How would you solve the perennial Takoma Park problem of double taxation?
Tax duplication is any issue that arises between counties and municipalities that both provide high levels of service. The whole point of incorporating is to ensure the provision of more and better services. I think for the most part the city meets its end of that bargain, though there is always room for improvement.
If the county provides the same service the city does in a cheaper way for the same level of service or a higher level of service for the same cost, then the city should evaluate whether it should continue that service. One caveat is that any evaluation should account for whether the county’s provision of or cost for that service will continue and whether the city can make changes to reduce its cost for or improve its delivery of the service.
Another thing the council needs to do on an ongoing basis is to look at the city’s structure to ensure the most efficient use of resources. I do not mean eliminating jobs; I mean making sure employees and managers are assigned to positions where they can provide the most benefit and giving them the resources they need to succeed.
The council can also help to promote a culture where front line employees can use their knowledge and experience in innovative ways to improve the city. Beyond prudent study of the city and county’s ongoing services and budgets, I believe the city has done almost all it can in lobbying the county and state and additional lobbying of higher governments will have its limits. We now need to take our case directly to residents in non-incorporated areas and educate them.
Taking our case to the broader public in unincorporated areas helps county and state politicians and officials to give us a fairer hearing and have the backing they need to support our fair treatment. (It would not hurt if we could convince more parts of the county to incorporate as well.)
To fix the underfunded county reimbursement for services provided by the city to its residents, we must move beyond the strategy of writing letters, submitting reports, and waiting patiently for responses. All of the research and groundwork accomplished thus far has been very important.
Yet the result as it stands now is that the county has decided it owes Takoma Park residents a smaller reimbursement rather than a larger one. So we must move into a different phase of this fight. We must use a combination of public demonstration and legal challenges to bring about justice. In terms of public demonstrations, we should have some fun: undertake a “march on Rockville,” pitchforks and torches in hand, to confront the county council and county executive and call attention to the injustice of double taxation.
On the legal front, we must challenge double taxation as unconstitutional under the Maryland and United States constitutions. Very recently, another possibility for a legal challenge has emerged because of a case involving Maryland’s refusal to reimburse county taxes that it has collected while someone has been residing in another state. I understand that this case may open the door for the U.S. Supreme Court to examine whether the collection of local taxes could be construed to be regulated under the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution. If so, we might be able to make a case that Montgomery County and the state of Maryland is violating the interstate commerce clause by its excessive collection of taxes from Takoma Park residents.
It is critical that Montgomery County properly credit our residents for the services our city provides. I have significant experience working with organizations such as state teachers’ unions and civil liberties groups to ensure that governments at all levels are held accountable for their responsibilities and actions. I will bring this experience to the fight for proper treatment by the county.
I also encourage all residents of Takoma Park to ask each of the candidates running for County Council to commit to honor the County’s agreement to reimburse city residents for city services that reduce the County’s burdens. This has been a problem for decades, unfortunately, and I don’t want to pretend that I have an easy answer. Let’s talk about what progress on this issue looks like: the amount of double taxation should go down year by year.
In office, I would challenge myself to be effective in reducing this burden, even if the Council cannot make it go away all at once.