Editorial: open space issue seems to be uphill battle
If Thursday night’s county commission meeting is any indication, proponents of the Carson Valley open space initiative have their work cut out for them.
Commissioners – only too aware of the mercurial nature of public opinion – appear to be inclined to ask voters if they are willing to pay more taxes to protect undeveloped land in the Carson Valley.
The Valley’s ranchers are divided over the issue, with some suggesting that they shouldn’t be required to pay to preserve land they already own, let alone ask others.
A preservation program may be eligible for money from outside grants and private foundations, but those dollars have a way of drying up. People who run national programs do not look kindly on communities where residents won’t ante up some of their own money.
Commissioners made it clear that while they are leaning toward putting the questions on the ballot for voters to decide, that doesn’t indicate overwhelming support from the board.
Only Commission Chairman Jacques Etchgoyhen, who manages the historic Mack Ranch, has been a strong supporter of the effort. He is part of a semi-private group of business, county and ranching community members that meets regularly to consider a ballot question.
Proponents of open space preservation held an exhaustive series of workshops to measure public opinion and educate residents about the importance of saving the Valley’s green space. Surveys show that 74 percent of respondents were willing to pay for the preservation, but only 160 people in a county with 26,000 registered voters filled out the questionnaires. That leaves a lot of people to be convinced.
The issue is back before county commissioners on March 16.