills to the table and crafted a statement and rebuttal that concentrated on facts. Space limitations made the effort quite difficult. This was made harder by the fact that libertarians are inherently verbose and opinionated. Getting us to work well together is like herding cats. In the end, we managed to develop something for which we were proud. We didn’t even use the favorite libertarian phrase, “Taxation Is Theft!” We did not expect to win the decision but, to our surprise and pleasure, the voters had the same view. The proposition was defeated.

Do I think we affected the outcome? The opposition spent thousands on yard signs and such. We spent nothing. They engaged in sign waves and developed an online presence. Our online presence was a personal page on Facebook. The city mailed out an informational flier clearly designed to support passage. Local media supported the proposition. We depended on word of mouth. It is unknown if our efforts reached many people, except through the voter’s pamphlet, or had much effect. I suspect that the outcome just shows that citizens are tired of being nibbled to death by ducks, told what is best for them, and told what they can afford. Perhaps this last was the straw that broke a camel’s back.

I am reminded that “all politics are local.” The more local it is, the more it directly affects the voter. Federal and state issues in the media are like red capes that distract the bull from the hidden sword. We must pay more attention to our cities, counties, and local districts. These entities provide our police and fire protection, roads, water, sewer, schools and parks. They impact us every day through local codes and regulations. They also tax our property, businesses and purchases. Each of these taxes may seem small when viewed individually but are a substantial cost per month or year. Some are obvious like sales taxes that show up for each transaction. Some, like property taxes, are less obvious. Some, like the B&O and utility taxes, are hidden. You pay them anyway.

As for parks, do we want a few large, expensive facilities that are costly to build and operate, and accessible only to a few? Or do we want more parks that are local, family oriented, relatively inexpensive to build and maintain, and widely accessible? Are we more concerned with highly organized activities or informal “free play”? Clearly, the latter is my preference. Each come with a raft of benefits, issues and requirements. Lacey has chosen a different direction than Olympia and Tumwater. It is important that we in Lacey think about our direction and look to the city council and administration to implement our wishes and not resist them. Pay attention to this and other local issues. Vote in the off-year elections for city council members. Insist they take positions and discuss real issues. Vote early and often.

Ed Pole is a retired engineer and active gadfly residing in Lacey. He is a member of the 2018 Olympian Board of Contributors. Contact him at ejp.olyboc@gmail.com or comment online.