During many years as a journalist, one of the things I found most surprising was how at any level of government, elected officials would completely disregard the will of the people who put them in office. A recent incident in Highland is a great example.
City council members voted to raise taxes by 58% (about $900,000). This occurred in spite of an overwhelming response from local citizens who oppose the tax hike.
The proposed increased is slated for road repairs and maintenance and council members who approved the hike justified it by saying that it will be cheaper to do the work now.
That makes sense. A bad economy means that construction costs are relatively low. That is exactly why I would like to undertake some major repair and remodeling costs on my home. Unfortunately, I don’t have the money to do it. And unlike Highland city officials, I have no way to compel someone else to pay for my pet project.
I’m sure city council members will argue that roads are necessary and benefit everyone. But I can counter that improving the appearance of my property could also benefit all those who live in my neighborhood or who drive past.
In fact, the value might be equal to the benefit derived from the expensive meandering sidewalks and landscaped medians recently added throughout the city.
Not long ago the city spent a fortune building new city offices, a library, and a splash park. If the road infrastructure work is so important, it seems like it would have made sense to pay for the road work first and delay some of the luxuries until the economy strengthed.
Some city officials who approved the recent tax increase as well as these other expensive projects ran their campaigns on promises of fiscal restraint. Apparently restraint is a 58% tax bump rather than a 100% increase or more.
While it is likely that some officials who voted for the increase will be out of office after the next municipal election, it will be too late to mitigate the economic damage to the citizens of Highland. The roads will be fixed and built, and the increase will never be repealed.
Did you hear the joke about the man who picked up an old lamp he found on the street? When he rubbed it a genie came out and said he could have three wishes. “There is just one catch,” the genie explained. “Whatever you wish for, your mother-in-law will receive two fold.”
The man’s first wish was for a 20,000-square-foot palace. At the genie’s command it appeared, and so did a 40,000-square-foot palace for his mother-in-law.
“For my second wish,” the man said, “I want 10 billion dollars.”
“It is done,” said the genie. “There is 10 billion dollars in your new palace and 20 billion in your mother-in-law’s palace. Now, what is your final wish?”
“For my last wish,” the man replied, “I want you to beat me half to death.”
Admittedly, it’s kind of a dark joke. But so is an elected official raising taxes in opposition to the people he promised to fiscally protect.
Perhaps, however, the joke can be the genesis of a great idea. I’d like to see a law that said anytime city council members vote for a tax increase that it would apply to them 10 fold.