Prop One — Not Justified— Vote No on August 4

We need at least a decent No vote regarding Prop One, else the City will think it can get away with anything. The Tribune rejected my letter below – submitted a week before the election, but too late. — Hunter


By L. Hunter Kevil

Proposition One is the only issue on the Tuesday, August 4 special election ballot. It proposes a quarter-cent sales tax to fund capital improvement projects for roads, fire protection, and two new ‘service centers’ to the north and south of city center. City managers and the group Foundation for Columbia’s Future have been beating the bushes stressing the importance of these projects and urging passage. They claim it is not a tax increase, but merely an extension of the existing tax, which expires at the end of the year. The improvements are needed and this manner of funding is business as usual. At first blush it would appear not only churlish, but stupid to oppose this tax…


until we think about it. If the improvements are so essential, why would the City put the issue up to voters and risk another tax proposal being voted down? There is already a regular budget line for capital improvements. Is it underfunded? If so, this does not indicate good management. Not all City expenditures are equally important. Some, such as for road and police and fire protection are essential, core services. Many others, like the USB chargers outside City Hall or new parks, are merely desirable or nice to have. Money is fungible; if the capital improvements budget line cannot meet needs, money should be taken from other, less important budget lines.


Why not have elections for the less essential services and see what the voters think? It appears that essential services are being held hostage to the less important and politically charged ones City Hall wants. We voters are being manipulated. Why have an expensive special election with a single issue instead of combining it with other issues in the next scheduled election? Could it be that the City wishes to guarantee passage knowing that turnout in the summer will be very low and primarily attract votes in favor? The City has a modest surplus, but does not wish to use it for essential capital improvements. Why not? The City had the option of not seeking to replace the expiring tax, which would amount to a tax decrease. The City chose the option of a quarter percent tax. No matter what they claim, this is a tax increase.


Government always clothes the tax increases it wants around essential services. Questionable expenses are never mentioned, even if they crowd out core ones. But what would happen if Proposition One fails? City Hall will always provide essential services; its survival depends on it. Columbia is a high tax city, there is plenty of money for these services. Until there is a thorough-going, independent performance audit of City Hall we should vote down every tax proposal and vote new people into every elective office.

Pragmatism for Columbia Ward 2?

In his opening statement to the Columbia Pachyderm Club’s candidate forum on  March 27, Michael Trapp said up front that he is a fan of good government, that he does have an ideology, but that he defers his ideology relying instead on pragmatism.  “Pragmatism” could be defined as that process that determines the best solution that has shown the most success,  “a reasonable and logical way of doing things or of thinking about problems that are based on dealing with specific situations instead of on ideas and theories”  For Michael, this notion of pragmatism appears to guide his quest for good government and policy.

K.B. Clark, once said, “pragmatic men of power have had no time or inclination to deal with… morality.” Instead, according to Clark pragmatists are neither guided by principle nor ethics, nor the intricacies of law and the constitutional checks and balances on power, but by expediency.  Since pragmatists shun legal niceties and morality, their ethics are of necessity situational.  Michael Trapp said that there are situations where he embraced “crony capitalism” because as he says it would give enough incentive to attract businesses the council wants, hardly a statement of principle.

But, I wonder, is this really the best way to create economic development and growth?  Such “pragmatism” as TIFFS, enterprise zones, and the like were recently supported by Mr. Trapp and others on the city council, and there is no indication that he would not consider proposing them again.  States like California that were the first to embrace such creative financing have abandoned these practices. They did so not only because it was criticized as government overreach, but also because California discovered eventually that the cost tax revenues was too much

I’m not saying that Michael Trapp is a bad person, and in fact his opponent, Mr. Love says that he is a good person, and a nice guy but he differs with him on many issues.  I am concerned, however, that Mr Trapp has no problem embracing such unsound economic and business policy ideas of the City Council and supposedly does so because he thinks it is pragmatic.

Of course we do live in a world of political shades of gray.  At the local city government level they may not seem so numerous, unless you are the decision maker who is “getting it from all sides.” Here choices are often not so clear, and finding the best choice among a set of bad choices can be a struggle to find the least-worst choice.  So what does Michael propose?  Let the voters decide.  At least that’s better then crawling into the muck of self-deception pretending you were right because you were “pragmatic.”

I hate it when the city fathers try to rule every aspect of our lives.  Don’t tell us whether to use bags or roll carts, let us have the freedom to choose either or both. The city council should not take on every kooky idea that comes along.  A lot of these are ideologically driven, either to be  tabled indefinitely or discarded forever.

And finally, If you want pragmatic solutions,  ask your self this: is the solution you seek legal, ethical, moral and wise?

Check out the unedited version of the 2d Ward forum here:

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