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Originally published: 2013-04-25 10:29:44
Last modified: 2013-04-25 10:29:43

Our View: High Country no $2 million playground

There has been little high road in the High Country as of late.

Elected officials have a singular focus when it comes to their jobs: to do what they feel is in the best interest of the communities they serve. 

Lately, that focus seems to have become blurred for our county commissioners and Boone Town Council members.

A county's decision to change its sales tax distribution method, whether from per capita to ad valorem, as Watauga County recently enacted, or vice versa, is not one to be made without much consideration. 

The end result of such a decision, as it does in Watauga County, can affect tens of thousands of people -- from the way their public works are funded to the amount of taxes they pay.

And it is certainly not a decision to be made out of motives of revenge, to right perceived past wrongs or because an elected official has a personal stake in the outcome. Such actions will derail every effort by lawmakers to best serve the populations they represent.

Whether or not a change in our county's sales tax distribution is a conversation worth having is a moot point at this late date. Watauga County's action Tuesday pushes that change forward unless a different decision can be reached by April 30.

What is not moot is that this is a conversation that must happen. 

Happily, both commissioners and council members agree on this. 

Not so happily, they have so far failed to agree on the type of conversation to have.

Boone has repeatedly pushed for a mediation agreement behind closed doors. Watauga County has rejected those offers, offering to meet only in public.

We are a proponent of open and transparent government. Government governs best when the public has full knowledge of official actions. But not even this bias makes a meeting between town and county a zero sum game. 

We don't accept the argument that a closed mediated meeting is necessary because of potentially disparaging remarks or mischaracterizations that might be said against the town or town ordinances. In a meeting of this magnitude, that's a risk the town has to take in the interest of good governance.

However, we do realize that during an open meeting there may be legitimate and legal reasons to enter into closed session. And if those reasons should arise, then the meeting should be conducted in full accord of public meeting law.

What must not come to pass is the continual quarreling between these political bodies as if our elected officials are fighting a playground dispute.

With millions of dollars of sales tax distribution at stake, it is up to our political leaders to focus on Job 1 -- crafting an equitable and fair distribution model, and one based solely on the good of the county and its towns. 

Past and present grievances have no place in this consideration.