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Our Opinion: Out in the open

Record-Courier editorial

Carson Valley businessman Dave Williams probably did the proponents of the open space tax increae a favor by indirectly labeling Jacques Etchegoyhen and Ame Hellman socialists.

He helped define an underlying issue in the debate over whether taxpayers should cough up an extra quarter of a cent to buy conservation easements, thus paying land owners not to develop their property.

An undercurrent has been how much Etchegoyhen and Hellman – as chairs of the county commission and planning commission – are influenced in their decision making by the land conservation groups they work for.

By “outing” them, so to speak, Williams is giving Etchegoyhen and Hellman an opportunity to defend themselves from allegations that they are in too deep with the American Land Conservancy and The Nature Conservancy to be impartial.

Neither Etchegoyhen nor Hellman has made a secret of their slow growth stance. Both have sought and received Nevada Ethics Commission clearance to participate as public officials as long as they make full disclosure on issues that involve their employers.

The county commission and planning commission have long histories of members who brought real or perceived conflicts to the table. We’ve had ranchers, lawyers, dentists, real estate agents, chiropractors, men and women from various businesses, sales people, gravel pit operators, retirees, cops and golf club managers. Now we have two people who are advocates for land conservation.

Williams claims their influence extends to setting the agenda, cutting off discussion at the meetings and making life tough for those who come before them. That’s true, but his assumption discounts the presence of four other people on the county commission and six on the planning commission who are not about to check their opinions and responsibilities at the door in deference to the chairs of their boards.

Williams has given Etchegoyhen and Hellman a venue to debunk the conspiracy theory that Douglas County residents are about to stand by and let their community fall prey to a “socialist movement.”

They should take advantage of the opportunity.