Winter 2008 – President’s column

Q. Where do your taxes and fees go?

A. Wherever the elected officials want to spend them.

First, a disclaimer: This column is non-partisan. This column is political.

Elected officials control the expenditure of our tax and fee contributions. Today, the expenditure of these revenues is not necessarily invested in the neighborhoods from whence they came. (This holds for the City, County, State and Federal Government.)

In our own District 2 of the City of Miami, Commissioner Marc Sarnoff told BHA representatives at their January meeting, “We’re 78% of the City’s tax base impact fees which should be spent in District 2 are not being spent on District 2.”

Actually, much of District 2-generated taxes are spent elsewhere.

How can we influence the decisions of elected officials? Commissioner Sarnoff said he plans to “challenge, possibly sue” the City of Miami over this practice. For those of us without legal expertise and with limited resources, however, access, leverage and perceived voting power are our chief means of influence.

How can we obtain such power? Two ways:

1) individual and corporate campaign contributions which are, per force, partisan.

2) voting — voting is unique in that its effect is both partisan and non-partisan at the same time. Yes, it is partisan to the candidate or issue supported, but in a larger sense, it is non-partisan because the number of actual voters, rather than the number of registered voters in each district, holds greater sway with elected officials. Numbers of likely voters gets the attention.

The distinction between generating influence via partisan and non-partisan means is being made because BHA is non-partisan regarding candidates, but not necessarily so when it comes to issues. We can urge our community to vote, but not for a specific candidate. (This function is limited to the Brickell Neighborhood Political Action Committee [PAC].)

We have some 5,000 registered voters in the BHA community and growing through increasing population and registration. If 4,000 regularly vote, this number can easily swing an election in the City of Miami and even in the County, as well.

You might want to keep this in mind on August 26th, especially if you care where your tax and fee contributions go.

From BHA News, Winter 2008, Vol. XVIII, No. 1