Committee responsible for postcards links school bond and growth ordinance
October 22, 2008
A political action committee with ties to both educators and developers is claiming responsibility for a postcard that was mailed to Douglas County residents over the weekend, urging voters to vote no on ballot Question 1, the growth management ordinance, and yes on ballot Question 2, the school continuation bond.
On Tuesday, Rudy McTee, chairman of the Coalition for Smart Growth, said his organization donated $5,000 to the Committee to Save Douglas’ Schools, which spent the money on the postcards.
“We’re supporting the schools, but we are also against Question 1,” McTee said.
Douglas County School District Superintendent Carol Lark said the committee has no connection to the school district or the Keep Improving Douglas Schools committee, which spearheaded the bond initiative.
“I’d never even heard of the group until I received their postcard in the mail,” Lark said.
Save Douglas’ Schools recently filed as a political action committee with the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office. The phone number listed for the filing belongs to Kit Carson Development, a local construction company whose project manager Pete Coates has been a vocal opponent of the growth management ordinance.
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Coates, who is president of the Douglas County Building Industry Association, said he is not a member of the committee. He said his wife, Lake Tahoe teacher Catherine Cook, is. He said the Kit Carson office was listed for the committee so people could get in touch with his wife.
“The main people of the committee are myself, Brent Eddy, Shannon Davis and Paige Spires,” Cook said in a phone interview on Monday.
Cook said committee members believe the two ballot questions are linked.
“Without the school bond, the schools will deteriorate rapidly,” Cook said. “And if you reduce the number of residential permits allowed, it essentially puts a cap on the tax dollars that can be used not just by the school district but by other county agencies.”
Cook said her committee is not connected to the Keep Improving Douglas Schools committee.
“We are entirely separate entities, but the issues are correlated and seem to go hand-in-hand,” she said.
Cheryl Blomstrom, chair of the KIDS committee, said her group had been approached by Save Douglas’ Schools about a joint campaign, but that the KIDS committee had rejected the proposal.
“[The growth ordinance and the school bond] are two separate issues,” she said. “The postcard made it look like we’re working together, but we’re not.”
Question 1 is an advisory question asking voters to either approve or reject the Growth Management and Building Permit Allocation Ordinance, which was passed by county commissioners in 2007. The ordinance limits residential growth to 2 percent, compounded annually, and follows a schedule of permit allocations.
If voters reject the ordinance, county commissioners could repeal it.
Question 2 is the school district’s continuation bond, which, if passed by voters, would continue the district’s 10-cent property tax rate that is only guaranteed by having outstanding bond payments.
When the district’s existing bonds expire in 2011, they will lose that debt service rate and the governmental service tax that comes with it, revenue the district uses to fund capital improvement projects, large-scale construction projects costing more than $100,000.
The district’s capital improvement fund also receives revenue from a residential construction tax.
On their postcard, the Committee to Save Douglas’ Schools quoted a Record-Courier article in which district Chief Financial Officer Holly Luna said that the residential tax fund had decreased by 80 percent since the housing slowdown.
“Arbitrarily slowing residential growth unnecessarily forces our schools into this desperate financial situation,” the committee stated on their postcard.
John Garvin with the Sustainable Growth Committee called the mailing a “disingenuous attempt to bamboozle the voters into thinking that there is a negative link between the two measures.”
“Given the current state of our economy, there is no relationship between the two measures,” Garvin said. “This shows that the Coalition for Smart Growth is attempting to hijack the school bond measure to serve their agenda of reinstating their goal of uncontrolled residential growth in this county.
“We would be more respectful of their position if they would use the direct approach of openly stating what they think rather than employing the subterfuge of using the school bond measure to hide their involvement.”
But McTee said there was nothing deceptive about the postcard or the position of the Coalition for Smart Growth.
“We’re not hijacking anything. We’re being upfront,” he said. “We’re in favor of the continuation bond, and we’re against Question 1.”
” Scott Neuffer can be reached at email@example.com or 782-5121, ext. 217.