When I was 25 years old (12 years ago) I went to a meeting at the Sterling Heights City Hall with my Dad and a friend of his. If I remember correctly the city put on a special meeting due to citizens not being happy about a recent vote. I cannot recall exactly what issue was voted on and I could not find anything on Google either.
I did not know it when I walked in but I was about to learn a lesson in Politics and Government. Something that has stuck with me this entire time.
About a hundred people showed up at the meeting. Leading the meeting was an elected official (I think) for Sterling Heights and four other people.
What I do remember from the meeting is people were mad that their property taxes were going up because some new position or board was created. There was a lot of confusion.
The guy running the meeting was putting up slides showing how the City of Sterling Heights and Macomb County had to have these departments because of rules written by the State of Michigan. Basically, if the city and county want to receive money from the state than they have to have these departments.
I remember the chart. There were a lot of boxes with department/office names in them. I remember thinking “we need all of these just for the city?”
An hour into the meeting some guy said “Well, we need to have another vote. My property taxes are going up $10 and this is bullshit.”
The guy running the meeting said “It costs $150,000 to have a vote. Thats not in our budget.” He also added something along the lines of “We could do it but we would have to raise money (property taxes) to do it”. Nobody liked that idea.
Sitting quietly in front of me was a woman who I swear was a teacher at Stevenson High School when I was there. I just couldn’t say for sure.
After the guy leading the meeting finished replying she looked around and dropped a line that has stuck with me since.
“Its Only Ten More Dollars.”
This was 2005. A couple of years before I became interested in politics. So when I heard her statement I was in agreement. Why is everybody all bent out of shape over ten dollars?
The meeting ended and from what I can recall, my dad said nothing was accomplished. But that statement has stuck with me since and I now use it as a reminder on how to vote.
It isn’t only ten more dollars. Its now $120 as its been 12 years. And add ten more dollars next year. And the year after that.
If you were to take that money and multiply by the amount of property owners over twelve years you’ll get well into the tens of millions more dollars that property owners have been forced to pay because of that one vote.
I’m not going to go into the whole property taxes went down because property values went down from 2008 – 2012 because its moot. Also, because property values are back up.
What I feel to be true over a decade later is once a law has been passed its nearly impossible to remove it. So in this case it might have been a $10 increase in 2005, a $1 increase in 2009, and back to $10 in 2017. At the end of the day this new rule is there.
My takeaway from her statement a dozen years later is this. Instead of saying its only ten more dollars. I now say:
“What happened to the ten dollars I already gave you?”
Isn’t this an important question? Doesn’t it always seem the politicians and supporters of issues just say “well costs go up” and “we just need more money.” That didn’t answer my question.
Going back to the woman.
If she really wanted to own her statement she would have walked up to the guy running the meeting, opened up her purse, and gave him a $10 bill.
Game Over. You win lady. Drop the mic. Tip the waitstaff. Have a nice night.
There’s always that. If it was only ten more dollars than why didn’t she give them the money? No one is stopping anybody from handing over money to the government without being forced by a law.
I’ve done this a couple of times in the past decade.
When a Mom had a table at the grocery store encouraging people to Vote Yes on something in 2010 (which would raise property taxes $10 a year to give more money to the schools) I pulled out a $20 bill handed it to her and said:
“I’m voting no because I can’t knowingly raise my neighbors property taxes as some of them live on a fixed income. $10 might mean three less meals every year moving forward for them. Here’s double of what your asking for.”
She had that deer in headlights look. She didn’t know what to do.
Her – “Well, I’d prefer if you Voted Yes.”
Me – “I don’t understand? Im doubling what you’re asking for.”
Her – “Umm, can you vote yes?”
Me – “I appreciate you doing this. I really do. But you’re asking me to force my neighbors to pay more for something that they and I currently don’t use. How is that fair? And then you turned down double of what you’re asking for? I guess Ill keep the $20.”
This same scenario has happened at least three times. People have come around knocking on doors asking me to Vote Yes on something and I do the same exact thing. I tell them I’m voting No and then pull out double the amount of money they are asking for. None of them are ready for it.
Its Never Only Ten More Dollars.
If there is an issue being voted on and it mentions raising taxes on anything there is a 99% chance I’m voting No.
If there is something being voted on (or a politician is campaigning on) that could raise the costs of something indirectly than there is still a 99% chance I’m voting No and not voting for them.
I still think the woman who spoke up was a teacher. I really do. And I’m sure she didn’t intend on teaching anybody anything at the meeting that day. But she did.