Paying More In Taxes Makes Sense!
There must be something in the air in the San Gabriel Valley of California, because so many people there have voted to pay extra taxes to get what they wanted, and they wouldn’t take no for an answer. Crazy? No. Ornery, stubborn, uncompromising and incorrigible? Perhaps. But shrewd… absolutely.
In 1993, California eliminated the Special District Augmentation Fund that had supported libraries. Hours were cut back. Services were cancelled. People were laid off. And in Pasadena and Altadena the communities resoundingly said, “No!” In June of that year, Pasadena voters, by a 79.9% margin voted to restore their libraries’ services fully with a five-year parcel tax. In 1994, Altadena voters followed suit and by an even larger margin instituted their own per parcel tax to restore all their libraries’ services, unchanged! And they’ve been voting for that tax ever since.
However, this phenomenon is not limited merely to libraries. In 2000, the businessmen and women of the Old Pasadena Business and Professional Association (now the Old Pasadena Management District, OPMD) made the same kind of choice. After years of fighting City Hall to get the services they wanted, they voted to pay extra taxes to make their streets clean and safe, creating the foundation for a business district that has become the envy of all of Southern California and a model for the nation.
Unlike the stereotypes we see popularized in the media, these tax-and-spend types were not an “effete corps of impudent snobs” or out-of-touch politicians intent on taking “our hard earned cash.” These were business people, merchants, developers, families and citizens of every political stripe, who taxed themselves, so they would know that their hard earned cash was spent only on what they want and need the most. They knew the value of a dollar and demanded a return on their investments.
Today, this radical breed of Tax-Me revolutionary is not content to just put out money and stick it into some amorphous general fund in the hope that assets might dribble out in the right direction. These folks watch how every penny is spent, and aren’t shy about suggesting how to spend it better. These are not just citizens who “support” their community, they are active members who are out to shape their community.
These tax revolutions have been organized by people who know what they want and refuse to let anyone take it from them. They want clean streets, or a better-educated work force, or a cultural center for their community, and they’ll fight for it. They won’t take no for an answer. Taxing yourself makes sense when you can take a slum and turn it into the kind of prime destination that Old Pasadena has become. And in Pasadena and Altadena, they know parcel taxes are a sound investment in making sure we have an educated work force to build the leaders of tomorrow.
In reflection, this is a concept as old as the hills. You get what you pay for. This is a tax reform mentality that targets the kind of change everyone can profit from.