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[Since the departures of Larry Gilbert and Geoff Willis, this blog has been trying to get more conservative voices. With this post we are proud to present our newest conservative blogger, Fullerton's Ryan Cantor.]
Good government is not the same thing as smaller government. If you’re a conservative like me, you’ve been lied to for several decades. Good government tramples on the rights of individuals as little as possible. When it does trample on our rights, it does so with due process and for the greater moral good and freedom of the community that consents to being governed. More often than not, smaller government tends to trample less than bigger government, but remember this country was founded on the basis that a king (an individual—the smallest government possible) regularly trampled on the rights of individuals.
I bring this up in the context of the water tax because the city council in Fullerton is using what it perceives to be righting a moral wrong to trample on my rights. This is bad (small) government and we’re not asking the right questions to determine the best way out of the conundrum that we find ourselves due to years of inaction by the city council.
One of my favorite quotes from the June recall campaign came from Sean Paden. Commenting on the Water Tax at a candidate forum, Sean broke his stance into a very simple statement: “When you take something that isn’t yours, you give it back.”
Great line. Easy to understand, it brought be back to my youth (which is a very effective way to appeal to voters), and it makes sense on its face. Here’s the problem.
I didn’t take anyone’s money, yet I’m being forced to provide restitution. On top of that, I’m being forced to provide restitution to individuals who no longer live or vote in Fullerton.
That ain’t right. For those of you with short attention spans, here’s my own one-liner that summarizes what the rest of the post covers: Unless you’re the King of Fullerton, you’re getting cuckolded by the refund.
If you subscribe to the belief that the city’s collection of a franchise fee was a moral wrong, that it was illegal, and the citizens who were wronged ought to be compensated by the city — then it’s very difficult to fit a three-year statute of limitation onto the restitution. After all, there’s no real moral victory in refunding 3 years of payments if in fact a citizen was wronged for 15 years. For the sake of argument, I’m going to use a 15-year period for the remainder of this post. If someone can make a logical argument (not a legal one) for why only 3-years fits, I’m willing to listen.
Some quick facts and assumptions: Fullerton currently has about 135,000 individual citizens, all of whom have an equal stake in the city’s financial well being, who pay taxes of some sort, and whose rights ought to be considered by the council when voting to decide how to handle the water tax issue. That’s about 10,000 more people, with rights, than there were 10 years ago. On average, a person moves once every 5 years. That’s just shy of 2,000,000 moves for Fullerton residents over a 15 year period. Of the ~50,000 housing units in Fullerton, just under 50% of them are renters.
Here’s the best one: Under 40% of Fullerton residents have lived in the same house since 1999.
People come, they go, they pay taxes, they die, and they all use water. Not all of them pay water bills.
I don’t have a hard number, but I’m going to throw out 50% as the number of renters in Fullerton whose water use is rolled into their rent payment.
Here’s why refunding the water tax sucks and why it’s probably a violation of your individual rights:
Water bills are issued on a month basis based on monthly usage. Over 15 years, that’s over 8,000,000 water bills for Fullerton households. Of the 8M only 3.2M are going households that haven’t had any turnover. The other 4.8M get divided to folks who move in and out of Fullerton—many or most of whom no longer live here. In other words, if you’re not one of the few people who are getting a full refund payment, you’re one of the many people who are getting screwed. It’s substantially worse if you’re renter who doesn’t pay a water bill directly to the city. You (and I) get screwed the most. We get no refund, despite water bills being approximated in our monthly rent checks, and we get to subsidize refunds for those who do receive them.
Sitting down and looking at the numbers, it’s difficult to prove that those getting screwed by the refund do not, at least, outnumber those who get made whole by at least a 2:1 margin. It’s probably closer to 4:1.
We have another word for a political system that exploits the majority for the benefit of a landowning minority. It’s called Feudalism.
Unless you’re King of Fullerton, you should oppose this refund. It’s not just; it tramples your rights, and is an excellent example of bad government as we’re clearly not granting due process to newer residents or renters. We ought to learn from the past and apply what funds would be used for the refund in a way that benefits the whole community (i.e. fix the pipes.)
We’re in this moral conundrum because of bad decisions made by previous leaders. We shouldn’t compound a wrong by making another wrong. To adapt to Mr. Paden’s statement: When something is taken from you, you don’t turn around and steal from your neighbor.
Yes, the water tax sucked. Yes, it sucks that we can’t make everyone whole. It sure sucks a whole lot more to screw over the majority of Fullerton residents to pay for the sins of something that we had nothing to do with 15 years ago. If you really feel this isn’t true, I suggest you deed your house over to the first Native American you see. After all, he or she got screwed over long before you did.