By KEVIN WISER
Express Staff Writer
For the second time this year, Blaine County voters rejected a bond
measure that would have triggered a property tax increase.
In both the Save Our Open Spaces election last May and last weeks
vote on the Community Recreation Bond, the resultsoverwhelming defeatspointed
to deep divisions between the north and south areas of Blaine County.
Both campaigns served to underscore how difficult it is to gain a
required two-thirds majority in an area so diverse: a vast county accented by an
agricultural lifestyle of the south contrasted with the tourist-driven economy of the
"We all knew a super majority would be difficult to achieve,"
Blaine County Recreation District director Mary Austin Crofts said in an interview.
"We have a very diverse communitypeople want different things."
Support for both measures dropped dramatically south of Hailey,
revealing what Sun Valley Mayor Tom Praggastis called "an economic divide."
"The north county has the affluence that enables it to pay and the
south county doesnt," he said.
If approved, the $11.85 million bond issue would have funded
construction of three major projects located in the northern half of the county and lesser
projects in the south.
Praggastis said the perception of south county residents was that the
bond measure was too expensive.
"Its not so much the fact that the north would get more out
of the bond, but that the bond would result in the added burden of another tax," he
Crofts said lack of support in the south county was a matter of values
and economic priorities.
"In the south, people are struggling to keep their ranches and
farms and dont want new taxes," Crofts said. "It comes down to a hierarchy
of valuepeople in the south are more concerned with their livelihood than
Crofts point was dramatized by the fact that in the
Gannett-Picabo district, 86 percent voted against the rec bond, while 93 percent rejected
the measure in Carey.
According to Crofts, misconceptions surrounding the measure may also
have influenced the vote south of Hailey.
"They very definitely got the wrong message," Crofts said.
"They thought we were going to come in there and build something without their
involvement." However, Crofts added, "our intention was to give something back
to those communities and involve them in deciding what would be best for them."
In Bellevue, the bond issue received a meager 40 percent approval
"It was too much pie in the sky
.the price tag was too big
for the size of the pop we would have here," Bellevue Mayor Steve Fairbrother said.
In the tiny farming community of Yale, located in the southernmost part
of the county, the rec bond was unanimously rejected by seven residents who voted by
Sugar beet farmer Blaine Cook of Yale said the bonds recreation
facilities would be good for the youth of Blaine County, but that he and his neighbors
wouldnt get anything out of it except a tax hike.
Keith Perry, the recreation district board president, noted the strong
support for the bond among north county voters. But when two-thirds approval is mandated,
thats not good enough.
"A countywide super majority (two-thirds approval) is tough
enough," Perry said, "but when you get little support in the south you need over
80 percent in the north" to pass the measure.
As for the future, Perry said the recreation district was considering
putting the measure before voters again.
"Were going to look at the no votes and see what
we can do to get them to support the bond and make another run at it, either in this form
or another form," Perry said in an interview.
"We think its doable, but we wont go forward unless
people who supported the bond are in favor of giving it another try and we can get some
positive feedback from people who voted no."
Throughout the campaign, rec officials stressed the importance of
educating the public about the measure. Crofts said people who didnt learn about the
bond had already made up their minds to vote against a property-tax increase.
"With people who learned about the bond, who came out to the
meetings and participated in the surveys, we were confident we could get a yes
vote," she said.
Crofts said the bonds downfall may have been that people
didnt perceive the measure as a countywide issue, but were only concerned with how
individual facilities would benefit their turf.
"A lot of people in Ketchum and Sun Valley said they wouldnt
support the Community Recreation Center because they didnt want to drive to
Hailey," Crofts said. "And people in Hailey said the same thing about the pool
"I wish we could start thinking of ourselves as one big community,
but the communities of the Wood River Valley are very independent and diverse."