McKibbin’s Scribblin’s: Does Rifle even want a recreation center?
I heard an interesting point in the aftermath of Tuesday’s defeat of the sales tax to help build a recreation center in Rifle: This wasn’t the first time city voters turned down a funding method to build such a center.
Does that send the message that Rifle just doesn’t want such a facility? Or was this last approach just a case of poor timing, with the Rifle economy languishing in the dumps?
I’d like to think it was the latter, and probably the vast majority of the 1,063 people who voted the 0.74 percent sales tax hike down would tell you that was their reason. It was mine.
But I’ve also lived here long enough to know there are folks who don’t like to see Rifle change and grow from the small town they maybe grew up in and loved. That’s their choice and it’s fine. For them.
Back in 1984, an effort to create a Western Garfield County Park and Recreation District, apparently including the towns of Rifle and Silt as a base, failed by a 811-728 vote in Rifle. There were even five district seats created, and they all had several candidates running to serve on the new board.
In 1997, a half-cent sales tax hike for a recreation center was voted down, 217-160.
Now, the 2013 election resulted in a 378-vote defeat of a third attempt to fund, build and operate a recreation center in Rifle.
Rifle voters did approve the one-cent sales tax for parks and recreation and open space use in 2005 and continued it indefinitely in 2006, but that hasn’t generated enough revenue to build a center.
So here we are. This campaign brought out a lot of differences of opinion between backers and opponents, too much of it too personal, in my opinion. A lot of it was presented to the world on the two groups’ Facebook pages, which might leave outsiders with a biased view of Rifle and its residents.
The Rifle No More TAXES group that waged a successful, shoestring budget campaign to defeat the sales tax, also had members monitor the vote-counting process in shifts at Rifle City Hall. That’s the first time I’m aware of anyone taking that step. It seems to show a lack of trust in city government; unwarranted — and sad — if true.
What needs to happen now is for people on both sides to start the healing process and bring this community back together. Maybe one big community hug? Just kidding. Kind of.
But for Rifle to move on and figure out how it wants to proceed, we need everyone involved. The local economy, despite how some recreation center backers tried to portray it, is not healthy for most businesses. There were a few new sprouts of hope just this week — a new Italian restaurant plans to open on Third Street, and there’s a new boutique shop on Railroad Avenue soon to open its doors. So maybe, slowly, we’ll pull out of this down time. We’re all hoping that will be the case.
As far as a recreation center in Rifle, we’ll have to see if and when another proposal comes forward. If it does, I hope it’s something that unites instead of divides the people of Rifle.
Mike McKibbin is the editor of The Citizen Telegram.
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