Some Joseph city officials should be excused if they happen to convey more than a little frustration lately over the latest setback in repairing Joseph’s horrible streets. Voters’ resounding rejection May 19 of two measures that would have addressed at least a reasonable chunk of an ever-growing backlog of needed work means the problem will now only worsen before it’s relieved.

To be fair, most voters were mainly skittish over a provision that would have plugged property taxes into any hole that might have developed in the primary source for bond repayment: a charge of $11 included in monthly utility bills. The provision required its own ballot measure (hence the presence of two measures pertaining to streets May 19 and not just one), and its margin of failure was far wider than that befalling its companion, the street bond itself.

People who’ve been rooting for the streets can only feel disheartened, though, when they compare results from the November 2014 election to what occurred last month. Last fall, presented a bond proposal of more than $2.5 million, Joseph voters indeed rejected it, but only by about 56-44 percent, following only a minimal effort by city leaders to see it passed. The measure had even carried a hefty property tax hike!

In May, voters regarded a project significantly trimmed — to around $1.3 million. They swatted it down more forcefully, 58-42, despite leaders’ more concerted promotion effort this time.

That’s not progress, it’s lost ground

In retrospect, perhaps Joseph’s mayor and the council majority supporting the plan should have waged a dual campaign: one striving for the project’s actual victory through passage of both the needed measures; the other seeking something less, a mere moral victory in approving the bonding measure alone.

The latter campaign could have represented a ready fall-back position. Although it would both anticipate and concede the whole project’s defeat in this go-round (because bond approval is useless without the property tax collateral), it could have encouraged voters to affirm the project concept nonetheless in a non-binding way. That fall-back campaign’s message could have been: “Defeat the property tax provision and current project if you must, but please vote yes on the bond anyway just to signal that you agree we need to fix our streets.”

By now that’s all by the boards, though, and what’s most lacking at this moment is any clear sense of public “buy-in” to anything at all. A year and a half after Joseph government began holding special sessions for public input, and to further develop ideas with hope of eventually reaching public consensus on a plan for Joseph streets, such consensus appears more elusive than ever. The volunteers in Joseph government have been working hard on this thing for nearly two years, but much of the public “input” they’re likely to receive on streets today will be brickbats, not constructive remarks targeting practical solutions.

Maybe what Joseph’s council should do now is fold its arms and flatly declare there will be no fix of the streets because, frankly, there’s just no way.

Then, perhaps, the public will rise up to prove the government wrong. Something like this is already happening in the Enterprise Cemetery District, where a grassroots group has taken charge of getting water to the grass, but that’s the subject for another editorial. –RCR

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