I read the Strategic Plan documents for the Dec. 11 Ridgway Town Council meeting with great interest. I couldn't attend the meeting. If I had, I'd have expressed my disappointment with the Council for its apparent intention to disregard the commitment made to the voters during the debate on passage (seven years ago) of the .6 percent sales tax increase for capital improvements (capital improvement projects). John Clark, Eric Johnson and I were on council at the time. They surely recall that we didn't ask voters then to shoulder a new tax burden for such purposes as banner poles, info kiosks, master sign plans or almost any of the other projects toward which town apparently intends now (based on the numbers presented in the agenda) to spend the CIP money. We went to the voters for one priority item (streetscape) and a general suggestion that we might use CIP for some other things like chip sealing Amelia and Railroad.
I find it especially troubling that Council chose to approve – through the summary process provided under the consent agenda – 2014 projects substantially reducing the CIP funds on activities such as those mentioned above.
I consider the proposed course a significant breach of the trust placed in the Council by the voters at the ballot box in 2006.
As a result, I will continue to pursue an explanation from Council for this outcome. I believe Council owes it to the voters to explain how they could push a sales tax in 2005 and 2006 – for the stated purpose of funding the Street Scape – then, after passage of the tax, put that project on the back burner for seven years and ultimately, when we have an opportunity to implement the Street Scape, ask the voters for a property tax increase, while at the same time spending the sales tax money on banner poles, kiosks and bouldering parks.
I understand that Council has asked staff to determine the extent to which allotting 20 or 30 percent of the CIP funds to the Street Scape would reduce the need for a property tax to repay the projected bond contemplated in connection with the property tax. To my mind, that gesture will not mitigate the breach of trust, but exacerbate it. That town responds to demands from the citizens for an explanation of this discrepancy by offering a vague suggestion that Council may consider using 20 percent of the CIP tax revenue for the original stated purpose merely demonstrates that Council still does not take seriously its prior commitments to the voters.
As I said, I am disappointed. I sincerely appreciate the largely thankless nature of the job the voters have assigned to Town Council and I commend all of you for essentially volunteering your time for what you see as the good of the community. However, in this regard I do not share your perception of the commonweal. I hope you will in the future show better judgment in pursuing matters of trust delegated to you by the voters.
Thanks for considering my opinion.
– Rodney Fitzhugh, Ridgway