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The election returns are in. Proposition 1 was adopted by a vote of 576 to 172. Soon sales tax revenue will be reallocated to “economic development,” and the Board of Directors of the soon-to-be created Economic Development Corporation will advise the Stephenville City Council on how the revenue is to be spent.
Election outcomes impose both rights and responsibilities on winners and losers alike.
Winners have the right to govern, to implement their policy preferences, and to take credit for their successes. But they have the responsibility to accept accountability for their actions.
Losers have the responsibility to accept the election results and to let the winners try to implement their ideas. But they have the right to continue to monitor the winners’ actions and the ensuing results, and to criticize the winners should their policies fail.
So let’s let the City Council and the EDC at least try to do what the voters obviously want them to do, and what Prop 1’s supporters say they’ll do to. We’ve been promised a better business climate and a better quality of life through:
• MORE spending on “economic development” projects, with
• NO tax increases, and
• NO service cuts.
Whether this can be accomplished remains to be seen. But spending increases, tax rates, and service cuts can be measured. We should let the council try, accord it credit if it succeeds, and assign it blame if it fails.
Less easy to measure will be the degree to which Stephenville’s business climate and quality of life will be enhanced, if at all, with the new policy. To assess the long range success of the program we’ll require baselines and projections of how Stephenville would have evolved had Proposition 1 failed, and the wherewithal to measure what Prop 1 produces compared to what otherwise might have happened.
Finally, we should guard against favoritism and conflicts of interest. Here transparency is especially important. We must monitor who gets government aid, and who gives how much in campaign contributions to city council candidates. Last year the local print “newspaper” opined that citizens affiliated with Tarleton, whether as faculty, staff, students, or alumni, should not serve on the city council lest real conflicts of interests arise. Should this principle, which is currently not legally binding, nonetheless be applied to recipients of economic development aid, as well?
The bottom line is that in creating a taxpayer-funded Economic Development Corporation, the citizens of Stephenville are setting a new course for our city. Supporters of Prop 1 say it’ll be successful. Only time will tell. But everyone who wishes Stephenville well, whether supporter or opponent of Prop 1 before the election, owes it our city to give its supporters a fair chance at implementation, with the understanding that the assignment of credit for its success or blame for its failure will follow.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.