Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Taxation Without Representation in Richardson

In comments to a previous post, a reader charges that Richardson practices taxation without representation. Of course, that's the practice of the English Parliament that led to the American Revolution. It's not democracy. It's tyranny. In other words, it's pretty serious, tri-cornered hat kind of stuff.

After the jump, does our reader have a case?



Our reader owns commercial property in Richardson, but lives elsewhere. As a property owner, he pays property taxes to the City of Richardson. But, because he lives elsewhere, he is not eligible to vote in City of Richardson elections. So, ergo, ipso facto, prima facie, d'oh and et cetera, our reader is truly a victim of taxation without representation, at least as far as the City of Richardson is concerned. It's kind of hard to deny.

But is this tyranny? We're all victims like this in some way or another. I shop in Dallas, Plano, and countless other cities across Texas and the nation. That means I pay sales taxes in those cities, but I'm not eligible to vote there. People collectively own property all across the US by way of being shareholders of public companies. Still others directly own property in the form of vacation homes. All of these people, not just commercial property owners, pay taxes in those districts without being eligible to vote there.

Is that fair? Are we all victims of tyranny? That's a judgment call. Most cities, like Richardson, restrict the right to vote to residents. A few states (Texas not among them) permit municipalities to allow property owners to vote in certain municipal elections (like proposals to raise property taxes), even though the property owners reside elsewhere and vote elsewhere as well. Cries to allow this are particularly strong in resort towns that have a large seasonal influx of property owners (think south Texas snowbirds or Colorado ski resort condo owners).

Which side of the debate you come down on is probably influenced by your own individual situation. Our reader is a commercial property owner and feels victimized. I'm not a commercial property owner. I can see his point, yet I'm still not inclined to champion his cause. If you step back and try to be unbiased, you'll see it's a devil of a job to devise a voting system that's simultaneously simple, fair, and immune to exploitation. Just imagine the challenge of printing ballots that cover all situations -- allowing some people to vote for local races in more than one city, but prevent them from voting twice for statewide races like governor.

I'm open to ideas on how to construct such a system, but until I hear the details, I'm content with the current system that restricts voting to one place and one place only, your primary place of residence.



Our reader later went on to say that he wasn't criticizing his ineligibility to vote in Richardson (even though he said "taxation without representation"). He was criticizing his inability to get the city to listen to his input regarding the redevelopment of the West Spring Valley corridor (that is, whining that he didn't get his way). When the city held those meetings two years ago to gather public input on redevelopment of the West Spring Valley corridor, I, too, had objections about whom the city was listening to. Contrary to our reader, I believed that the property owners were well represented at the table. My complaint was that it was the apartment dwellers, the renters, who were the ones excluded from the table. I said that "Community Projects Manager Monica Heid, who updated the council on the first community meeting, indicated that renters weren't approached directly because they might have ideas that property owners wouldn't like." It's probably no consolation to our property-owning reader, but it was my opinion at the time that the city was very much trying to please the people who were not eligible to vote (the property owners) but didn't much care about one group of residents who were eligible to vote (the renters). Sigh. It isn't the first time that people on both sides of an issue came away from some public outreach meeting unhappy.



Update: In my last sentence, I was speaking of only two people: our reader and myself. We are on different sides of WSV Corridor redevelopment and each of us had disagreements with how the city's meetings were run. I don't dispute that many, many others were satisfied. I apologize for any confusion I caused.

11 comments:

glbeach said...

First of all I'm no attorney, so I don't want to get into a debate about the meaning of words - like former President Clinton once said - 'it depends on what your meaning of "is", is'. So, with that as a lead-in, I would argue this individual is NOT, repeat NOT a victim of taxation without representation. Rather, I would argue this person may not have done their homework regarding a specific commercial investment. Since the person owns commercial property, this must reflect an investment decision. As such, the individual has or had the ability to analyze the impact of tax rates - and the risk of those rates changing - for the city of Richardson and every other municipality in choosing to make the investment.

In essence, the individual is (dare I say it) asking for a handout from the government in the form of different (presumanbly lower) tax rates - in essence a job creator claiming membership in an affected class worthy of special government treatment.

That at least, is this man's opinion.

glbeach said...

First of all I'm no attorney, so I don't want to get into a debate about the meaning of words - like former President Clinton once said - 'it depends on what your meaning of "is", is'. So, with that as a lead-in, I would argue this individual is NOT, repeat NOT a victim of taxation without representation. Rather, I would argue this person may not have done their homework regarding a specific commercial investment. Since the person owns commercial property, this must reflect an investment decision. As such, the individual has or had the ability to analyze the impact of tax rates - and the risk of those rates changing - for the city of Richardson and every other municipality in choosing to make the investment.

In essence, the individual is (dare I say it) asking for a handout from the government in the form of different (presumanbly lower) tax rates - in essence a job creator claiming membership in an affected class worthy of special government treatment.

That at least, is this man's opinion.

Sassy Texan said...

