To The Editor:
After reading the lead editorial in the Aug. 9-10 edition of The Missourian I would like to offer my thoughts on why the annexation proposal failed to gain voter approval.
First, regarding the tax implication of the proposed annexation, the city of Washington has raised the property taxes for residents eight of the last 10 years. With that kind of track record voters have come to expect that some form of tax increase was likely to be necessary to cover the unanticipated cost associated with the annexation regardless of how much the politicians protested.
Second, the real reason people in the annexation areas were opposed was that it offered them nothing that they didn’t already have except higher taxes. How many residents of any area would be willing to sign up to higher taxes without some improvements in services?
Third, labeling people in the annexation areas “freeloaders” was not the best way to influence voters in a positive way. The city probably lost more votes on the “fair share/freeloader” issue than any other. The people in the annexation areas don’t “hate” the city. They simply chose not to live in the city. That is their right. Some of them do have longstanding “issues” with the city. But labeling all of them “haters” was perceived by the voters as excessively pejorative.
For those with longstanding issues it boiled down to the issue of trust. If you look at the latest CNN poll, trust in government in general is at an all-time low. Why would you expect it to be any different locally? After all, Americans have had a healthy lack of trust in government for over 300 years. That’s what the American Revolution was all about. It propelled westward expansion when my forebears first came to the Spanish Territory (Missouri) in 1789. Without a certain amount of skepticism on the part of the citizenry, government becomes first arrogant, then intrusive, and then oppressive. Perhaps this was a message to local government that government’s proper role is to be servants of the people, not to garner ever increasing influence over our lives.
But I think the single issue that doomed the proposal was that the city never really defined how this plan was going to foster real growth. We heard many references to how growth was important and that the city’s future depended on growth but painfully little about what it was going to take to make meaningful growth a reality that benefited everyone. I suspect in the final analysis, many voters failed to see how spending three quarters of a million dollars to annex less than 100 households and another 460 acres was going to contribute to their future.
Mayor Lucy was right: The sun did come up on Wednesday. Might I suggest we close this chapter of the annexation discussion by agreeing to disagree on the issue?