Ron Stewart fiddling while BoCo burning

This week’s glaring headlines in the Times-Call say it all…

“64M allotted to buy open space”…”BoCo mulls $30M open space purchase.”

Czar Ron Stewart has crossed into the twilight zone of insanity by his obsession to buy more and more open space at county taxpayers’ expense.

Enough is enough really doesn’t describe the level of outrage from Longmonters toward this kind of fiscal irresponsibility and mounting debt by Boulder County. Stewart and the county commissioners seem to think they have carte blanche with public money for endless open space purchases based on the slim passage of the latest open space sales tax ballot issue last fall.

The November 2010 open space sales tax increase vote in Boulder County warrants a closer analysis. The issue only passed by a thousand votes out of more than 120,000 votes cast. Nearly 60,000 county voters were opposed. Longmont precincts were solidly against the new open space tax by more than 10,000 votes. Curiously, the ballot issue trailed by a margin of 1 to 2% throughout the entire election night, then a surge of positive votes the following morning from somewhere in Boulder pushed it over the top.

For the record, purchases in the city of Boulder are now assessed SEVEN open space sales taxes (4 county, 3 city) totaling 1.48%. In Longmont, there are five open space sales taxes in effect (4 county, 1 city) totaling 0.80%. That’s more than we pay for our vitally important street maintenance sales tax at 0.75%. What’s more critical, providing good local streets or having open fields for prairie dogs?

Perhaps the greatest atrocity of all regarding Boulder County open space funding is the fact that roughly $23 million taken in annually from the four county open space sales taxes isn’t enough for the commissioners. Each year they budget millions more from the GENERAL FUND ($12.6 million in 2011) for open space expenditures. Just recently they agreed to take $400,000 from the general fund to help pay for a conservation easement (Schlagel property) in Weld County.

So we have BoCo Human Services underfunded and struggling to meet demand–even having to close the Louisville office last summer–yet open space is taking $12.6 million from the general fund. Simply outrageous.

I’ve always said that I have no problem with a modest open space sales tax if it’s used for trails, greenways and select nature areas near urban borders. I regularly use places like Golden Ponds, Lake McIntosh and the St. Vrain Greenway myself.

But I have also opined for more than a decade that the all-out land grab of the Boulder County open space program is the biggest racket ever perpetrated on county taxpayers, especially Longmonters, by radical Boulder environmentalists.

When the day arrives that Boulder County is forced to make painstaking budget cuts to essential services, possibly even defaulting into bankruptcy, you can thank Mr. Ron Stewart and the present county commissioners. No other persons will have done more to destroy the economic and social well-being of the county due to their ongoing obsession with open space.

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