Oh come on. You do understand that EVERY developer these days wants a handout from the government. That is the game that has been played since cities have gone into the development business. That is the payoff for no vote AND to be on the inside track when abatements are negotiated after millions are given to develop.

Obviously you have never read the TIF documents. Nor have you read the individual TIF agreements and the annual TIF report.

Cheri Duncan-Hubert

fivepointfive said...

Allan
I think the Aggies have a saying: “We don’t care what you say about us, just spell our name correctly” Hey, I’m just happy to get some ink. I rather enjoy the stimulating dialog and I would suspect that some of the readers vicariously live through the squabble. Especially when you have folks of reason like Sassy bring up thoughtful points like “Oh come on. You do understand that EVERY developer these days wants a handout from the government. “
Set aside the pre-determined findings of the expensive consulting company from Colorado (that state also needs an economic boast from the Richardson taxpayers!), but we might at least look at the 2.5+ million DONATION to the developers’ plans-- from the taxpayers to the development company in creating a pile of non-usable dirt on Central Expressway. At least in the short run. In any event the City is gambling with taxpayer’s money. Then we get the comment from Mr. Beach who criticizes my “ability to analyze a current tax rate” 32 years ago when I bought the property. Sorry, I don’t have his clairvoyant ability.
Now, I can take all the previous dialog as friendly conversation and sparing, but when I am accused of: ” In essence, the individual is (dare I say it) asking for a handout from the government in the form of different (presumanbly lower) tax rates - in essence a job creator claiming membership in an affected class worthy of special government treatment.” Then the line has been crossed.
There are plenty of folks out there claiming special government treatment like the 48% of our citizens who pay NO tax, but I am most certainly NOT one of them. EVERYTHING, and I mean EVERYTHING that has consumer my adult life has been based on avoiding the government and all that it brings (or takes). I avoided the government in student loans, home loans, government regulated bank loans, SBA loans, and I even build my own house with no subcontractors in an unincorporated area to avoid inspectors, and every form of bureaucracy that comes from the government. The list is endless.
At the same time I pay property taxes in Richardson, Garland, Addison, Dallas and Argyle. I pay County taxes in Dallas and Denton, and road taxes on cars that I drive less than 200 miles a year. And that is before the Federal Income taxes. So “special Government treatment “ is so far off the mark to the left, it shows how uninformed Mr. Beach is.
I would only assume that tactics used by some of the people participating in this forum are so shallow and transparent that the actual readers would be able to see through the diversion from the real issues. The tactics are taken from the Obama campaign playbook—If results are not as you promised, find someone or some thing to blame, or simply, shift the dialog to something unrelated: (Romney spent a $1000 of HIS money on a blouse for Ann, so pay no attention the $2 million I spent of YOUR money for a shopping trip in Paris for Michelle). Perhaps I should itemize my message so Mr. Beach can actually understand what I said:
1. I never asked for anything more than a voice to be heard. That was denied. Instead my building was changed to non-compliant after decades of the same usage.
2. The people in the community should have not been led down the yellow brick road by their elected leadership. (false, projections, no sidewalk cafes, small business, avoiding traffic and cost issues, etc.)
3.The taxpayers should not pay any part of a private developer venture.
4.Current businesses should not be forced out by deeming certain buildings non-conformable.
Allan Garonzik

fivepointfive said...

Mark,
You do a good job of balancing, and injecting your opinion is part of the job of a blogger. While I admit my poor choice of words in referencing the City Council as the Jesse James Gang picking a leader from their inner circle, or a pack of wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner, I think your comment of me “whining that he didn't get his way” might be a bit strong for how things went down. My complaint was, and still is, that the process wasn’t fair. NOT the decision of the City Council (which I contend, but have no proof, was determined in closed session notwithstanding the input of the consulting group or the citizens), but rather the easy to see manipulation of the focus groups. The simple fact that my questions about traffic and the cost of the project as to who pays, were avoided.
If YOU were a professional in charge of a consulting contract relating to adding, subtracting, changing businesses, homes and density in a given area, would you think traffic density, and financing the project might be more important than, say, “What type of windows would the people like best?” Certainly, if the consulting group hadn’t yet determined those answers, the protocol would be, “I’ll get back to you.”, then in fact do just that. I’m not sure if these two issues were ever addressed, but certainly the people entitled to know these answers were never informed. If they were, I’m not aware of it. And would the citizens have no input on their purchase of the Continental Inn and the demolition of the building at the taxpayer’s expense? Sure there was a slush fund established, but seriously, do the citizens have the right to know how their money is spent. The focus groups were opened to everyone—the Commercial Property Owners,, the Home Owners, and anyone else in the city who wanted to attend and listen or speak. Except, of course, as you point out the Apartment dwellers. (Let’s omit them-some of the legal voters, because they might make some property owners unhappy) Who came up with that lame excuse?
At the end of the day, my whining might just be considered a legitimate excuse to complain about the futile desire to get a fair shake, and the circumvention of due process.
Anyway, by and large, you do a good job on the blog.
Allan Garonzik

Sassy Texan said...

