To the editor:
The League of Women Voters has long fought for improving the quality of the environment in Lee County. The mid-1990s were an exciting time here, for the environmental community came together to work toward the formulation, implementation and passage of Conservation 2020, which was designed to add public lands from willing sellers which would be there forever to enhance the quality of life. Our theme was "Do Not East Coast the West Coast."
We were delighted when it was decided that a referendum would be held, and many of us went to work to persuade voters to support it, even though they would be choosing to pay taxes to purchase public lands. Many of us believe to this day that County Commissioners were reluctant and would not have approved Conservation 2020 had the voters not accepted the idea, even though the vote was not binding.
Now, we are shocked and outraged that the County Commission apparently sees nothing wrong with raiding future Conservation 2020 funds to make up for a shortfall in the county budget. People were persuaded to vote for the program with the understanding that those taxes were earmarked and would be forever inviolate. At least two of the current County Commissioners have stated publicly that a new referendum should take place as quickly as possible, probably in 2014.
We maintain that Lee County voters are bright people with long memories. How can anybody believe that thoughtful, observant voters will vote 'yes' on a renewal of Conservation 2020 when the County Commissioners have declared publicly that they are willing to raid those funds anytime they have a budget shortfall?
Keep the Integrity of Conservation 2020 and do not circumvent the voters' voice!
Clara Anne Graham, President
Laura Miller, Environmental Director
League of Women Voters of Lee County