Commissioners: All talk, no action

By The Curry Coastal Pilot July 12, 2013 10:17 pm

Round and round and round they go.

The way county commissioners are acting these days is reminiscent of the nightmare that is “The Wizard of Oz,” with poor Dorothy’s friends scrambling about trying to find straw, oil and a heart.

Nothing is getting accomplished in meeting after meeting, except the hashing and mashing of the same old points in an attempt to get a tax levy on the November ballot.

There’s the tax issue itself. Commissioner Susan Brown submitted an idea Wednesday that her colleague David Brock Smith promptly took and tweaked to come up with numbers of his own.

It’s happened before. One comes up with an idea, another either naysays or usurps it, changes it, making all results weaker in the end.

On Wednesday the commissioners heatedly discussed issues such as what taxpayers are willing to pay for, what level of service they want, what has value to them, why those in cities shouldn’t have to pay for sheriff’s patrols since they have police protection of their own, why the cities should chip in more to county public safety services — primarily the jail and district attorney — because they allegedly use more of those services.

Commissioners segued into how much more public input should be taken before anything is drafted. Brown thinks more comments are needed; Smith says the issue’s been vetted, discussed and studied for years.

The blame game heats up: Smith says if Brown had come on board with the first property tax measure — showing a united front — the voters might have approved it. Brown wants more citizen input and a permanent solution.

Round and round.

All the while, Itzen plays the mediator, wearing bright rose-tinted glasses.

“We are very, very close to agreeing,” he has said at various times, even though it appears they’re nowhere close to agreeing on anything. 

“This has been a very spirited discussion,” Itzen said Wednesday. “I urge you to take from this dialogue, think where we are and take from this the opportunity we have.”

“I agree — this has been a very spirited discussion,” Smith said. “But this discussion was very similar to the one we had back in January.”

Indeed.

Should a tax levy be permanent, or provide a bridge to allow commissioners to work on yet another levy when that one sunsets? How many sheriff’s deputies are needed to keep the county safe? Should a transient lodging tax be on the same ballot? What would be the ramifications of more than one question on the same ballot? Should the cities pay more — or less — for county services their citizens use? Even, “Why can’t we all get along?”

 Haven’t we heard this all before? And before that?

And it just doesn’t stop.

Nor does it address some major issues, past, present and imminent: how a tax measure will enable the county to pay back the road department the $950,000 it took to pay for services this year, how quickly they’ll be able to get all involved on board to create a separate district for 911 — and, guaranteed to be more contentious, where a consolidated 911 system will be located.

With all this discussion, one might think they would come to a conclusion — and consensus — and skip hand in hand down the Yellow Brick Road. But that won’t happen until one of them finds a heart, another a brain and the third the spine and just a dash of courage.

The single thing upon which they agree — which all Curry County residents know: There is no more time.

“We have to come up with something and we have to get it right,” Itzen said. “We have one shot before the state comes in. It’s our only alternative.”

Concessions need to be made. They need to listen to each other — and respect what’s being said — and not stand on egos and agendas that stymie the process. It erodes citizens’ trust — the foundation of what’s needed to get anything approved.

The talking is done. 

They need to unite in their search for the Emerald City before the monkeys take flight.