Omar M. Campbell: URA deserved vote |

Omar M. Campbell: URA deserved vote

“Hooray for URA” was the headline for the Our View commentary on the City Council’s approval of the urban renewal authority in the Jan. 19 Today.

I spent that day seething about the commentary. What was it that caused that heated reaction? The URA principle in itself is all right. The approach to selling it was deceptive — overdoing “blight” and fudging the size and location of the project area. Funding by so-called “incremental financing” would have been OK, too, if the voters had approved it.

Then it finally hit me. The cause of my discontent was the lack of a public vote. Through oversight, or more probably intent, the makers of the URA statute inserted a provision that a public vote was not necessary for approval, but of course it was an option for the City Council. Council approval alone has been tested in court and upheld, unfortunately. That does not make it legitimate or ethical in any way — being contrary to the democratic principle of no taxation without representation.

It is no wonder that Chamber Resort Association sponsors and the council majority jumped on this opportunity like ducks on a June bug. After all, experience with the Downtown Development Authority and 3-2-1 told them that informed voters did not like end-runs on their treasury. It is disappointing that county commissioners and the Today’s Editorial Board did not take umbrage with the lack of a public vote.

The former had to realize that tax skimming for URA was going to cause a future shortage of revenue and create a need to raise everyone’s taxes to cover the shortfall. Yet all they had to say on URA was that the city should contribute some sales tax money. What a cop-out to the taxpayers under their aegis.

The Pilot & Today’s Editorial Board members have a perfect right to take sides on the URA issue, as they have done several times the past few months. After all, URA means promoting growth and development in the long run, very good for advertising’s bottom line. In these editorial opinions the matter of public voting gets very short shrift, only bare bones mention that they are legal under the statute. Whatever happened to the high standard of fairness and support of public values that a newspaper is supposed to uphold?

The newspaper’s silence on this point indicates that the means justifies the end, as it does to the Chamber Resort Association and to the council majority. Imposing a tax on all property owners in Routt County, without their consent, is OK by them, as long as the URA is in place.

A neat coup and fait accompli for the council majority and its sidekick, the chamber. It is hoped that the voters will remember these four councilpersons at this fall’s election, should they choose to run again.

Omar M. Campbell

Steamboat Springs

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