Where I Stand 2008: Salt Lake County Ballot Questions

This is a continuing series of candidate and issue endorsements for the 2008 election cycle.

It seems that not an election can go by without a new bond issue on our ballot. I personally object to bonds unless we are truly caught blindsided by an expense we did not expect. I think it best to gradually save up the money you know you'll need for one-time projects or budget a certain amount each year for such projects. After all, a bond is a loan with interest and can greatly inflate the final cost of a project. In that vein, I tend to vote down bonds that do not constitute a pressing need. In 2006, I voted for the open space bond because that land wouldn't be open for long and voted down the parks and rec bond because that isn't something urgent. I'm viewing both bond issues through that lens.

Salt Lake County Ballot Question 1

This is a bond for $19.6M to make improvements and expansions to the Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake City. Certainly the aviary adds to the community even though I have been remiss in visiting it. That said, this seems like a foolish time to acquire more debt as credit markets remain frozen and this amount of money could probably be found in other ways. I'm voting NO on this issue in the hope that our county government will find some kind of alternate funding mechanism.

Salt Lake County Ballot Question 2

This is a bond for $33M to make improvements and expansions to the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City. Just as with the aviary, I recognize the importance of a zoo in our community even though I haven't been. And just like with the aviary, there's better ways to pay for it. I'm voting NO because, again, I don't see it as fiscally responsible to build now and pay later with interest through the use of bonds.

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7 Responses

  1. David says:

    I was so thankful to find your blog entry on these propositions. I am a little disheartened every time I see a “renew the zoo” sticker or yard sign. I love the zoo, but I just don’t understand the mentality of forcing people to pay for my pet projects.

    The zoo has spent $180,000 on a consulting company to get the measure on the ballot and framed properly, and they say that it will only cost taxpayers 39c a month.

    If there position is so strong, wouldn’t it make more sense to pay someone $60,000 a year for 3 years (or $90,000 a year for 2 years) to knock on doors and raise money? Or wouldn’t it make sense to raise ticket prices $1 or $2? Or raise season pass prices?

    I actually have been to the zoo, several times. And I love it…but I don’t believe in asking someone else to pay for my admission, which is what this bill does…it’s asking everyone who doesn’t go to the zoo to subsidize those who do.

    I’m so thankful that you posted what you did to your blog. This entitlement mentality is going to destroy our country and it’s going to take brave people speaking out on a daily basis in the face of criticizem (sp?) to get people back on track.

    Thank you 🙂

  2. J says:

    I agree with David, entitlements are wrong for this country, we should revert to a use fee for more services, especially now when the economy is down and money is tight.

    1) I don’t use local parks, why do I have to subsidize those that do.

    2) I don’t go to the public library shouldn’t those who use their books and services pay for it?

    3) I don’t use the public school system for my two kids, why should I have to subsidize others who use it and benefit from it.

    4) I don’t use public transportation, why do my tax dollars subsidize roads and trains I don’t use.

    5) I have never been a victim of a crime, why do my tax dollars subsidize the courts and prisons.

    Some of these are more obvious than others, but where is the line drawn for public services? You may not use some of these services, but of those that do, what is the benefit to our society as a whole?

    This is the way the country has always functioned. As population increases additional improvements in ‘quality of life’ services prevent increases in crime, allow for increased educational opportunities and stronger family bonds.

    It seems like .39 cents a month in taxes (assuming that is the cost) is a small price to pay. If that is too much to ask, then maybe those who can’t afford it should look for other ways they can make up the difference, here are some suggestions; maybe skip 1 latte’ or ice cream cone a year, skip a movie rental once a year, don’t super-size it twice when at the drive through, walk to church one more time than you usually would in a year, there are so many ways.

    I seriously doubt that any of this would destroy our country, in fact our country has been functioning this way since its founding, you know, huge personal sacrifices like french fries and latte’s so we can have zoos, parks, and libraries.

  3. Jesse says:

    Sarcasm aside, I’m not objecting to the use of public funds for the zoo, but rather using a bond that could double or triple the bill to do so. I don’t view that as fiscally responsible.

    David makes some good points anyway. If the zoo took the money they spent on consulting fees to hire someone to raise donations, it might be more effective.

  4. J says:

    I will leave sarcasm out this time; my trigger is a little sensitive being this close to the election. I know sarcasm throws up a wall where even-handedness would be better.

    I also think David made some good points with alternatives for funding the zoo. At the same time, charitable giving alone will likely not be enough to support the proposals at the zoo. Perhaps a combination of options is required.

    The fact is, we have a zoo that needs to be either maintained or allowed to deteriorate. The current tax base requires us to use increased taxes (.39c) in the form of a larger bond instead of the more desirable method of cash on hand (surplus) which we obviously do not have.

    The problem (in my humble opinion) is we usually prioritize our efforts for fiscal responsibility by what makes the news and what the hot topic is for the day. Instead, we should be taking a hard look at all the wasteful spending that is costing us money.

    The show must go on, and public works must either be funded or allowed to deteriorate. If we only apply fiscal responsibility to hot button issues of the day and ignore the rest, we are still negligent and wasteful, just in different areas.

    So the question is, do you vote this out and feel better for a while about doing the right thing while the zoo and aviary deteriorate, or do you make the hard choice, pay the maintenance bill and then redouble your efforts to identify all the other areas of fiscal irresponsibility?

    I would like to see the latter, but, that is my opinion, and this is your blog.

  5. Jesse says:

    If you vote down the bond, the need will still exist and it will hurt in the short run. I doubt that a failure to improve the bond would result in permanent and irreparable damage to either the zoo or aviary. It could even prod county leaders into making a sort of “capital improvements fund” into which they deposit surpluses to save up for those major expenses. Such a fund could even be an interest-bearing account. I like the idea of the county collecting instead of paying interest.

    I think the biggest blockade to this is that we think of expenses in terms of monthly or annual cost instead of total purchase price. In exchange for keeping annual property tax bills lower, we pay significantly more for needs and wants over the long haul. It would take some brave elected officials to go against this grain.

  6. J says:

    You are correct, the “need will still exist”. It certainly already does exist.

    By your own admission in your blog you “have been remiss in visiting” both the zoo and the aviary. Had you visited them prior to formulating your opinion, you may have noticed just how badly they have already deteriorated.

    While you may doubt that failure to fund would “result in permanent and irreparable damage to either the zoo or aviary”, the FACT is, it already has, and will continue to do that very thing. It ‘s a great weekend to visit either place to confirm this, and the vote is Tuesday.

    I (almost) completely agree with your stance on fiscal responsibilty and our elected officials. Even if you do not agree with this particular issue, I hope you will continue to focus your efforts on identifying fiscally irresponsible items and identify them on your blog.

  1. October 23, 2008

    […] Like others, I will be voting no on Proposition 2. And I still love the zoo. Hmm… It’s probalby time to signup for another annual memberships again. Posted in Uncategorized. […]

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