Back in August, the blogosphere was popping with stories about a cynical group of businesses in Missouri that persuaded the city council to create a special Community Improvement District. Here's part of the news story at the time:
The Columbia City Council established the district on a 5-2 vote in April in response to a petition from a group of property owners in the CID boundaries. The "qualified voters" in a CID are capable of levying various taxes or assessments within the boundaries of the district to fund improvement projects. Under state law, decisions to impose sales taxes in a CID are to be made by registered voters living in the district boundaries. If no such registered voters are present, property owners vote.
But they didn't take account of Jen Henderson.
According to the news item:
On Feb. 28, Jen Henderson, 23, became the sole registered voter living within the community improvement district, or CID, meaning she is the only person who would vote on a half-cent sales tax increase for the district.
So what to do?
Henderson said she doesn't want her involvement with the CID to be private. She said Gartner initially approached her in June to explain the goals of the CID and ask her to consider "unregistering her vote" so the property owners could make the decision. The more she researched the situation, Henderson said, things "just didn't seem to be as good as they were saying to me at first."
Gartner "tried to get me to unregister, and that's pretty manipulative," Henderson said. "The district plan and the district border is manipulative, too."
Gartner is CID Executive Director Carrie Gartner, a city planner. Here's a TED talk she gave 3 years earlier.
Henderson, realizing that her vote counted, investigated further:
Henderson said she doesn't plan to give up her right to vote and feels negative about an increased sales tax -- but has not made a decision about how to vote. Henderson said her concerns include vague project outlines, Gartner's pay, Business Loop improvements she said will help businesses but not nearby residents and how an additional sales tax would affect low-income people purchasing groceries and other necessities.
"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. "These people make a quarter of that. They can barely afford to go buy food, and you're taxing their food."
What I had never heard was what came of this. Shortly after the news story came out and Jen Henderson became an informed voter, the City Council voted to cancel the sales tax increase.