Letter to the editor: Educate yourself

To the editor:

Anyone interested in the upcoming sales tax referendum should take the time to do their own research and learn the real stories behind the issue. The real story of the upcoming sales-tax referendum is different from what we’re hearing on social media and on the street.

Groups such as Citizens Against Jail Expansion have cast it as a jail-or-no-jail issue; their energetic campaign implores us to take a stand against jail expansion and argues that the county should instead concentrate on “alternatives to incarceration.”

All reasonable people oppose mass incarceration. But that’s not the issue at stake here. As population expands and state and national support for community services disappears, the county is more and more left to its own devices. The half-cent sales tax increase would fund not only necessary jail improvements but also “build an integrated system of care that moves from crisis and illness as a norm to recovery and prevention as a practice,” as the Douglas County website explains. The county is striving ultimately for the same goals as anti-jail activists.

What’s more, if the sales-tax increase is voted down — which seems likely, given the simple message available to its opponents — the county must fund jail expansion and mental health services with the “discretionary funding” that many local organizations rely on. Vote down the sales-tax increase and your favorite museums, arts centers and other cultural institutions will likely have to drastically scale back their operations or even shutter.

Douglas County is growing, and with growth comes new challenges in providing the best services for residents. We need to face these challenges with our hearts but also clear eyes and minds. Take time to learn the truth about the referendum and vote responsibly.