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Old 08-28-2015, 01:58 PM
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Gerrymander Fail


This technically involves something to be voted on so I put it in elections, but I won't be too upset if it gets moved.

Link: College student would be sole voter in CID sales tax decision

Apparently, under Missouri law municipalities can establish community improvement districts (CID). Things like sales tax increases in the CID can then be voted by the registered voters living in the CID. If there are no registered voters in the CID measures are instead voted on by those who own property in the CID.

Representatives of the Business Loop 70 Community Improvement District carefully drew the boundaries of a new CID so as to include no registered voters and had this plan approved by the Columbia City Council.

The problem? They missed one voter, Jen Henderson, a 23 year-old college student. She is now the sole eligible voter in a proposed August election to enact a half cent sales tax in the CID.

I'm not even taking sides in this story, but I am curious to see how it turns out.
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Old 08-28-2015, 02:50 PM
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Boy, talk about an opportunity to woo the majority of the voters.
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Old 08-28-2015, 03:07 PM
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Sounds like they tried to woo her and just managed to piss her off.

I hope she does vote no. Screw the people that asked her to unregister as a voter because she didn't fit their little scheme.
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Old 08-28-2015, 03:59 PM
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If I'm following this correctly, the property owners--which is to say, businesses, because as far as they knew, there were no residents--planned some stuff to benefit their businesses. They approved a property tax to pay for a little of it. Then they decided to make their customers pay the rest via a sales tax (which the businesses would get to vote on, but not the customers).

Now, functionally, that doesn't seem so different from raising their prices a tiny bit, and putting the difference into a common fund to pay for the improvements. Or, if it has to go into government coffers for the project for some reason, increase the property assessment and raise prices just enough to pay it. So, why all the gerrymandering shenanigans?
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Old 08-28-2015, 05:34 PM
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Prices are generally quoted pre-sales-tax and are often not subject to actual change; plenty of people would notice if prices were raised to cover increased property tax, whereas raising sales tax rates allows you to raise prices without really raising prices.

Also, from what I read, she is a live-in night manager or something at a medical center, and moved in between when the district borders were drawn and when eligibility to vote was determined. It seemed like a fool-proof plan, but they missed a detail about the possibility of someone establishing residence somewhere that no one had previously.
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Old 08-28-2015, 06:21 PM
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Originally Posted by glowacks View Post
Prices are generally quoted pre-sales-tax and are often not subject to actual change; plenty of people would notice if prices were raised to cover increased property tax, whereas raising sales tax rates allows you to raise prices without really raising prices.
Right. If the sales tax goes up, you just blame it on the city. Most people won't know that the taxes were the idea of the businesses themselves.

It doesn't say exactly what these "improvement projects" are, and apparently they didn't want to reveal them to Henderson. That would be the straightforward way to handle the situation. Sell her on the value of the improvements, so she votes "yes." Just looking at the district, one has to wonder what it is they want to do with the sales tax money (apart from paying off the CID's own administrators.

She lives only a hundred or so feet from some homes that were gerrymandered out. Maybe she should see what they think.
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Old 08-28-2015, 07:54 PM
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Sounds like the should have just made a merchant's association with dues, assuming that's legal in their area. One of their costs seemed to be for an ad campaign.
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Old 08-28-2015, 08:54 PM
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One of their costs seemed to be for an ad campaign.
Yeah, they've got legal fees also. And a line of credit. And paying the people who are employed by the district. The article is a little short on reporting of what the district actually intends to do with the money besides paying for all this, possibly because the district doesn't know either.
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Old 08-28-2015, 09:45 PM
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Yeah, they've got legal fees also. And a line of credit. And paying the people who are employed by the district. The article is a little short on reporting of what the district actually intends to do with the money besides paying for all this, possibly because the district doesn't know either.
It's sort of amusing, really, because it's a miniaturized version of what goes on in larger cities, with no one batting an eye at all. City councils are constantly fostering these types quasi-political jurisdictions, or development deals, and they always come with huge staffs of administrators who just seem to have lifetime careers doing these things. It's a whole industry apart from the government itself. This is small-time in comparison, but that just makes it easier to evaluate if it's really serving a purpose or not.
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Old 08-28-2015, 11:37 PM
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Couldn't they businesses just pay a bunch of employees to relocate to district so register to vote in the election? Isn't that was Disney does with the Reedy Creek Improvement District?
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Old 08-29-2015, 09:08 AM
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The news article isn't particularly neutral:

