Tag Archives: Revenue Neutrality

John Tronson in Van Nuys: Money doesn’t talk, it swears1

John Tronson at the Joint Security Committee meeting on April 9, 2015, giving a performative demonstration via mouth-closure that he’s not, at the moment the picture was taken, lying.
The city of Los Angeles has been holding public hearings to gather input on possible frameworks for legalizing street vending. Yesterday we began discussing the June 11 meeting in Van Nuys by considering Kerry Morrison’s statement. Today we move on to John Tronson. You can listen to his statement here or after the break, where a transcription is also available. Audio of the entire meeting is available here. We’re just going to look at John’s statement one piece at a time.

Good evening. My name is John Tronson. I’m a member of the Hollywood Entertainment District, which is a property-owner based business improvement district in Hollywood.

All these people start off by saying something true. It’s meant to lull your suspicions. Don’t let it.

Some people think that because they pay taxes with their own money, the taxes they pay are still their own money after they’re paid. If they start taking this idea too seriously they’re likely to wake up one morning to find a bunch of people wearing this badge while knocking down their door with a battering ram.
We spend three and a half million dollars a year of our own money to clean the streets of Hollywood, to trim the trees, to provide additional public safety and paint out graffiti.

The way a property-based BID works is this: If the majority of the property owners in a district agree, the city adds an extra assessment to their property tax, keeps some part of the money raised for administrative overhead, and distributes the rest back to the BID to spend on specific kinds of services in the district. There are two important points to remember. First, a BID can be established over the objection of individual property owners. Only a majority need approve. Second, once a BID is established, the assessment is no longer voluntary. It is compulsory. Non-payment is punishable by the full range of state action2 up to and including violent confiscation of property. In other words, this assessment, once paid, is a tax. After all, income tax might be considered voluntary in this same sense. The Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution was put in place by elected representatives, so in a way, the people to be taxed consented to the taxation. But now that it’s in place, income tax is no longer voluntary, just as BID assessments are no longer voluntary. This is consistent with the standard definition:

Al Capone, yet another guy who confused "taxes" with "his own money" and had to have the distinction explained to him in a fairly forceful manner.
Al Capone, yet another guy who confused “taxes” with “his own money” and had to have the distinction explained to him in a fairly forceful manner.
Tax: A compulsory contribution to the support of government, levied on persons, property, income, commodities, transactions, etc., now at fixed rates, mostly proportional to the amount on which the contribution is levied.3

Now, everyone who pays taxes has, at one point or another, thought of that money as still their own. But really, it’s not. Try telling a cop not to give you a ticket because you pay their salary with your “own money.” Try telling a professor at UCLA they have to give your kid an A+ because it’s your “own money” that supports them. It’s a losing argument. Taxes, once paid, belong to the public, not to the people who paid them. BID assessments are taxes. BID assessments are public money. Now, as to John’s statement about what they do with that public money, it’s true as far as it goes. That’s not all they spend the money on, but they do spend it on that. We won’t argue. Onward!
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