Contested Board Decisions Deserve Benefit of Understanding



A popular internet trend is to put up side-by-side photos with the captions “how it started” and “how it’s going” to contrast changes over time. How it’s used depends on the social media platform.


On Instagram, it often is a progression of personal growth like weight loss while someone on Facebook may use it in the context of accomplishing something professionally such as from the cubicle to the corner office.


On Twitter, however, it’s almost exclusively used by digging up old tweets from a political opponent that contradict a take on a recent issue from that same opponent, not for personal or professional achievement, but to tear down someone else.


Twitter users’ goal is to twist an otherwise happy internet trend into questioning credibility, decrying hypocrisy and implicitly claiming superiority. When I scroll my feed and see that approach, I wonder how exhausting it must feel to be outraged by such a universal flaw of human inconsistency. I can’t imagine seeing the world through a lens of always looking for the bad.


Over the last week of columns and in a Facebook post update following the conclusion of Tuesday’s BOCC meeting, though, I feel that I slipped into the very thing I never wanted to become. The Concurrent is meant to be a thought-provoking editorial outlet to keep people informed about the county’s current affairs for free while also giving them a new perspective to broaden the depth of their critical thought on complex local issues.

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Complicated issues tend to draw a contested vote from the board, meaning not a 5-0 unanimous decision. In nearly 10 total hours of meetings over Monday and Tuesday, the BOCC had a contested vote just twice.


The first came on a motion from Commissioner Ruthie Schlabach who proposed a stormwater municipal services benefit unit (MSBU) be applied to all organizations including nonprofits and churches. The stormwater MSBU is essentially a tax, one that will cost most residents $58.84 annually, but these types of fees typically come with exemptions. For example, the MSBU for fire services is not charged to nonprofits or churches.


Commissioner Kinnard argued against Commissioner Schlabach’s motion saying that these organizations are comprised of people already paying the tax, and on top of that, for consistency it should be kept the same. Commissioner Kinnard was articulate and compelling.


Commissioner Schlabach stuck by her initial motion, which failed 1-4, then joined Commissioner Kinnard’s motion to include the nonprofit exemptions passing it 5-0. This means businesses and residents will get notice of the fee increase with how much it will cost them and the final vote will be at a later meeting.


The second contested vote was over allocating up to $3 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds, one of the COVID stimulus packages, to cap residents' costs of septic-to-sewer projects at $6,000. This is the one that sent me spiraling into the outrage outlet I hope to never let the Concurrent become.


Commissioners Kitchen and Carnahan argued against the allocation citing that it is one-time money and residents prior to the federal stimulus had to pay full freight of connecting to sewer as will residents after the $3 million is used. In fairness, they argued, no one should get the subsidy. Regardless, the motion passed 3-2.


Here is where I failed in my Facebook post about this topic. I wrote that Commissioner Kinnard, who voted in favor, is building a house in one of the neighborhoods that will benefit, as corroborated by the Chronicle. I also wrote that Chamber CEO Josh Wooten, who will also personally benefit and was a vocal supporter of the other two commissioners who voted in favor, spoke in support of the allocation at the meeting. My failure was not in the factual reporting but in the implication of impropriety.


Honestly, I don’t know. Commissioner Schlabach’s defense of her vote in favor was that the county had just chosen winners and losers by providing MSBU exemptions to nonprofits, a false equivalency that Commissioner Kitchen called “apples to oranges,” so I haven’t heard a strong argument for the allocation.


What I do know is that I don’t want to contextualize the news through the sensational or by constantly stoking the outrage. I also know I haven’t done a good job of that this week. Human inconsistency is a shared flaw, one I hope you’ll forgive me of, and why I’m willing to look at this recent board decision with the goal of understanding rather than implying.