Columbia, Missouri, taxes, and its police force

We just viewed a television interview with Columbia Mayor R. McDavid. The interview was in regard to his plan ask voters to increase property taxes to remedy the understaffing of the police department.

Dr. McDavid made several points that perked up our ears:

  • We should ignore the blogosphere and talk radio. (Now there’s a challenge.)
  • The Columbia Police Department is understaffed by at least 30%.
  • The voters will get a chance to determine the size of the Columbia Police Department.

We do not wish to get into the policy weeds concerning the differences between the Columbia PD chief and the Boone County sheriff, or the question of which taxes should or should not be raised, nor the issues currently swirling about violent crime in Columbia (just perception per the mayor?) There are several broader points to be made, points we believe should contribute to a sound evaluation (not ‘perception’) of the situation.

When a politician says he is ignoring talk radio and its many callers, a defensive posture, he is likely aliening people who might be persuaded to his point of view. Not a good tactic.

We accept that the Columbia PD is understaffed. Our question is: Why? The city recently changed its method of budgeting. It asked for and last fiscal year got a surplus from the various departments. Having no plan to handle the surplus – certainly not returning it to the taxpayers – the city returned it to the departments. Now the city is asking for a tax increase to handle a policing situation it should have known about years ago. It is quite common for politicians to accede to the demands of special interests, or favored causes like ‘green’ energy to the detriment of essential services. It is also common for politicians to protect non-essential services and ask for tax increases to support the essential ones. Recently voters approved a permanent sales tax increase to provide a one-time upgrade to the 911 center, the Public Safety Joint Communications office. Clearly the understaffing of the PD did not occur at once, but over years. In our opinion and considering the importance of public safety, we would like to see the people responsible identified and then recalled or fired.

Yes, the voters will get to determine the size of the Columbia PD. Of course in phrasing the issue this way, the Mayor is deflecting responsibility from the city to the voters. But when did the voters ever get the chance to determine the size of any part of the city government? Or of the city government as a whole? Or to determine which services are not essential, so part of their budget could be transferred to the PD?

The manipulation of voters by politicians and bureaucrats, while common, is still scandalous. What to do? Education of the electorate is surely an urgent need. In the meantime a NO vote on the property tax increase is called for.




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