Friday, April 17

Yes, No, Maybe?

The "Ax the Tax" and "Yes for All" folks are lining up their arguments and votes for the May 5th referendum. The question that comes to mind is who wins?

Regardless of where you are right now, the call for a new tax is not coming at an ideal time, but the issue is what would happen without the funds? Dubuque St. is a main thruway to the central business district in Iowa City and the University of Iowa and therefore is vital to commerce. The Park road and accompanying bridge are in need of repair due to last spring's flooding. The water wells that provide clean drinking water for thousands of Iowa City residents need to be reinforced and the sewage treatment plant has to be closed down or repaired to meet federal law within three years.

These projects price tags are steep and the outcomes for parts are uncertain. No one can say with absolute authority that Dubuque St. won't flood over again even if raised or what the effects downstream may be. No one can say with certainty whether other funds will need to be generated through water rate hikes if the economy continues to remain soft. The one thing that can be said with certainty is that the taxes to make these infrastructure repairs are limited to four years and that whatever can be done with them will be used by then.

Also, doing nothing assures us of exactly one thing. Things are not fixed and it all costs us more in the long-run if we experience flooding conditions like last year. For many people, this doesn't really count--they don't live near the river, they don't go downtown. as long as water flows out of their taps, there is nothing, on the surface, compelling to them to make a special trip to vote.

Thirdly, is this really a non-partisan campaign or is it politics as usual? If we look at the players on both sides, we do see many of the same folks, Deb Thornton, Michael Thayer, Pat and Lori Cardella on the Red team and pretty much the entire structure past and present for the Blue team on the other side. Should public safety matters be turned into idealogical battles? Probably not, but they do because there is always an ox to gore and always people ready to do it to keep control or gain power.

Finally, the process that makes things so uncertain is the cause of so much distrust. Had there been a community process for vetting the projects and having a better idea of the unknowns been in place, it would surely be easier to decide if these projects are cost-effective or just costly. With a public process, the issues surrounding land use and future use could be done openly. The problem it seems to me is that most people can't imagine a house without seeing a floor plan. I would urge those who think the tax is right to paint that picture in the next 16 days. The other side is doing a pretty good job of making their points known.

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