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Forums scheduled for open space initiative

by Sheila Gardner, Record-Courier editor

Can’t get enough of the open space issue? You will have two opportunities in coming weeks to attend forums on the hotly debated quarter-cent sales tax hike facing voters Nov. 7.

The Business Council of Douglas County is sponsoring a debate Sept. 21 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the commons at Douglas High School.

Business Council executive director Suzanne Rosevold said the organization’s members proposed the debate because the group is divided on the issue of increasing Douglas County’s sales tax by a quarter-cent to preserve Carson Valley’s open space.

If passed, Douglas County’s sales tax would be raised to 7 percent and generate an estimated $1 million per year that could be used to pay property owners not to develop their land.

“Our own membership is split down the middle on this issue,” Rosevold said. “We’ve maintained a neutral position. The issue is really complex and we wanted to hear the pros and cons before we can bring it to our group.”

The moderator of Thursday night’s debate will be Tahoe Justice of the Peace Steve McMorris. Rosevold said McMorris – who is not seeking re-election – sought approval from the Nevada Ethics Commission before he agreed to participate.

Speaking in favor of the tax hike are County Commissioner Jacques Etchegoyhen, Cooperative Extension agent Steve Lewis and Minden attorney Bill Shaw. Taking the opposite side are Business Council member Dave Williams, resident Byron Waite and Carole Thompson, executive director of the Douglas County Building Industry Association, whose members oppose the increase.

Rosevold said because there is no organized effort against the tax increase, the Business Council chose panelists who individually opposed the ballot question.

n Unbiased effort. “It is really important to me, personally, that this is truly an unbiased effort to put all the facts to light,” she said.

Rosevold said she hopes the public will turn out for the event, noting the debate is geared for an early evening, 90-minute format. The audience can ask questions of panelists as time permits.

“We feel it is important as a public service to bring all the aspects of the issues before the voters so they can make an informed decision on this complex issue,” Rosevold said.

Rosevold said Lloyd Higuera will broadcast the debate live on radio station KGVM. In addition Douglas County cable access Channel 26 will videotape the forum for later viewing.

“I just don’t think you can get enough information,” Rosevold said. “It’s a really difficult issue. I think that everyone is for open space. I think it is difficult to divide the issue of just sales tax as a tool. People want to know, ‘Is this money really essential? Will it accomplish what we want it to accomplish?’

“This is a critical point in the future of the quality of life in Douglas County,” Rosevold said. “We all need to participate in making decisions for the future of Douglas County.”

On Sept. 25, a group dedicated to passage of the tax hike is hosting a meeting at the CVIC Hall in Minden from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Suzy Stockdale, a member of the Douglas County Agriculture and Open Space Preservation Committee, said panelists will give a presentation and take questions from the audience.

“Our purpose is to inform the community about the issue so they can make an informed vote,” Stockdale said. “We will be talking about why we think this is the thing to do.”

n One more time. Etchegoyhen, and Lewis will repeat as panelists Sept. 25, joined by accountant Linda Turria.

“Once you are informed on this issue, it’s not hard to understand,” Stockdale said. “This isn’t a subsidy, this is a very fair tax because it is shared with tourism. Forty percent of it is paid by visitors and tourists.”

For information about the Sept. 21 meeting, contact Rosevold at 782-6715. Stockdale can be reached at 782-3678.