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Our View: Election’s over, but hard work is just beginning

Our View
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Most of the votes have been counted. The races have been settled. Concession and congratulatory calls have been made. Campaign signs are down. The 2010 general election is in the books, and it’s time for the winners and losers to settle their differences and get to work on building a better community, state and country. Incumbents Mike Holmes, Bridget Powers and Kevin Hanley return to the Auburn City Council, a symbol that voters are satisfied with the leadership and teamwork they bring to the five-member board. But satisfaction shouldn’t be confused with contentment. With Keith Nesbitt and incoming Mayor Bill Kirby, council members must stay focused on Auburn’s financial ledger as the city weathers an uncertain economy. The council, in conjunction with City Manager Bob Richardson and staff, has done a good job of balancing declining revenues with expenses, but more cost-cutting is likely. Open, transparent conversations with employees and the community about service expectations and spending priorities will be necessary. The council should consider quarterly public forums, outside the regular council meetings, to engage residents in city issues ranging from the budget to the Amgen Tour stage start to oversight of the Auburn State Recreation Area. Proactive communication — and genuine listening — will help residents stay engaged during this challenging time. Over at the Auburn Recreation District, mere conversations won’t be enough to settle the ongoing differences between sitting director Gordon Ainsleigh and the re-elected pair of Scott Holbrook and Curt Smith. A licensed mediator or therapist might need to be called in. The feud, which centers on Ainsleigh’s acute definition of health, turned the election into a sideshow of personalities and lifestyles, when the debate should have revolved around programs, facilities and spending priorities. Now that all three directors will be back in the board room, it’s time to move forward together for the sake of thousands who enjoy ARD parks and services. For Ainsleigh, that means toning down his obsession with clinical health and natural trail surfaces, understanding that people come in all shapes, sizes and lifestyles. For Holbrook, Smith and the other board members, it means listening to Ainsleigh’s concerns and determining when and where such natural trails make sense. Money, not constructive dialogue, seems to be the missing piece at the Auburn Union School District. The district’s five-year, $4 million parcel tax measure to support core education programs failed to garner the needed two-thirds vote in Tuesday’s election. The measure did receive 54 percent approval, which means a majority of local voters are willing to pay at least $59 per year to support kindergarten through eighth-grade students. As district officials mull deeper budget cuts, the 6,000-plus voters who supported the measure should pull out their checkbooks now and write a $59 check to the district or the nonprofit Auburn Education Foundation. Such a gesture would raise more than $350,000 a year for classrooms, and possibly could be leveraged for grants and larger contributions that would bridge the $800,000 budget gap. Step that individual donation up to $100 per year, and the total exceeds $600,000. Realistic? Probably not. But if you’re willing to support schools financially through taxes, you should be willing to do so directly — and get the tax deduction, as well. From Auburn City Hall to the State Capitol, elected leaders must turn campaign talk into action, open their eyes to the votes just cast and their ears to what citizens are saying. And despite what the numbers might indicate, there’s little satisfaction in the status quo.