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For the week of Nov. 10, 1999 through Nov. 16, 1999

Bond falls victim to valley’s split personality

Express Staff Writer

It was a tough defeat for the tenacious Mary Austin Crofts, Blaine County’s veteran recreation district director. The $11.8 recreation bond on the Nov. 2 ballot, her day and night obsession for the past few months, was shot down by voters by about a dozen points.

No one said it was going to be easy. But a dozen points short after platoons of volunteers knocked on doors up and down the valley? A major defeat after fund-raising and spending upwards of $10,000 on polling, pamphlets and attendant campaign bills?

It’s hard to swallow. Even a fishing respite in Montana last weekend didn’t much help Crofts.

"I thought about it while fishing," she said. "It’s something I really do care about. I was most disappointed for our youth."

There was no doubt it was going to be a hard sell. The valley’s split personality saw to that. What plays in Ketchum doesn’t necessarily resonate in Bellevue, as Kevin Wiser’s story on this page underscores.

This was one of the dilemmas rec bond supporters were expected to confront Tuesday afternoon during a post-election brainstorming session at the district’s office in Hailey.

Another part of the equation, Crofts said, was that even after mounting a major information effort, not enough voters were knowledgeable on the bond’s nuts and bolts. Worse, she added, was a possible disinformation effort by opponents.

In Congress, a bill constructed like the bond measure—packaged with pools, a gym, sports fields—is seen as a "Christmas tree" measure, attempting to garner votes by promising something to everyone. However, "no" voters, particularly in Bellevue and to the south, apparently didn’t see much in it for them expect another property tax hike.

"Each of our communities and cities operate independently," Crofts observed. "It is a spirit of independence that we try to overcome."

Further exacerbating that perception, she suggested, was that residents south of Hailey wanted rec projects "right there in their backyard."

Learning from this defeat could lead to a streamlined bond measure. But can it fly anytime soon? Blaine County School District officials, too, are pushing for a bond measure, as soon as next year.

"You take your turn," Crofts said philosophically. "We had our turn."


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Copyright 1999 Express Publishing Inc. All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited.