Homework: Kids Voting September 15, 2008
Last spring, Referendum A was unveiled to the residents of Fruita, proposing the construction of a $12 million recreation facility between Coulson and Cherry streets. The building would have housed a fitness facility, a senior center, an indoor pool, an expanded library and a new gymnasium. A ballot measure on the construction of such a facility proposed an increase of Fruita’s sales-and-use tax by 1 cent on the dollar. When the election came in early April, the referendum was defeated, as the voters split down the middle: 1,262 for and 1,262 against. A tie on such a measure causes the ballot issue to fail.
The issue is back on the Nov. 4 general election ballot.
To half the town, the need for a new recreation center is pressing. “It would create more room for more kids to get involved,” said Lou Mudd, a Fruita resident who has raised two children in the town. Mudd wants to see the library grow substantially, and he believes the construction of a new facility would lead to this. A single vote could have turned the tide in favor of the new project.
“Every citizen of the United States has an obligation to vote,” said Fruita City Council Member Lori Buck. “People fought and died for that right.” Buck believes that many residents did not vote because they thought Referendum A would pass without their voice. “People assumed it would just happen,” said Buck.
To the other half of the town, the construction of a Fruita Recreation Center would harm the community.
“The sales tax would be a horrible hardship on seniors,” said Myron Howitt, a member of the Lower Valley Seniors, a group campaigning against the center. Howitt and like-minded Fruita residents worry that the tax increase would impact fixed income seniors in a world where “the elderly can either choose to eat or take their medication.” The group also believes the recreation would harm local businesses. “It would kill an already strapped business district,” said Howitt. “We can’t afford to build a Taj Mahal for a few hundred people.”
The week prior to the election tensions were thickened when misinformation was spread anonymously around town warning residents that the facility would increase property taxes by nearly 33 percent, when in reality the referendum called for an increase in sales-and-use tax. “I think the property tax issue scared people,” said Buck, “It was a powerful tactic.”
The Fruita Recreation Center issue should quell the internal dilemmas of those who feel their vote counts for nothing. A single vote could have made all the difference last April. Even on a national scale, the presidential election of 2000 came down to just hundreds of votes. Had more Florida residents expressed their opinions, the last eight years might have been different politically.
Kole Bridge is a senior at Fruita Monument High School and is the editor of the student newspaper, The Catalyst. He is reporting on election issues for The Daily Sentinel in conjunction with Kids Voting of Mesa County.