Special Tax District Crony Capitalists Get Their Comeuppance?

business_ethics_highlights_2Although nominally about elections and voting, this piece is about the shenanigans employed to create and rig special tax districts. When well-designed, these districts allow crony capitalist businesspeople to levy taxes on consumers for the benefit of the crony capitalists, without consumers getting to vote on whether the taxes get levied. The secret is in defining the contours of the district to exclude the residences of all registered voters. Here, through gerrymandering, the Business Loop 70 Community Improvement District in Columbia, Missouri excluded all possible registered voters from the district—except one. Now, the district’s one registered voter controls the fate all future sales taxes for the district. This piece could be a good jumping-off point for a discussion of business-government relations, the downsides of public-private “partnerships,” or crony capitalism. >>>

LINK: Gerrymanderers Miss One Person (by Kevin Underhill in Lowering the Bar)

As you probably know, “gerrymandering” is the practice of redrawing the borders of a voting district for a specific purpose, usually if not always to make sure it has more of your supporters than opponents in it. This is nothing new, of course, but few gerrymanderers can have failed more spectacularly than those who crafted the Business Loop 70 Community Improvement District in Columbia, Missouri.

Even though this tax would be paid by other people, most likely those who live nearby, under the CID law it could be imposed by the property owners acting alone because there are no registered voters living in the district. And after all, that’s why the district looks sort of like the Battlestar Galactica instead of some respectable polygon. As the Tribune put it, many nearby homes “were not included in the district when it was drawn because district organizers wanted a district free of residents.”

And they almost got it.

The note “Henderson’s residence” on the map indicates the home of University of Missouri student Jen Henderson, who, it turns out, is the only registered voter living within the Business Loop 70 CID. But because there is in fact at least one registered voter there, the law says the property owners don’t get to vote. As a result, Jen Henderson, and Jen Henderson alone, will decide whether the sales tax passes.

What do you think?

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