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CRRC referendum supporters speak out

Posted: September 13, 2012 5:54 p.m.
Updated: September 14, 2012 5:00 a.m.


The following are the comments made by Tray Dunaway and Helen Crolley during the public forum portion of Tuesday’s Camden City Council meeting.

Tray Dunaway

“If the 1 percent sales tax had passed, I wouldn’t be here, you and I wouldn’t be talking about this…,” is what the mayor told me in a private meeting during his office hours on Thursday, Feb. 23.

This casual comment summed up the entire issue for me: if the penny for progress tax passed, we wouldn’t be having this conversation because funding for a new recreational facility would have been well under way. But it didn’t pass.

When county voters were asked in an election if they wanted to add a penny sales tax to fund a variety of county projects, including a recreational center, there would have been a voter-approved source of revenue to build a recreational facility. But it didn’t pass.

So, here’s my take on this entire issue in one sentence: Because the penny for progress tax failed to pass, the hoped for “recreational center” morphed into a “sports complex” to create justification for a greatly heralded sports tourism destination which would allow (a) hospitality tax, designated to support tourism, to fund the newly termed sports complex. Because the hospitality tax passed council, but without a citizen vote.

The reason this council resists the courtesy of open debate on the merits and logic of your decisions are known to you. However, the trite rationalizations you’ve publicly stated to date, alone -- are reason enough for me to personally oppose this largest-ever-single-city of Camden elective expense.

But I’m not here to rehash questions that have been asked, and asked, and remain unanswered from the city. I’m here to suggest a way to move forward and eliminate lawsuits. Both the Farber lawsuit that has challenged the legality of using hospitality tax(es) for a Camden recreational facility and the most recent lawsuit that has been filed by this city against the CRRC to challenge the people’s petition signed by (more than) 1,700 registered Camden voters. A lawsuit, in essence, the city has filed against her own citizens.

Here’s my suggestion: use hospitality tax revenue for projects that don’t need to be argued as legitimate. That eliminates your need to create twaddle pretexts for the use of the hospitality tax in an election year where citizens are paying even more attention to your words.

This choice would eliminate both lawsuits and, technically, even the need for a referendum.

Put a penny sales tax on hamburgers or anything else sold in the city for the specific purpose of funding a city recreational center. This would allow you to abolish the continued farcical subterfuge of draping a rec center with the charade of “tourism.”

If it helps, drop the hospitality tax from 2 percent to 1 percent or even eliminate it… whatever you see fit to continue to assure citizens no taxes have been raised during the current election cycle.

Just level with us.

If the city wants to fund a recreational facility, put it to a direct vote. I understand the city passed the Penny for Progress tax at 64 percent, but it failed countywide. Perhaps you’ll still have that margin for a recreational center. But don’t play games with voters and masquerade political shenanigans through the siphoning of a hospitality tax that could really help to grow local businesses and give jobs to our citizens through real tourism growth.

Helen Crolley

Thank you for allowing me my rights as a citizen to speak in this public forum.

According to the referendum that was signed by 1,700 registered Camden voters to stop the currently proposed Option 1 sports complex, the vote to permanently stop construction would be to vote “yes.”

However, according to the ordinance that has been passed by this council concerning the Option 1 sports complex, if voters want to continue with construction, this would also require a “yes” vote.

Recently I’ve seen signed encouraging a “yes” vote, but a “yes” vote for or against what? Which question?

So I have a few questions for you…

I know you’re not supposed to response to these questions and I don’t really expect a response, but I want you to understand these are not rhetorical questions. These are questions that I, and I think a lot of your voters, would like answered as soon as possible. But I don’t want to put you on the spot by forcing you to think too hard tonight to answer them. I hope after you have time to review the questions and thoughtfully reflect on the answers, you might be able to answer them publically at your next meeting.

Because the city now has filed a lawsuit against CRRC and the 1,700 petition signers to discard the petition that was submitted (in) January, will this prevent the petition question from being on the ballot on Nov. 6?

Will there be two questions on the ballot concerning the recreational center?

If both of the questions require a “yes” vote, doesn’t this create a lot of voter confusion?

It sure confuses me.

If the lawsuit the city has brought against its own petitioning voters from eight months ago isn’t resolved before the election date, what happens?

But here’s a question I hope (City Attorney Charles) Cushman, being a lawyer and all that, perhaps could answer at some point:

When is the deadline for knowing exactly what wording will be in place on the ballot on Nov. 6 so people will know how they may choose to vote?

Thank you for allowing me this public forum time to ask these questions. I hope you are able to answer them.



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