Hate higher taxes? Then please read this column
The Kansas City Star
Unified Government mayoral candidate Mark Holland has responsible, strong-minded reasons that defend his vote for higher property taxes in 2011 in Wyandotte County.
As a county commissioner, Holland knew the government’s reserves were almost gone, workers’ wages already had been frozen, employee furloughs had been taken, and layoffs of up to 120 county workers — including some in public safety — could occur without more tax revenue.
So he and a majority of commissioners voted for the higher tax.
“It was the right thing to do,” Holland said Wednesday, especially “because it’s about leadership” for the county.
Holland’s vote appropriately protected community policing, firefighters’ jobs and other public services. That vote shows just one of the reasons he’s the best-qualified candidate to make it through Tuesday’s mayoral primary and make it to the April 2 general election.
Of course, it’s common for local elected officials and candidates to badmouth tax rates.
Ann Murguia, one of Holland’s opponents, constantly tells people she voted against the higher Wyandotte County property tax, without acknowledging how damaging that could have been to services many residents need.
But then along comes a few days like we’re seeing this week in the Kansas City area. And all of a sudden, having a little bit of tax revenue is awfully important.
On Thursday, if the weather forecasters are correct, hundreds of employees in cities around the region will be out in the bitter cold, pushing deep snow off the roads, trying to keep traffic moving. If the workers do their jobs well, motorists will have an easier time getting around, more stores will be open and fewer people will be involved in costly car accidents caused by snow-packed roads.
On Tuesday night, dozens of Kansas City firefighters, emergency medical personnel and police officers responded to the huge natural gas explosion and fire that destroyed a restaurant, killed at least one and injured more than a dozen people. The accident showed the value of having an effective public safety force that can be deployed in large emergencies.
No one wants to overpay for public services, even when it comes to plowing snow or fighting fires.
That’s why it’s good to see that Kansas City officials have upgraded their technological capabilities to track where snow plows have been, so the city knows which streets should be clear and which ones still need attention.
It’s also appropriate that the city has slimmed down the Fire Department in recent years.
In Kansas City, Mayor Sly James has been at the center of tax and spend issues since taking office.
Notably, James during his 2011 campaign did not take a solid pro or con stand on whether he was going to raise taxes.
But last August, he pushed for voters to endorse a half-cent sales tax increase for better streets and parks, and to get rid of the vehicle license fee and a few small property taxes. Voters eventually endorsed the changes.
Last week, in his budget message to the City Council, James extolled that decision: “Together, we made the case to our residents that business as usual was no longer good business…. Together they said, ‘this is a priority and we are willing to pay for it.’”
He highlighted the positive fact that the city will allocate $19 million in the next year for road maintenance, far more than the current $3 million.
“I do not believe any city in the country can say they were able to do the same thing in a single budget cycle,” he said.
Campaigning against taxes is easy. Running a city or county without sufficient public revenues is hard.
It takes skilled and properly motivated elected officials to know when it’s time to try to raise taxes — and when they should be left alone.
To reach Yael T. Abouhalkah, call 816-234-4887 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. He blogs at voices.kansascity.com and appears on “Ruckus” at 7 p.m. Thursday on KCPT. Twitter: @YaelTAbouhalkah.