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Community Commentary: Support for the Open Space Initiative

May 26, 2011|By Steve Dicterow

Is it consistent for a fiscal conservative to support raising taxes to buy open space? On the surface, the answer may appear to be no, but on closer analysis, and particularly in this case, the answer is clearly yes for me.

As a fiscal conservative, I prefer taxes be as low as possible, for many reasons beyond the scope of this commentary. However, I do believe that there is a legitimate need for government and taxation to do or pay for things and services that are needed, but would not otherwise be possible, including our armed forces, police and fire departments, the building of roads and highways and the situation at hand.

Additionally, the taxation for the Open Space Initiative provides protections against the concerns I normally have about tax increases.

As discussed in more detail below, these protections include:

•A finite period for the tax.

•A small per-parcel amount.

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•Tax revenue that must be spent only a very specific purpose: the purchase of open space.

•The purchase is from willing sellers (no eminent domain).

•The tax would not be imposed on us; it requires a two-thirds vote of the people.

For me, the only real issue is whether the purchase of open space generally, and this particular open space specifically, is sufficiently meritorious to justify raising additional tax revenue.

I believe the answer is, yes.

One of Laguna's most distinguishing features is the undeveloped open lands in our hills and canyons. This feature helps define our special character and provides aesthetic, recreational and economic benefits. Our open space is a real and tangible reason our property values are stronger than most California coastal cities. There is no question that open space contributes materially to our high quality of life in Laguna.

Building out the hills and canyons might provide marginal fiscal benefits. But in my book it's not worth it. The open space we would be buying is geologically sensitive and difficult on which to build. I see no reason to invite more problems affecting public safety with hillside instability or to erase what little is left of our natural environment. Therefore preserving the city's remaining open space makes good sense to me.

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