Quote:
A mistake by representatives of the Business Loop 70 Community Improvement District means a sales tax increase the district needs to thrive will require approval by a single University of Missouri student.
What's the evidence that the sales tax increase is needed? Well, the CID executive director said so, so it must be true:

Quote:
When asked if the CID would be financially viable without the sales tax increase, Gartner said “no.”
  #12  
Old 08-29-2015, 12:25 PM
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To be picky, there are two districts being talked about. There's the group of related businesses in that physical location (BG) and there's the improvement district (CID), which is supposed to be doing things to benefit the BG. I assume that the quote saying that the district won't be viable without more cash is referring to the CID, not the BG. If the CID is ineffective, it won't matter to the BG that the CID becomes unviable.

I don't know of any local improvement districts that have people on salary, but then the only ones I know about are for lighting (the neighborhood wants fancier streetlights) or greenbelt maintenance. City workers do the maintenance and send out ballots to property owners every five years to confirm that the majority of them still want to pay their assessments. There could well be other districts with staff that I just haven't run across. This district, like I said, sounds more like a merchant association.

Last edited by Yllaria; 08-29-2015 at 12:26 PM.
  #13  
Old 08-29-2015, 10:09 PM
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Now, functionally, that doesn't seem so different from raising their prices a tiny bit, and putting the difference into a common fund to pay for the improvements. Or, if it has to go into government coffers for the project for some reason, increase the property assessment and raise prices just enough to pay it. So, why all the gerrymandering shenanigans?
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Originally Posted by guizot View Post
Right. If the sales tax goes up, you just blame it on the city. Most people won't know that the taxes were the idea of the businesses themselves.
By doing it this way, the funding these 'improvements' comes from the city government selling bonds, which are (eventually) paid back from that sales tax increase.

Government bonds are generally exempt from at least local & often state taxes, so they can be sold at a lower cost. Also, often they are backed not just by that sales tax increase, but fall back on the 'full faith & credit' of the city government -- another reason that keeps the cost low. A "common fund" fo a group of businesses would not have any of these advantages.

The work itself may be done thru city bidding processes; volume discounts there may result in bids coming in cheaper. Also, some states allow city governments to be exempt from paying state sales taxes on such improvement projects.

And if you're real sharp about this, you might find some way to get Federal money for part of this city-government infrastructure project.

There's lots of reasons to try to hide this as a city project rather than just an association of businesses.
  #14  
Old 08-30-2015, 02:46 AM
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Sounds like the should have just made a merchant's association with dues, assuming that's legal in their area. One of their costs seemed to be for an ad campaign.
Wasn't the whole point to transfer a cost from the merchants to their customers?

Quote:
Originally Posted by guizot View Post
It's sort of amusing, really, because it's a miniaturized version of what goes on in larger cities, with no one batting an eye at all. City councils are constantly fostering these types quasi-political jurisdictions, or development deals, and they always come with huge staffs of administrators who just seem to have lifetime careers doing these things. It's a whole industry apart from the government itself. This is small-time in comparison, but that just makes it easier to evaluate if it's really serving a purpose or not.
Yes. Much U.S. governance is designed to transfer money from lower classes to the powerful, as can be seen if one opens one's eyes. This extreme example should be viewed as a demonstration of that, rather than as just an amusing anomaly.
  #15  
Old 08-31-2015, 12:12 PM
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Wasn't the whole point to transfer a cost from the merchants to their customers?. . . .
Once they tried to add in a sales tax, sure. But the original setup was an assessment on their own property taxes. No burden to general taxpayers.

