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.