By Daniel Koller
In last week’s column I explained how we got here. The current board members of the Evergreen Fire Protection District failed to recognize the extent and consequences of the disagreement with the community over the planned burn building at Station 2. Their approach of following protocol but pressing through with the project left the community with only two choices: surrender to the power of the special district or recall the elected officials who made the irresponsible decisions.
Special districts are a form of government designed to provide services to the public not covered by other government agencies. They are exempt from most local and county regulations and operate with a high level of autonomy. The only authority they report to is the public. It is extremely important that special district boards are aware of this situation, ensure that the interest of the community is a priority in all decisions, and that community concerns are taken seriously and are addressed appropriately. The board has not exercised this important role in the case of the planned burn building. But do we need a recall election to address this? Can’t this wait until the next regular election? In reality, these were valid questions before January, but they have become obsolete when the election official declared the recall petitions sufficient on Jan. 25. At that time, not having a recall election was no longer an option. The community made the decision to fight the irresponsible decisions by the board members. And since these irresponsible decisions were to impact the community before the next regular election, a recall election was the only suitable process to follow.
We were all aware of the fact that a recall election would incur costs. The recall committee was aware of that when it filed the petitions. The board members were aware of that when they approved proceeding with the opposed project in their December meeting. While it was clear that costs would be incurred, it was the board’s decision to spend about three times the necessary amount by choosing a mail-in election over polling places. Which leaves us with the estimated bill of $200,000.
We need to learn our lesson to avoid similar situations in the future. Citizens need to engage in EFPD affairs and elections on a regular basis. We need to make sure we elect officials who not only bring the necessary qualifications but also bring the needed outside perspectives and personal independence from the organization they are in charge of directing. Now is the time to correct the mistakes of the past. The additional issue of neglected monitoring of service levels (response times) and the arrogant behavior of building the opposed project at the same time people cast their votes for a recall election have only further amplified the reasons why the current board members are no longer acceptable choices. They need to be replaced. And since we are having a recall election, this is the time to do it.
Daniel Koller is a candidate for the board of the Evergreen Fire Protection District.