Last edited by Yllaria; 08-31-2015 at 12:12 PM.
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Old 08-31-2015, 12:43 PM
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And it's the sales tax that is precisely the issue in the election.
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Old 08-31-2015, 01:25 PM
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Well, the customers are going to pay for it one way or another. The only difference is that a property tax would have to be paid for by cutting profits (boo!) or explicitly charging higher prices (which would put the onus on the business owner), while a sales tax would appear as a separate line item that most customers would blame on the local government.
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  #18  
Old 09-02-2015, 12:34 AM
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Yeah, I don't really understand this, and I have no objection in principle to a 0.5% tax rise, but...I want to see her vote no just for the wailing and gnashing of teeth and laptops thrown halfway through drywall.

Then again, I don't want her stalked and killed.
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Old 09-02-2015, 05:20 AM
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Then again, I don't want her stalked and killed.
Let's not exaggerate. OTOH, it will be interesting to see what kind of new sportscar she's driving next semester....
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Old 09-02-2015, 06:00 AM
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Since August is now over, I went looking for there results of the vote on this and found that the election was postponed, somehow.

Quote:
Business Loop Community Improvement District board members decided to postpone a proposed half-cent sales tax election during a public meeting Monday.
Quote:
Cris Burnam, a CID board member, said the purpose of the meeting Monday was to make clear to voters their intentions regarding the sales tax.

"It's difficult to reach out and contact just one individual person," he said.

Aye, I'll bet it is difficult to contact a single person. Like, so hard. Putting a man on the moon was nothing compared to the epic hardships that would have to be endured in order to locate and speak to one known individual person with a registered address.

And y'all know what prolly escalated getting in touch with Miss Henderson from "difficult" to the level of "nearly impossible"? The fact that she was at the meeting.
Quote:
Henderson attended the public meeting Monday morning, but did not have any comment for the media.

Last edited by Snowboarder Bo; 09-02-2015 at 06:03 AM.
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Old 09-02-2015, 06:21 AM
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So, have the movie rights been sold yet?
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Old 09-02-2015, 10:35 AM
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Oh great. Now I can't think of the name of that movie with the single voter in the district (or was it a short story?)
I'm feeling old

ETA: I thought it was earlier than Swing Vote(2008)

Last edited by SantaMan; 09-02-2015 at 10:37 AM.
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Old 09-02-2015, 10:53 AM
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Can't the city council just redraw the boundaries of the district, or is she located such that doing so would cut out too much of it?
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Old 09-05-2015, 03:00 AM
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Let's not exaggerate. OTOH, it will be interesting to see what kind of new sportscar she's driving next semester....
I hope she gets a VERY expensive sports car and then votes No. What are the business owners going to say? "Hey we bribed her good, and she reneged."
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Old 09-05-2015, 04:54 AM
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Oh great. Now I can't think of the name of that movie with the single voter in the district (or was it a short story?)
I'm feeling old

ETA: I thought it was earlier than Swing Vote(2008)
Franchise, by Isaac Asimov?
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Old 09-05-2015, 10:16 AM
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I remember it as a movie where a key district only had one voter and the final stinger was "XXXX was a good guy, too bad I didn't vote for him"
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Old 09-07-2015, 12:02 PM
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Oh great. Now I can't think of the name of that movie with the single voter in the district (or was it a short story?)
I'm feeling old

ETA: I thought it was earlier than Swing Vote(2008)
There was the Popeye cartoon Popeye for President, where Popeye and Bluto are running for President and it turns out that it's a tie, and only one person (Olive Oyl) hasn't voted yet.
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Old 09-08-2015, 01:25 AM
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And y'all know what prolly escalated getting in touch with Miss Henderson from "difficult" to the level of "nearly impossible"? The fact that she was at the meeting.
Well, the last place they'd have thought to look for her.
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Old 09-08-2015, 09:24 AM
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Can't the city council just redraw the boundaries of the district, or is she located such that doing so would cut out too much of it?
Redrawing the district probably isn't that simple. These things come with regulations. It might be simpler to close down the district and start a new one.
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Old 09-08-2015, 11:08 AM
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From the cited article:

Quote:
organizers say it should bring in about $50,000 annually.
Quote:
“Taxing their food is kind of sad, especially when” Gartner “is going to be making like $70,000 a year off of this whole deal,” Henderson said.
How does a $215,000 investment expected to net $50K/yr revenue profit one person $70,000 annually?

