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.