City needs

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Cape Girardeau officials are looking at potential funding sources for park and storm-water projects. Currently under consideration is an additional half-cent sales tax.

The city's parks advisory board has spent a considerable amount of time putting together a list of improvements that would enhance Cape Girardeau's recreational facilities. But including a water park on a needs list may make it difficult to convince voters for a couple of reasons.

First, location. A water park would replace the aging pool at Capaha Park, which is centrally located within biking or walking distance of many neighborhoods in the oldest parts of the city. Backers of a water park have suggested it might be built next to the Osage Community Centre on North Kingshighway or even near the new I-55 interchange between Cape Girardeau and Jackson.

While either of those proposed locations would be convenient for out-of-town visitors, they would be less than suitable for those in the city's core areas who might not have transportation to Kingshighway or I-55.

Second, voters who go to the polls regularly tend to be older, including senior citizens who often regard any tax increase as an unneeded burden. While some city officials say they believe the desire for a facility like a water park is so strong that it will produce a heavy turnout of young parents at the polls, past experience indicates that won't happen.

As for storm-water projects, it's difficult to get excited about drainage systems and culverts -- unless you happen to live, work or run a business in an area that is frequently affected by heavy runoff during rainstorms. The need for these improvements is vital, but "selling" a proposed tax increase to pay for them isn't easy.

Putting together a campaign for such disparate needs will be difficult. Some city officials have said they believe the combined plan would have the most appeal, with those in favor of a water park, those in favor of other park improvements and those in favor of storm-water projects all adding their "yes" votes to the simple majority needed for passage.

But that's a risk that should be considered carefully.

And unless the city intends to add a sunset provision to the tax plan, it should be prepared to offer a reasonable explanation why it isn't needed.

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