Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Cost Debate and Campaign Rhetoric

There has been significant debate during the referendum discussion, over the claims regarding infrastructure costs. Included in the Boring/Damascus Concept Plan, were estimates for infrastructure costs at total build-out that ranged from $1-4 billion. The current argument by the opponents of the referendum is that Council did not opt for that plan and subsequently developed a new one so those numbers are no longer applicable. While it is true that the new Comprehensive Plan is inclusive to Damascus, keep in mind those earlier numbers were developed against estimated costs based on 2003 dollars. Thus, knowing that the cost of petroleum based products for roads has risen, changes in prevailing wage laws, the falling value of the dollar, and cost escalations on just about everything else related to infrastructure development, you could reasonably estimate that actual costs could certainly fall within that range if not possibly higher.

It is difficult to use alignment with one group or another as any judge whether negative or positive. It’s widely known of the Mayors alignment with one of the “sides” here in Damascus, as it is of at least four of the members of the current council have also publicly aligned with the other “side”. So we would prefer to take alignment with one side or the other, at least for this election, off-the-table as a yardstick of accuracy or credibility. We feel it would be beneficial to have all members of the City Council; the Mayor included, refrain from ‘taking sides’ on future issues, or limit their activities to placing their own individual or group statements in the voter’s pamphlet. But for this election, unfortunately that horse is already out of the barn.

In any given election, one side will just about always say that the other side’s information is misleading, lies, or worse. The members of one “side” obviously feel that property rights are not well enough protected in the current version of the Comprehensive Plan, while others feel they are. Disagreement with another person’s opinion does not make the other person wrong, or mean that they are necessarily lying.

Possible methods for financing early development could be General Obligation, or Revenue bonds. These are bonds that would be issued by the city and would obligate the city to pay the buyers of those bonds back, with interest over time. While not technically called a ‘mortgage’, they do obligate the citizens, through the city, to pay back these funds, and one way to illustrate that concept in a way that most people will recognize, is to refer to them as a ‘mortgage’. We are not saying this is wise or the best term that could be used, but campaigns do this very regularly, from all sides of the political spectrum. Issues are displayed in a way that the campaign hopes will make them resonate with voters.

One poster here made the comment that the other side is looking for an emotional vote. It is likely that a more accurate term to use would be that the proponents of the referendum are looking for a sympathetic vote. Frankly, that is what campaigns do. Just as when the opponents of the referendum use the phrase, ‘Our Values, Our Plan’. They are trying to portray an inclusive message, and have people identify as being part of the ‘Our’. Plainly, there may be those in Damascus that do not feel that the values in the current plan reflect their values. So for them, the opponents of the referendum are also trying for an ‘emotional’ vote. It doesn’t necessarily mean that side is trying to be misleading, it is simply how election issues are framed and votes are recruited.

It should be noted that we could not find any State law that would force a city to build infrastructure wherever a developer might like it as was referenced in an earlier post that was deleted by the poster. For example, if a property owner on the eastern edge of Damascus went to the city with a plan for development, neither they, nor the State, can force our city to build a sewer line clear across the city to connect with the sewer on 172nd. That is why the master plans and the zone phasing will be done to plan an orderly progression of areas to develop.

We thank all whom have commented and for using this site. We hope the clarifications here will help others understand the process and create a desire to get involved!

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