Summit Daily News editorial: Ballot item 1A essential to our health and safety |

Summit Daily News editorial: Ballot item 1A essential to our health and safety

The Gillian Welch song “Miner’s Refrain” was running through our heads last month as we took a tour inside Summit County’s most polluted mine: “I’m down in a hole, I’m down in a hole/Down in a deep, dark hole.”

It’s a fitting soundtrack for Summit County’s ballot item 1A. Since the economic meltdown of 2007-2008, the county has been in a financial pit and has struggled to fund basic public services.

County officials have handed out pink slips, they’ve cut fat and now they need our help.

If approved, the ballot item authorizes nearly $30 million of spending over eight years for public safety and health initiatives. The ballot language does not specify the amount of annual funding each portion would receive, but county officials estimate the breakdown will go as follows: $1.45 million for updates to Summit’s emergency dispatch system, $1.65 million for ambulance services and about $600,000 for water quality improvements such as toxic mine reclamation and hazardous household waste disposal.

Yes, that’s a lot for voters to wrap their heads around, and perhaps the items should not have been huddled under one confusing ballot umbrella; but take a closer look — these are not luxury items.

Speedy emergency response and clean water are things every Summit County resident or visitor expects. That’s why Summit County taxpayers should get behind Referred Measure 1A and vote yes.

The ballot item, if supported by voters, would result in an annual increase of $19.25 per $100,000 of residential property value for eight years. That’s affordable, considering the overall drop in property values the last several years.

Yes, land values have climbed back up since the housing bubble burst in 2008. However, tax revenue has not returned to pre-Recession levels. That means less money in county coffers to spend on basic services. For those who champion small government, that fact won’t strike up the sound of sad violins.

But for those who support projects to restore habitat and mop up the toxic legacy of mining, the ballot measure is essential. For those who have followed the financial struggles of the Summit County Ambulance Service, 1A is a much-needed shot in the arm. For those who want a top-drawer 911 system designed for the age of the smartphone and social media, the ballot question is easy to like.

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