The ability of the Voice of Orange County to dig into the soft underbelly of the way things work has impressed me more and more over the past year that they’ve been in operation. In his story today, Omission in Santa Ana Downtown Tax Law Riles Property Owners, Adam Elmahrek has exposed a few really disturbing pieces of information about the lack of democracy in Orange County’s largest city. His story reveals how in the establishment of the downtown business district tax assessment process the City placed the local property owners in a no-win situation.
Because Santa Ana is a charter city they can pretty much do whatever they want when it comes to setting up an assessment district like the one thatÂ covers Santa Ana’s downtown core. Elmahrek writes:
The law in Santa Ana that makes it possible for the city to levy an assessment tax on downtown property owners is written almost entirely from a state law that allows for the creation of, and taxation within, property business improvement districts.
The tax covers the city’s 66-block community management district and funds Downtown Inc., the organization responsible for promoting and sprucing up the city’s urban core. It also pays for the area’s clean and safe services, paying for security guards and cleanup workers.
The assessment district was put out to a vote by property owners for approval in 2008 and managed to pass because the city law allowed a minority of votes to push it through.
Elmahrek then points out the really absurd part of the process uses by the City of Santa Ana in getting the district established. It has to do with the way the city council rewrote the law.
The state law requires that those owning more than 50 percent of the area’s assessed value vote in favor of creating the district — and the accompanying tax — before it can be established. In Santa Ana, the threshold is 30 percent.
The city was also allowed to cast a ballot in the election to establish the district because it owns property in the area. The city’s property alone was worth over one third of the votes in favor of the district, according to Jun.
In the 2008 vote that passed the assessment district, 27 property owners who would be paying the tax voted for it, while 43 voted against.
So much for Democracy in Santa Ana. Read the complete story at the Voice of Orange County HERE.