Allan,

To take this one step further there really was no "lead in" to the purchase of the Continental Inn. It ended up on the consent agenda without discussion. That is more of a "tell you" what we are doing. If there was an "ask" the public f you want to buy, there would have been a discussion. Then there is the whole TOMA discrepancy.

Aside from the fact there are specific statutes that govern the purchase of property. It took a lot of disclosure to get the council and staff to do the "right thing" on the old Wicke's Lumber property. After being vacant for more than a decade, the city tried to slip it thru on an ordinance (3712) to gift it to a developer. That was so obvious my grand daughter could have figured it out. Thankfully, the citizens get the property in the form of the Gymnastic Center.

One has to ask one major question. Why does the citizens who have no vested interest in a parcel(s) have a greater voice than the actual owners. Because that is what happens and is Allan's point. He gets no voice in the outcome of his property, yet those like McCalpin (who admittedly did not attend the open houses) has an amazing amount of dialogue on something that is none of his business.

Cheri Duncan-Hubert

fivepointfive said...

Why on Earth would the taxpayers need to know that their money (2.5 million) is being placed on the Pass/Don’t Pass line by the City Council? If the hold outs displace their tenants, break their leases with their tenants, buy out the leases, get a reasonable price for their investment, sell to the developers, and the property is turned into something not at all looking like what any of the “Selections” and ”Choices” were, then the bet with the citizens money stands a chance of paying off. If not, the citizens are holding the poke—as in pig in a poke. It wouldn’t be a bet that I would take. Then again, I had no input on the bet.
On the other hand, if I lived outside the circle, had no down side to the bet, and the bet was funded by others, I might say “go for it”. So I am not all that surprised at the various input from outsiders on this discussion. And frankly, I’m not all that surprised that so many people were fooled by the fa├žade. The realization that the Emperor has no clothes is just around the next turn.
Unlike the lumber yard Sassy mentioned, the hold out properties are not abandoned for over a decade, but in fact are being occupied by long term tenants who have businesses and livelihoods deeply entrenched in the neighborhood.
Allan

Mark Steger said...

This comment thread has gone off topic. The topic of the original article was whether commercial property owners who don't live in Richardson should be allowed to vote in Richardson.

Here are some rules of thumb for suggesting that maybe, just maybe, you've gone off topic:

If this is your second or third or fourth comment, you may be off topic.

If you are responding to another commenter and not the original article, you may be off topic.

If you bring up someone who hasn't even commented on this thread, you may be off topic.

Please keep it on topic.

fivepointfive said...

OK, Mark (and you don’t need to publish this)
I know I am long winded, and my passion for what the government does to us makes me to step on my tongue, and I am aware that the dialogue had broadened beyond the specific subject matter.
That said, some of the others in the conversation mix (not to be confused with the ACTUAL folks affected by the decisions) continue to spew clueless accusations: (“I’m looking for a tax break”), …so I feel compelled to respond. Knowing that these self serving outsiders won’t flinch on their agenda, my goal was simply to have a few minutes on the soap box in hope that others will get my message via your blog.
After all, the current plan looks nothing like what was ‘sold’ to the interested parties at the focus meetings. And, while not illegal, that little matter of slipping a 2.5 million city expense in was not exactly Kosher. The City’s MO is just a sign of things to come.
The area should be improved. I don’t have a plan. But under the table decisions, and “throw money and see what sticks” isn’t the answer.(Read: Obama’s solutions to economic problems). I look at the area in Dallas called the M streets, or the area where I grew up in the Park Cities. The natural process of remodel, replace and improve took place with out the cities branding non-compliance to the owners. The house that my dad bought for $21,000 recently sold for $1.8 million. I guess the city is going to be happy with those property taxes.
On another matter completely off topic, I came up with a plan on Auto Insurance changes in Texas. I got an audience with my State Senator. She said the plan was well thought out, very detailed, would improve air quality, would improve fuel consumption, would create jobs, would lessen the wear and tear on the highways, would distribute the cost of insurance more fairly, and the plan makes all the sense in the world. She went on to say, “It will never get past the INSURANCE LOBBY, here is a coffee mug with my picture, vote for me, have a nice day.”
And we wonder why changes only take place as a result of a riot or behind closed door decisions.
That’s it. I’ve vented. I’ll take a break.
Allan

Sassy Texan said...

Mark,

If your topic is truly who gets to vote in Richardson, then what has been written above does discuss that objective. There are various realities and various perspectives from which many analogies surface. Isn't that how opinions are based?
And then the disparity begins. Best analogy I can think of in the moment: Knowledge will benefit the doer in the task, but wisdom will predict the effect.

Cheri Duncan-Hubert

Patrick Odea said...

Taxpayers have certain incorrect thoughts concerning what the Offer in Compromise course genuinely entails. There are certain television ads making folks to figure that by just stating they can't pay the whole income tax debt figure the IRS will settle. That could not be further from the facts. Find out the facts about the Offer in Compromise prior to trying to settle and landing yourself in an even worse muddle. http://www.tax-defense-network-diy.com/filing-for-an-oic/