Wed. Apr 24th, 2024

By Samuel Strait, Reporter at Large – June 18, 2021

 It has long been the preeminent premise in this Country that equality
and fairness be at the heart of any public vote taken no matter what the
issue or who the candidate.  Early in the history of this Country one of
the dominant features of government excess which led to the separation
of the United States from Great Britain by revolution was Taxation
without proper representation. Taxes being levied on an entire
population without recourse to the ability of a vote.  When our early
leadership tackled this thorny question of government reaching into the
pockets of its citizens there was conscious consideration of the “little
guy” and his ability to pay required taxes.  As such, at the time it was
felt that a simple majority vote was not always the best way to go about
taxing and we find a distinct break from majority rule with a two thirds
vote for approval for most tax measures.  Granted that this protection
has been eroded in many States and localities over the years, but the
thinking that taking money from its citizen’s pockets should be with the
consent of more than a simple majority remains in the provisions of many
voter approved tax measures.

The reasoning behind such requirements continues to be rooted in that
original premise that fairness must also give way to the idea that to
institute a tax it must be at the behest of most of the electorate
rather than the fifty percent plus one test.  By doing so it is less
likely to construct a significant opposition and resentment to the
proposed tax, assessment, or fee imposed by the government.  Fifty
percent plus one after all generates fifty percent less one in the
opposition, not a healthy position to be in for a government.

In this State, California, many tax measures are passed using the fifty
percent plus one mechanism which has created a growing resentment by
those that try to exist in the State as the tax burden grows for what
appears to be a very unresponsive, expensive and growing government. 
This has caused an increasing number of the population to move else
where to be replaced by greater numbers of citizens who do not or
contribute very little to the cost of this growing government.  Recently
here in Del Norte County the local citizens have experienced this kind
of behavior by local government in an escalating fashion.  Increased
costs from taxation may appear to benefit locals, but by in large serve
only to increase the cost of government without any appreciable benefit
to the local population.  Much of this activity, that is growth in
government, can be attributed directly back to those that benefit the
most from this government obsession with more money, government employees.

In a second attempt by Crescent Fire Protection District to burden
property owners with an assessment added to their property taxes, the
first having failed in October of 2020, the CDPF has used a “weighted
ballot” procedure to allow large valuable property owners to have votes
based largely on the valuation of their respective properties.  The
ostensible reasoning is to allow valuable parcel owners to have a
greater say over the normal single resident property owner because their
loss would be greater for both the owner and the County should the
unfortunate occur. Normally that would fall into the category of proper
insurance. In this particular instance one vote one parcel does not
apply, but money , or property valuation is the deciding factor.

In the recent CFPD benefit election, most voters were under the illusion
that 876 “No” votes as opposed to 858 “Yes” votes would doom the measure
to failure.  In a one vote, one voter scenario that would be the case; 
however, in a weighted ballot scenario a dollar amount is attached to
each ballot where high dollar parcels would have a distinct advantage
over poorer parcels.  While the rational for this “weighted ballot”
process appears to give nod to fairness, it does not account for the
fact that cost to the CPFD would very likely be much greater when
responding to multiple calls for incidents or for a major incident
negating the rational for “weighted ballots”.  Equality and fairness
seems to be absent in this mechanism for the vote.

At this point it becomes more interesting when the CPDF has already
established an unequal playing field with “weighted ballots”, quickly
moves to tilt the playing field even further by capping assessment
obligation to those that can most certainly afford it to $1,000.  In
1996 Californians passed Proposition 218 in order to protect the
citizenry from, at the time, the feeling that government taxation had
over reached by a significant margin.  While the provisions that are
incorporated in Prop 218 provide little in protections to the
disadvantaged in this particular instance, it DOES NOT APPEAR TO ALLOW
seem to be obligated to pay the full amount of their obligations, NO CAP

It will be interesting to see just how the CFPD responds to what was
clearly an unfair manipulation of the voting process to make the outcome
much closer than it should have been.  Will this manipulation, should it
be allowed to stand, be a continual template for future assessments? 
Only time will tell.

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