Look, I know it reeks, I'm just trying to separate truth from fertilizer here.
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Old 09-15-2015, 10:13 AM
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I'm not going to tease out the costs, but the original district levied an assessment on property tax. That's still in place and coming in yearly. The new sales tax is on top of that.
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Old 09-17-2015, 03:27 PM
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Can't the city council just redraw the boundaries of the district, or is she located such that doing so would cut out too much of it?
Redrawing the district to cut out the single voter who currently resides there would be a pretty obvious ploy. I doubt that any court would be fooled by that. It could be easily challenged by anyone with standing, like the voter herself, or anybody who purchased something and was charged the extra sales tax. And the ensuing legal costs would take a big bite out of the projected revenue. Assuming the court didn't put a hold order on collecting the tax while the case makes it's way thru the courts.
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Old 09-18-2015, 11:46 AM
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There was the Popeye cartoon Popeye for President, where Popeye and Bluto are running for President and it turns out that it's a tie, and only one person (Olive Oyl) hasn't voted yet.
Sounds like the Blackadder III episode "Dish and Dishonesty," where they plot to get Baldrick elected to Parliament in the rotten borough of Dunny-on-the-Wold.
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Old 09-18-2015, 12:38 PM
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Couldn't they businesses just pay a bunch of employees to relocate to district so register to vote in the election? Isn't that was Disney does with the Reedy Creek Improvement District?
No. Disney first obtained permission from the circuit court to create a drainage district, which let them reroute water sources and so on. Later on they got the legislature to pass a special law forming the Improvement District. Everyone who lives within the boundaries of the district is a Disney employee, but none of them own land so none of them have voting rights under the district's charter. The board that governs the district is made up of five executives who "own" undeveloped plots, which are the only land in the district not directly owned by the corporation. That gives them all voting rights.
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Old 09-22-2015, 03:12 PM
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What? Oh, different case. Florida bases voting rights on land ownership, not residency?
  #36  
Old 09-22-2015, 03:33 PM
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For water management districts, yes. Otherwise, no.
  #37  
Old 09-22-2015, 04:13 PM
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So could she propose to eliminate all CID-enacted property and sales taxes then voting on it? Because if someone was trying to make me unregister so I couldn't vote on issues that affect me, that's the least I would do.
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Old 06-23-2016, 03:01 AM
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Bump - any updates on this? Just curious.
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Old 06-23-2016, 07:52 AM
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Lawsuit filed against the Business Loop CID, January 12/2016

The upshot is that they eventually found a few other people living in the district and the tax passed on a vote of 4-3. Our original only voter has launched a lawsuit saying the vote was hinky.
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Old 06-23-2016, 03:07 PM
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Maybe instead of stuffing the ballot box with votes, the business stuffed the district with voters.
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Old 06-23-2016, 03:34 PM
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Well the lawsuit mainly concerns the vote's methodology rather than trucking in fake residents.
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Old 05-20-2019, 12:21 PM
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Any update on how the lawsuit turned out?
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  #43  
Old 05-20-2019, 01:44 PM
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There was the Popeye cartoon Popeye for President, where Popeye and Bluto are running for President and it turns out that it's a tie, and only one person (Olive Oyl) hasn't voted yet.
Also an Archie comic where he and Reggie wind up in a tie when running for class president, and everyone except Betty has voted.
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Old 05-21-2019, 06:51 AM
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Any update on how the lawsuit turned out?
Wow, this is kind of bizarre.
So a judge dismissed the case in March 2016 but never put her ruling in writing. So the student couldn't appeal. And finally just got a higher court to compel the judge to do so in February:

https://www.columbiamissourian.com/n...89a9e4a9f.html

No expert but that seems, really really unusual.
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Old 05-21-2019, 11:24 AM
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Also an Archie comic where he and Reggie wind up in a tie when running for class president, and everyone except Betty has voted.
There was a variation on this in an (animated) Archie TV show - I think it was the one that introduced Sabrina - where it was Reggie running against Big Moose, and everyone but Dilton Doiley had voted.
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