Thursday, October 1, 2015

Taxation Without Representation

My daddy always said, "Security is the opposite of Freedom" and maybe he was right. His examples were a prisoner who is totally secure - fed, clothed, and with a bed - has no freedom. On the other hand, a homeless person, wandering the streets, is totally free, but has no security whatsoever.

I know these are extremes, but considering even my own choices, the concept seems to work very well.

In 2002, Cahaba Heights, then in Jefferson County, voted to become part of Vestavia Hills. Those of us who could see that we were giving up freedom for security (and property values) protested the annexation loud and clear. But we were outnumbered on voting day, and our quiet little community became the slums of Vestavia Hills. (The per capita income in Vestavia Hills is just over $52,000/year. The per capita income in Cahaba Heights is just over $28,000.)

Our property value did increase, but that comes into play only if one wants to sell her house. For those of us who DON'T want to leave their homes, the property taxes skyrocketed. In my case, my annual tax bill went from $99/year to over $1500/year. Quite a hefty increase for a retired person!

"But look," the proponents said, "You don't have to pay for garbage pickup ($15/month) anymore, and no more fire dues!" ($99/year)

For me, and many other residents, the tax burden is hard, but for the dozens of Mom & Pop businesses that had been in the community for 50-plus years, the business license burden was unbearable. In the second year of being Vestavia, most of those closed, leaving just a handful of them after 2004. Now there are only 2 left, and one of those is moving to Hoover soon. They just can't afford to stay in business here.

So, with that background in mind, consider what is happening now:

A certain developer wants to build a 4-story apartment complex adjacent to Cahaba Heights Elementary School, which will have shops on the first floor, and living spaces on the other 3 floors. As soon as this was on the City Council agenda, hundreds of (formerly) Cahaba Heights residents wrote, called, and emailed their councilpersons in protest. Including me.

Of the 8 councilpersons I emailed, I got no reply from 4 of them. Two of them replied, "Thank you for your input." One replied that there was no such building planned, OR on the council agenda to consider, and one was on vacation and automatically replied as such.

The day of the vote, City Hall was flooded with (formerly) Cahaba Heights residents, protesting the development. The school principle spoke against such a building on the school playground. Hundreds of students and their parents lined Highway 31 with signs and cards protesting the building. The council room was so crowded with protesters that people took turns moving in and out so everyone would have a chance to hear some of the proceedings, which lasted from about 5:30pm until almost 9:00pm.

There was no support from (formerly) Cahaba Heights residents, or from anyone else, other than the representatives of the development company wanting to build the apartments. Apparently the residents of our (formerly) quiet little community are having second thoughts about their "security". Hmmmm.

Well, around 9pm the City Council voted 6-2 to allow the 81-unit apartment to be build on the back of the Cahaba Heights Elementary School property, adjacent to the football field.

It seems like I remember that our country has already had issues with "taxation without representation". Now it comes home to (formerly) Cahaba Heights, which has no representatives on the City Council. Maybe it's time for another "tea party" over here in Vestavia Hills! Or maybe I'll run for City Council. At least I answer my emails.

1 comment:

  1. My friend owns Classic Aesthetics in Cahaba Heights, and her licenses went up the day after the election. Then she had to abandon a new service she was preparing for, because the requirements under Vestavia ordinances were cost prohibitive. She had already invested a lot of money in the service equipment and training, too. Perhaps you should run for council, Ginger!