Bryce Jacobson: Shocked by commission stance
September 13, 2007
Craig — Since becoming publisher of the Craig Daily Press, I have not normally used this forum to share my personal opinions about the policies and politics in our wonderful community.
I have mostly relied on the editorial board to express its political view Wednesdays and Saturdays, and my columns to share my experiences in life and in the community.
Today, I just can’t hold my tongue.
I am really concerned by the direction our county commissioners are taking this community.
The current Moffat County Commission have shocked and appalled me by their actions in two recent situations, so much so that I am concerned for the future of this community that if we continue down the road that they are leading us, I am scared where we may end up.
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I understand that the commissioners’ job is a very difficult one, and I agree with the commissioners on many issues. In fact, I will support them as much as I possibly can, but the manner that these issues are being handled is frightening.
The Moffat County Commissioners – Tom Mathers, Tom Gray and Saed Tayyara – have said publicly that they will not, as a board, endorse any tax issue to go before the voters.
I disagree with this.
An endorsement by the commissioners does not raise taxes. It simply states that they think it is a good idea, and considering it is their job to be on top of such issues, the public might be interested in their views as a board.
However, there are some of you who agree with the commissioners, as expressed on the Daily Press Web site, http://www.craigdailypress.com, where a recent weekly poll showed about 50 percent of those who voted felt public officials should not endorse tax issues before it goes to the ballot.
This number surprised me.
My belief is that we elected a three-person board to run our county, to be knowledgeable of issues facing our county, and to make decisions in our best interest as a county. I cannot believe that they won’t do that.
When it comes to tax issues in this year’s November election, the school district is one thing; the hospital is a whole other matter.
The Memorial Hospital is a county entity; it is a department operated by the county through appointments to a board of control. When they are asking the voters to approve a tax increase, I expect the leaders of our county to weigh in.
Why in the world would the county commissioners not let you, the voters, know what they think about this issue? Do they not feel they know enough? Isn’t that why we elected them? Don’t we expect them to be informed, educated and involved in the operations of our county?
That is my first issue.
The second is the manner in which they have recently handled the possible funding of the Moffat County/Craig Economic Development Partnership.
I have been very vocal in my criticism of EDP, and agreed with the commissioners and the city councilors that EDP must be held accountable, as it has not been in the past.
But, I also think that this community needs an economic development engine to seek more primary jobs. In the event that this boom has a bust, I would much rather be proactive than reactive. The manner in which this decision is being handled is a concern to me because if our county commissioners are going to lead us into the future with this type of leadership, I am scared of where we are going.
This board initiated a joint meeting with the Craig City Council on Tuesday to share ideas; it appeared to me that they were not there to listen and share ideas, but to attempt to convince the City Council that it should not fund the EDP.
Commissioner Tayarra spoke about the many people that had called him, stopped him on the street, sent him emails against the funding of EDP, he spent little or no time speaking of the people that contacted him in favor of funding the EDP.
At this meeting, a well-publicized meeting mind you, it seemed there was not one citizen in the crowd who was opposed to funding the EDP again. Commissioner Mathers asked Mayor Don Jones, if there was a half a cent sales tax proposal on the ballot, would the voters approve it? My answer (not that he asked me) is absolutely not. First of all, a half a cent sales tax would generate much more than $25,000 annually.
My first question is where are you going to spend this $25,000 if you don’t fund EDP? My second question is, if put on the ballot, would voters approve that?
Commissioner Gray has previously shared his thoughts that an economic development engine is not needed as much during good times, or in that during times when “there is nothing to offer,” i.e. no place to live and a small available workforce.
This does not make sense to me. Steamboat Springs has the same problems with housing and workforce, yet they have an economic development program in place. Their leadership is looking toward the future regardless of the good times. They are looking to enhance and continue the good times for down the road.
And if times are good now, and we’re not worried economic development, why are the Moffat County commissioners holding on to such a big reserve of our tax money for when times could go bad?
Now, do I think this community wants Craig to grow like Steamboat Springs? No. But I do think that they have figured out what it takes to grow, and grow in a manner that is good for their citizens.
I implore you, the reader, to call them, write them and stop them on the street. I encourage you to do the same with your city councilors and all elected officials on this and all issues. It is your right, and I think you should take advantage of it. Let your elected officials know what you are thinking. Even more than that, attend their meetings; share your opinion in public.
Let me know if I am wrong by writing letters to the editor. Am I in the minority? Am I one of the few who thinks the EDP should be funded?
I definitely think that they need to have clearer expectations for EDP. I wouldn’t suggest just writing a check, walk away and gripe about it afterward; that has not been the right practice. Give them clear requirements, give them clear expectations. Then next year, if those aren’t met, I will be the first one in line to apologize to our county commissioners.