Arthur and I went to a kind of “community meeting” this evening. Apparently the City of Craig has imperial ambitions with respect to the denizens of Port Saint Nicholas Road (“PSN”). The denizens, however, are quite ambivalent about this. I would myself be inclined to agree that the city offers little of value in terms of improved services, given their fire department’s poor showing during the house fire next door in August (which currently they are legally obligated to provide despite being outside their tax base, but which they receive state monies to do, too, so it’s not like they are losing money on it).
Right now, the battle is about who really controls, owns, and is obligated to maintain the road. This is taking the form of the city’s “Ordinance 719,” which appears to be an unconstitutional “taxation without representation” proposition, wherein the city is allocating to itself the “extraterritorial” right to tax property owners along the road despite their not being voting residents of the city, in exchange for road maintenance – which the city is already legally obligated to do because of where they chose to site their water treatment plant. There are a number of dramatis personae: there’s the city (and specifically its hapless yet hubristic water department), there’s the tribal association (nominally non-profit), there’s the tribal corporation (for-profit, that owns all the non-parcelled land around Craig and PSN, and that originally built the road – it’s not, in fact, “public” in origin), and there are the helpless denizens themselves. At stake: the gobs of state and federal grant money lurking out there for whoever can control the road.
But the City of Craig’s long game is pretty obvious – they hope to undertake an expansive regional annexation into their taxable territory a la Ketchikan (which took over its entire island) or Juneau (which took over several large islands as well as the mainland and became the single largest city in the US in land area). Arthur finds the prospect sufficiently alarming that he was motivated to dislodge himself from his hidey-hole and go find out what was going on. There is a grassroots, community-initiated “legal defense fund” that has hired some lawyers to battle the city and their plans in the courts. So we attended the meeting and became better informed. Arthur donated money (“…pay voluntarily now to avoid paying [taxes] involuntarily later”).
My own opinion is slightly more ambivalent. I don’t share the majority of my neighbors’ instinctual distrust of government and visceral resentment of taxation. I can see that the city has, in this instance, been poorly managed and ham-handed with respect to their treatment of the PSN community, but I refuse to generalize this behavior to the potential of governments in general. My own instinct would be to counter Craig’s ambitions with a move toward a greater degree of counterbalancing self-government: at the least, one or more legally-empowered and -chartered homeowners’ association(s); at the most extreme, pre-emptive incorporation of Port Saint Nicholas as its own “city” (village, but “city” in the legal sense) to effectively “block” Craig’s expansion.
And on that note, I provide this photo of a member Port Saint Nicholas’ silent majority: the trees.
[daily log: walking, 3.5km]