Boon to public health is cost to public trust - Commissioners create a new taxing district
September 11th, 2003
the public trust.
Franklin County residents are justifiably peeved that county officials used bad information to get voters to form a mosquito control district earlier this year.
County commissioners and their advisers were downright wrong when they told voters that creating the district would not, in and of itself, cost taxpayers money. Members of this editorial board were among the people who took the county at its word.
That promise, no doubt, helped lead to the district's creation. Voters approved the district, but rejected a companion tax measure to fund the district's startup costs.
After voters rejected a second funding measure, county officials started looking into their options and figured out that the mosquito control district and county commissioners could impose a tax without voters' OK.
That's what they now appear poised to do.
In one sense, it is good news for the community. The threat of the West Nile virus has made mosquito control a necessity, and Franklin County voters' refusal to ante up -- as Benton County taxpayers have for years -- was irresponsible.
But the boon to public health efforts does not undo the damage done to public trust.
One could speculate that the Franklin County commissioners decided to keep the district's taxing ability to themselves so that they could pursue a separate, voter-approved funding measure and save themselves from the politically dangerous move of imposing a new tax.
But that scenario doesn't seem likely. The county took the funding question to voters a second time before the mistake was found, a discovery that apparently has left Franklin County commissioners appropriately chagrined.
In the end, the right thing happened: Franklin County will join the community in fighting the spread of mosquito-borne illnesses.
Still, the commissioners will have a lot of convincing to do next time they ask the voters for something. And next time, they had better make sure their facts are spot on.
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