MAC should try levy again in the spring
Now that the dust has settled on the election season, let's take a look back on the lone issue local residents faced -- the MAC operating levy.
A look at the precinct breakdowns paints, on the surface, a gloomy picture for MAC supporters. The levy failed in every precinct but one, Warm Springs -- which, good for them, may be the most "yes voting-est" precinct in the state.
But a deeper view can provide more positive take-aways for MAC Recreation District officials -- especially as they ponder on whether or not to take another shot at a larger operating levy in the spring.
This fall's pool operation levy -- which requested an additional 40 cents per $1,000 over its existing 25 cents -- was ambitious. When it was announced, it immediately caught some significant blowback, from longtime pool dissidents, of course, but also from people who had backed the MAC in the past but thought this request was too high.
But, the pool effort seemed to catch momentum during the campaign. Had a vote been taken right when the levy amount was announced, I think it would have struggled to earn 35 percent backing, instead of the 46 percent it eventually won. Sure, it lost by a firm 8 percent, 2,431 to 2,074, 357 votes. But, a "half-full" pool-backer might view it this way: if 179 of those no voters could have been convinced to back the MAC, the levy would have passed.
The pool officials need to figure out a way to sway those 179, and I'm sure they are.
For starters, that 179 may shrink. A spring vote, in a non-general election, will draw fewer voters. That's nearly always good news for any tax question as a higher percentage of those who do participate are usually more highly motivated voters -- and higher motivated voters are usually proponents of tax issues.
If the MAC Recreation District does go back to voters this spring, what also needs to be trumpeted is the fact that the hospital's operating levy (about 25 cents per $1,000) will soon be removed from the local tax burden with the St. Charles takeover. Voters need to be urged to roll that "community health" component into their pool thinking.
Plus, the recreation element of the MAC will have another successful year of basketball under its wings and hopefully an aggressive schedule of spring/summer offerings to promote come vote time. That can lure more yes votes.
Also, it might help the MAC's chances to carve the total levy amount requested. Often, a little rollback on the ask helps draw a few more yes votes a second time around. If nothing else, it's an acknowledgement that voters rejected a first request and coming back with the same amount can come across as bull-headed and unresponsive.
Another big factor in the potential success of a pool operating funding measure is if the county decides to put forth a jail operating levy this upcoming spring. They are set through June 2013, but could look to run their next multi-year levy effort in the spring, to give them a chance at coming back to the voters a few times if votes fail.
If a jail operating levy is on the ballot with the pool operating levy, the pool levy's chances will be substantially worsened, to say the least. Sheriff Jim Adkins' comments about the MAC levy impacting the jail operation through compression was probably the most powerful element toward pushing fence-sitters to vote no on the pool levy this fall.
But, MAC officials have no control over the county on this, so they might as well focus on what they can control, and build upon that momentum from this fall.
Seems to me that more and more people are coming to realize that the MAC is a vital component of life here in the Madras area, vastly important to our children, and beneficial to the health of users of every age, to our economy and our future. Its recreation element is growingly popular and inclusive for wide range of people. Finding a way to keep the district financially sustainable is imperative to our community's future.
Hopefully, MAC officials can let the bruises of the fall heal, take some notes, and come back again this spring.