Voters express deeply varied opinions

April 12, 2012 

There’s never a good time to ask for a tax increase, and this year, for a variety of reasons, seemed to rank among the worst.

However, across Cass County, voters overcame the “no new taxes” temptation. Albeit by a slim margin, the message was delivered to just enough citizens that we really had no valid choice but to pass the half-cent 911 sales tax, for our own sake.

Uncle Sam has mandated radio systems be upgraded, to meet 2013 and 2017 standards, and the cash to do so had to come from somewhere. If not from a countywide sales tax, then it would have to come from the dwindling number of landline users as well as city and fire district governments.

It was a common-sense choice.

In Belton, district patrons recognized the larger class sizes moving their way up to the high school ranks and voted in droves to follow the strategic plan set out nearly 20 years ago to allow for adequate and controlled growth of district facilities.

For the third time, Peculiar fell just short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass its fuel tax to fund road construction and upkeep. But again, voters supported the measure by more than 60 percent. It is up to the community to continue to get the word out about this measure, if only because there seems to be no financial alternative if citizens want adequate road maintenance on an ongoing basis.

Harrisonville’s charter proposition is a much more puzzling situation.

Citizens in both Belton and Raymore have discovered the newfound power vested in them through a charter form of government. They have found that a charter forces the city’s leaders into a much more accountable atmosphere.

Gone are the hazy statutes written long ago that provide only a minimum of direction when it comes to the unique needs of the variety of municipalities they attempt to govern. In their place is a clearly set out game plan, written by citizen-elected charter commissioners and approved by voters citywide.

And only under this system can citizens of Missouri enjoy the right to force an initiative vote and possibly reject a decision of the city council – a scenario that actually played out last year in Raymore.

There are always those that find massive change – especially change recommended by those currently in office – a frightening concept. Citizens should always be wary.

But education based on fact, not rumor, is the only way to form a valid opinion. Certainly, as a newspaper, we failed prior to this election to provide enough education for voters on this issue. It is entirely possible that contributed to the margin of the loss.

But the margin was indicative of much more than that. It also seemed to point to a systemic distrust of Harrisonville government by the small group that chose to vote this week.

For that, we don’t have an immediate answer.

We can only encourage the Harrisonville Board of Aldermen to continue coming back to the voters with a charter proposal, and promise that we, as a newspaper, will no longer assume citizens believe that what has turned out positively for our northern cities will work the same way in Harrisonville. We will provide a much better education for voters on the charter process for future elections.

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