The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

29 June 2005

Post-Kelo (part 73008)

Bethany City Manager Dan Galloway's thinking [link requires Adobe Reader] on the matter of eminent domain:

Why would a City in Oklahoma want to exercise eminent domain and take personal property simply to build a major shopping mall? Cities in Oklahoma cannot collect ad valorem taxes for operating expense, so it must not be the increase in assessed valuation that they are after. Overall Oklahoma has a very low unemployment rate, so I don't think job creation is what they are after. However, the primary and largest source of operating revenue for Cities and Towns in Oklahoma is local sales tax! Aha! That must be why those cities are going after those development projects.

If a city has 20,000 or 50,000 citizens to provide police, fire, streets, and other municipal services for, it must by necessity collect their local taxes. If the city doesn't have any retail stores (or only a few) inside the city limits there are no "local tax collectors". No collectors no local tax income. No local tax income — underfunded police, fire, streets, and other services. Citizens shop somewhere else and some other city gets the local taxes they could not pay at home. Oklahoma laws on local government finance are somewhat unique in this respect compared to the other 49 states. Until the State legislature is willing to tackle the job of repairing the outdated and broken system of inequitable distribution of local taxes in Oklahoma, you are putting more and more pressure on local governments to use whatever means available to get new tax collectors (malls and shopping centers) inside their city limits, and that includes eminent domain where necessary.

I sincerely want to protect and preserve our rights to own property. You might think of governments taking private property for business development as a disease. We need to do something about the pathogen that is causing that disease. One of the pathogens in many cases may well be our statutory provisions for local government taxation. If the Legislature does not try to cure the disease, cities will continue to try to ease the symptoms by taking personal property and replacing it with retail business.

Bethany, incidentally, has about 20,000 people and not a whole lot of shopping.

I have to wonder if maybe Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett was thinking along these lines when he offered to extend city fire and police protection to some of the suburbs under contract.

(By way of The Basement in Tulsa.)

Posted at 1:00 PM to Political Science Fiction


TrackBack: 11:22 PM, 29 June 2005
» Welcome Dustbury Readers! from The Basement
Charles G. Hill of Dustbury picks up our eminent eminent domain story. Sure I had an inside man but it's awful cool that we scooped every newspaper in Oklahoma, published editorial feedback and subsequent response from a the original author, and got ......[read more]

Seems to me the concept of the government as underfunded is the dangerous part.

Government will always think of itself as underfunded. Because it could do more things with more money, could exercise more power with more employees/officials.

Posted by: Brian J. at 2:13 PM on 29 June 2005

Dan Galloway's medical analogy is flawed.

"I sincerely want to protect and preserve our rights to own property. You might think of governments taking private property for business development as a disease. We need to do something about the pathogen that is causing that disease."

It is more medically analogous to say that government taking private property for business use is their prescribed cure, rather than the disease itself. They see the problem as being state government, unfunded federal mandates, etc. and those problems could rightly be called the disease. The willingness to immorally trample on private property rights for private use and thus bring about a quick fix to temporary funding problems is a cure that is abhorrent to anyone who believes in our fundamental rights as a free people. The use of eminent domain (to further continue the analogy) amounts to radical surgery as opposed to governments swallowing the pill and increasing taxes or cutting services.

Just because there appears, after Kelo, to be a new source of funding open to local municipalities does not mean the political physicians need to begin sharpening their scalpels.

Posted by: Mike Swi... at 2:41 PM on 29 June 2005

... and (to further the medical analogy) don't forget the application of leeches (in this case the developers and their incestuous and self serving little cabol)

Posted by: Ron at 4:57 PM on 29 June 2005

cabol ... cabal ... whateva :)

Posted by: ron at 5:01 PM on 29 June 2005

I thought this was very informative and timely.

Thanks for posting it.

Posted by: buddyhackett at 6:25 PM on 29 June 2005

Thanks for the mention of both this important issue and The Basement and the interesting comments.

-Matt

Posted by: Matt Galloway at 10:37 PM on 29 June 2005

There is, of course, No Cabal. :)

(I managed to misspell Mr Galloway's name; I have corrected any references thereto. Sometimes it pays to be a step ahead of the Spelling Patrol.)

Posted by: CGHill at 8:38 AM on 30 June 2005

Mike, I appreciated your comments and taking another perspective of the medical analogy. There are many cases of local governments where I would have to agree with you. I do take issue with those who stereotype local governments and characterize them as all vultures, greedy and wasteful. That very concept is why I got into City Management over twenty years ago. I wanted the opportunity to see just how efficiently a city government could be for the least tax burden on the citizens as possible. I think I have done a pretty good job of this in three cities.
Take Bethany for example. We have police and fire departments that are the envy of the metro area. People from throughout the area comment about why Bethany?s streets are in better condition than others. I could go on but that is not the point. Our City also happens to have the lowest tax income per capita for all cities of 10,000 or more in the State. Consequently, our expenditure per capita is also low. We run the City much like a business and have become very efficient That makes it difficult to accept being placed in the stereotypical barrel with the cities that actually fit your stereotype.
The citizens of our community collectively pay over $7.5 million per year in local sales tax. We only collect $3.9 million of that. But, since they live here, they receive no police, fire, streets, parks, etc. for the $3.6 million in local tax they paid in other cities where they shopped. The only way to allow them to pay that three plus million at home for their own police and fire is to have big new stores for them to shop in.
But, our City is fully developed with only two parcels of undeveloped land large enough for a Home Depot, let alone a shopping mall. We do not plan to use eminent domain to solve the problem. But if you understand this scenario you might better understand why a city might revert to that tool. I am not saying that makes it right or wrong. What would you do? Eliminate fire protection? Eliminate police protection? Let streets become broken and unsafe? By the way, here in Oklahoma the only tax we can use at the city level is sales tax.

Posted by: Dan Galloway at 2:10 PM on 30 June 2005

Hey....wasn't Dan Galloway Raymond Burr's sidekick in "Ironside"? No, wait ...he was the guy with the chimp in the old "Today" show ... no, wait ...

Posted by: Chase at 12:06 AM on 1 July 2005

Dan, as a late response to your question:
What would you do? Eliminate fire protection? Eliminate police protection? Let streets become broken and unsafe? By the way, here in Oklahoma the only tax we can use at the city level is sales tax.
I honestly don't know what I would do, but it would never cross my mind to violate my constituents' 5th amendment rights any more than it would occur to me to violate any of their other fundamental rights. What's next? Banning newspapers that criticize the mayor?

Posted by: Dan at 10:39 PM on 3 July 2005