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Damascus needs 50 percent turnout in election

Endorsement


It would be difficult — no, it would be impossible — to sum up in one word what needs to happen in Damascus to bring peace to this embattled community.

But there is one thing that each registered voter in the town can do to at least nudge the community in the right direction: vote.

Ballots have arrived in the mail for the May 20 election. On that ballot, Damascus voters are asked to choose between three versions of a state mandated comprehensive land-use plan.

It’s not a sexy issue; certainly not the topic that inspires a significant voter turnout.

But most people probably don’t understand that the passage of a comp plan must achieve a double majority during this primary election. That means that for any one comp plan to win, it will need a simple majority of yes votes, and 50 percent turnout of registered voters.

In simple numbers, Damascus has 6,880 registered voters. At least 3,441 (50 percent plus one) voters must vote in the election. And then for any one comp plan to emerge victorious, it will require a simple majority of yes votes.

That’s a tough sell even if there were just one comp plan on the ballot. But then dividing the electorate in three directions only reduces the odds of emerging from this election with an approved comp plan.

The moral of that story is this: All three comp plans will fail if voter turnout falls below 50 percent. And then there will be another six months of comp-plan bickering before the November general election.

To any Damascus resident who has not yet returned their ballot, your vote matters. Failure to vote is the same as a no vote. Please do not let the future of your community hinge on your decision to sit this one out.

Assuming Damascus is able to muster the 50 percent minimum of registered voters, we strongly encourage a yes vote on Measure 3-441, the so-called “Citizens Plan of 2013.” Of the three versions of the comp plan on the ballot, this plan holds the most promise of moving Damascus forward in the months and years ahead.

The other two versions tend toward extremes, either heavily emphasizing environmental protections that place too heavy a limit on development; or too heavy an emphasis on development, shrugging off the interests of environmental sustainability.

Like most things in life, the wise answer is usually found somewhere between competing extremes. Such is the case with the trio of comp plans on the May 20 ballot.

Measure 3-441 is that compromise plan. It offers a middle ground between development and environmental sustainability.

Measure 3-441 was the plan that resulted from community polling and testimony. It was the subject of dozens of public meetings and hearings.

The other two plans have had none of that citizen involvement; just that of a few people with specific agendas aimed at selfish interests.

Ultimately, Measure 3-441 was the version killed by competing agendas on the City Council.

Measure 3-441 was the only plan of the three that has been monitored by the state Department of Land Conservation and Development. It’s likely that the other two plans would require far more time, energy and revision than the “citizens plan.”

Approval of Measure 3-441 would lead to the reinstatement of state dollars that are being withheld as punishment for the failure of Damascus to approve a comp plan.

We strongly encourage no votes on the extreme plans in favor of the compromise plan, Measure 3-441. And remember, all three are doomed to fail unless 50 percent of registered voters cast their ballots.