Last week, the voters spoke and their answer was clear – leave the sales tax dedicated to the Gary E. Miller Canadian County Children’s Justice Center alone.
It’s been a long journey to that answer. For more than five years, there has been ongoing conflict over the center – the tax, but also CCCJC programs, budgets and spending. It hasn’t been pretty a lot of times, and accusations have flown from both sides. Commissioners have at times spoken of “runaway spending” and center proponents’ “emotional manipulation” of residents in connection with the argument, while those who work at and back the CCCJC have said they believe the center has been targeted, with commissioners working to divert the tax and punish a group of people who wouldn’t just go along with their wishes.
Perhaps all of that is true; I suspect some of it is true, but the bottom line is the commissioners now have what they’ve said all along they wanted – a definitive answer from residents and a legal ruling. Voters have said not only do they not want the center tax diverted for other uses, they are fine with the level they pay and that it generates for juvenile-related expenses. None other than the Oklahoma Supreme Court unanimously ruled the center was appropriately spending sales tax revenues.
So, what now?
Hopefully, this will be the end of this conflict. Undoubtedly, mistrust and disappointment to some extent will linger. But, the simmering anger and resentment need to be left behind so Canadian County can heal and move forward. That’s the only way to truly allow not only the children’s justice center, but also county operations as a whole, to fulfil their promise. That’s no small challenge.
Our county is blessed to have some incredibly dedicated public servants, not only on the county level, but also at our municipalities and in our school districts. Looking at the growth of Canadian County and the economic changes we have seen just in recent years should make us thankful for that fact. Look at how far Mustang and Yukon, in particular, have come; school districts across the county have accomplished a lot with really very little state support – and, in Mustang, we’ve seen that includes a lot more than just basic education. Our kids have the chance for a truly rounded experience, which will only help them as they move through life. These are people dedicated to – and who are – helping make our lives better.
The employees and administrators at the children’s justice center certainly fall into that category, as well. Working at lower salaries than many of their colleagues – and even their fellow county coworkers – CCCJC’s staff have made a real difference in the lives of countless children and their families. This has continued despite having at least a perceived ax hanging over their heads for half a decade.
On the other side is Canadian County Commissioner David Anderson. The District 2 commissioner has spearheaded many of the moves to divert, and then reduce, the tax, and he’s gotten a lot of grief for that. While that’s understandable, I think people should also remember that Anderson has always said he is doing what he believes he was elected to do. He’s admitted he would do at least some things a little differently. And, he’s obviously been willing to put his career on the line. How many politicians have been willing to do that? David Anderson is a big reason I hope, no I believe, this situation can evolve into something positive. He wanted the people to have their say, they have – and, as he said earlier this year, there would be no winners or losers in the sales tax election as long as that happened. With more than 31,000 voters taking part in the March 1 vote, both sides should be gratified that’s exactly what happened.
With our economy, with the unrest we’ve seen in the current presidential election, with so many challenges facing our families, our school districts and more, the children’s justice center is more important to our residents than ever before. With voters’ blessing, I hope officials on both sides of this ongoing conflict will now work together to not only continue center services, but to also find ways to use the tax approved by voters for juvenile services (not once, not twice, but three times) in more and more ways. That’s how we help each other and how we make our county better.
All we have to do is reach out a hand and do just that.