Bill Wayne's Political Pages - The Gadfly
Gadfly 312
Submitted to the Warrensburg Gazette for October 13, 2005

The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.

A lot of people who slept through earlier discussions on Warrensburg's Transportation Development District (TDD) to benefit the Hawthorne developer have awakened. Since the City Council gave the go-ahead for this boondoggle, voices that were silent suddenly have spoken out. It's too late. You didn't get up and after them when the rooster crowed (in letters and new stories), and now you're going to be stuck paying an extra sales tax whenever you shop at Wal-Mart.

The City has been actively promoting what a "good deal" this is. The justification I've heard from staff and council members is that the TDD was going to be there anyway, so they wanted the city to have a say in the deal. From what I heard at the final meeting, I don't think there would have been a deal if the City hadnít stuck its nose in. Wal-Mart's incentive to play was minimal until they had reason to believe they'd be forced into the TDD anyway.

Actions have consequences. The City wants residents to vote yes for a bond election for needed sewer system improvements. Since the cost will be paid by increased user fees rather than a tax, I won't pay it (where I live) or object to it. However, I've heard from quite a few voters who are madder than a wet hen about the Wal-Mart tax and will vote accordingly on the sewer issue.

A TDD is but one of the ways governments have come up with to transfer tax money to private interests; it's just the only one that levies a direct tax on the citizens without their vote. Tax Increment Financing (TIF) takes property taxes from schools, hospitals and libraries. The City Council turned down a clearly illegal TIF by only one vote in 1998 after community leaders spoke against it. Other forms of "incentives" often lack guarantees that more economic activity will be generated. These need to be reformed along with eminent domain.

In the meantime, I expect the City will come up with more of these tax deals in the future. When they do, people need to speak out, not remain silent, lamb-like, as you were while the TDD was pending. It does no good to rush to close the barn door after the horse is gone.

See also Other Taxes for additional discussion and background on this tax.

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