No, Virginia, there is no transparency in Jeffco

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By Doug Bell

“This is a quarter of a billion dollars in stimulus we can’t pass up,” exalted County Commissioner Kevin McCasky in a story last week. “It’s going to be a great Christmas.”
Commissioner McCasky clearly has caught the holiday spirit and envisions a joyous Noel at the Taj Mahal. In fact, he’s even provided the snow job.
The happy outburst from our favorite transparent commissioner came as the city of Boulder and Boulder County prepare to end their longstanding opposition to construction of the Jefferson Parkway, the missing link in the beltway around metro Denver. And this wondrous reversal would be brought about by nothing less than $5 million in Jeffco Open Space funds. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. And he says his name is Kevin.
But fear not, gentle taxpayer. Jeffco’s $5 million bribe is an investment in the future — in a future land buffer to keep Boulder County’s delicate sensibility from being disturbed by the bonanza of development dollars and tax revenue this highway would generate for Jeffco.
Yes, Santa lives in the hearts of Jeffco officials. But Machiavelli continues to possess their souls.

Open space, closed government
Once upon a Christmas, Virginia, in December 2009, the Jeffco commissioners were very, very merry as a result of another open space purchase: a $1.4 million acquisition in the Rooney Valley. Always looking out for their constituents, our commissioners didn’t disturb the sugar plums in our heads with the unsettling news that this little land buy was actually undertaken to settle a lawsuit by a developer.
Are you sensing a theme here, Virginia? When Jeffco spends Open Space money, it somehow manages to fulfill the original intent of the voters who approved the land-preservation sales tax — and simultaneously benefit developers. And Transparent Jeffco does it in a backdoor way that makes a pro-development move look like a preservationist’s dream.
McCasky has called the Rocky Flats land purchase “an opportunity for us to add to a national asset … . A tangential benefit is that a couple of outspoken opponents of our Jefferson Parkway will withdraw their opposition.”
Now there’s a preservationist at heart. And, finally, we discover that a history of pro-development votes was nothing more than tangential to his true mission.

The tangled web they weave
No one would argue, in these tough economic times, that our county doesn’t need some additional tax revenue. And it would be foolish as well to voice any knee-jerk opposition to future development that would be made possible by the Jefferson Parkway.
But we need a county government that doesn’t constantly behave in a way that suggests our officials think they know what’s best for us — and that we don’t need to know their true motivations or goals.
That message should have been heard clearly by outgoing Commissioner Kathy Hartman, who was tapped recently to replace one of the members of the misbehaving library board in a classic rubber-stamp move so she could bring the recalcitrant panel to heel.
The board members had the audacity to stick to their well-considered position on the budget in the face of the commissioners’ unmistakable message: Do it our way, or take the highway.
That highway may someday be the Jefferson Parkway. But is Kevin McCasky on the road to becoming a born-again preservationist? To that I can only say, “Ho, ho, ho.”   

Doug Bell is the editor of the Courier.