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It was no surprise to see a rebuttal to my recent column from my friend Terry Goldman, as I know Mr. Goldman as someone who enjoys rhetorical sparring nearly as much as I do. Unfortunately, this time around, he apparently forgot to employ a fact checker.
Contrary to Mr. Goldman’s assertion, the current referendum, initiative and recall process had absolutely nothing to do with the public vote on Ordinance 529; that vote was initiated by the county council in December 2006, just six months after the same Council selected the first Trinity Place developer, the Boyer company. The vote on Ordinance 529 followed on Jan. 30, 2007, passing by a 7 percent margin. The first Trinity Place deal did not collapse until nearly two years after that vote. The blame for that fiasco rests squarely on the shoulders of the developer and the county — not on any citizen-initiated action.
Moreover, Mr. Goldman’s recollection of the timeframe for Municipal Building site selection glosses over the fact that a citizen committee chosen by the county council initially agreed that rebuilding the municipal building at Ashley Pond was our community’s first and best option. Inexplicably, the council decided to overturn the first committee’s recommendation, and came up with a new site-selection process that guided a second committee into selecting the building’s present location at the expense of more than 100 units of affordable housing. Only then did a citizen’s group decide to initiate the referendum process. That group received enough signatures (about 2,000) to bring the issue to a vote, but that opportunity was later stolen from the citizens on the basis of legal wrangling by a small group of private individuals.
Finally, I do agree with Mr. Goldman that the council’s decision to put the leisure pool question to the voters was peculiar, particularly in an era when the council had freely thrown around expenditures at least an order of magnitude higher than the cost of the leisure pool without batting an eye.
This situation, in particular, underscores my original assertion that the council does sometimes make very poor decisions that are out of touch with the public. This is precisely why we need to preserve the reasonable and readily accessible mechanisms for referendum, recall and initiative available in the current County Charter by voting NO on all four proposed Charter amendments.