Bismarck Residents Must Keep Pressure On Tax Hike Plans February 18th, 2016 Mayor Mike Seminary will be on 550 KFYR this afternoon (February 18th, 2

      Web Version   Preferences   Unsubscribe  

Bismarck Residents Must Keep Pressure On Tax Hike Plans

February 18th, 2016

Mayor Mike Seminary will be on 550 KFYR this afternoon (February 18th, 2016) , tune in and call in with your questions or comments at 701-258-0550.

Last week Thursday there was an outstanding turnout to the the Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce's townhall forum regarding the proposed sales tax increase. Well over 150 people showed up and had a lively exchange with the Mayor and some city staffers.

From the Bismarck Tribune:

Comments spilled 40 minutes over the 90 minutes allotted for the town hall meeting with a repeated theme challenging the city's incentives used for downtown projects and the city's ignoring previous votes that have gone to residents.

Testimony challenged Mayor Mike Seminary's proposal to add a new sales tax due to a 37-year tax increment finance district in downtown Bismarck, a new TIF district approved for FiveSouth, Bismarck's Renaissance Zone. It also disputed the perception that the city commission renegged on expanding the Bismarck Event Center even though residents rejected it in a citywide vote.

Seminary said the incentives were unrelated to sales taxes. He added that the city commission has voted that 66th Street interchange projects be paid by the state Legislature, but the city cannot ignore roads within the city that need to be widened, such the rural 43rd Avenue and Divide Avenue that lack the capacity to support traffic. Seminary said the downsized Event Center expansion used existing funding sources and did not increase hospitality taxes as residents voted on.

Of the people who chose to speak, the message was overwhelming against the notion of raising the sales tax - with the caveat that if a tax increase is truly needed, it has to be highly limited to specific projects and those specific projects need to make sense

Townhall Graphic

Mayor Mike Seminary continues to adhere to the notion that growth in Bismarck necessitates higher tax rates for everyone. The mayor also continues to assert that decisions that affect revenue streams are unrelated to the city's budgeting problems. How can he or any of our commissioners really believe that decisions made on thinks like TIF and FiveSouth have nothing to do with his espoused need to raise the sales tax?

At the February 11th town-hall meeting hosted by the Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce, the mayor continued to perpetuate this distortion of reality.

Mayor Seminary seems to refuse to admit that all decisions made by the city end up affecting the city's ability to finance basic needs. Backs Questioning Approach

A national organization called Strong Towns has voiced its opinion about the growth Mayor Seminary has been promoting.

This is not your typical conservative limited government organization.

Rather, Strong Towns is focused on smart growth, a catch phrase Mayor Seminary himself has used numerous times in recent years.

The Strong Towns Mission Statement reads:


Strong Towns posted an article entitled Great Questions from the Great Plains where it reviewed the questions we have been circulating for several weeks:

Last week I became aware of another group -- North Dakota Watchdog Network -- that has put forth ten questions they would like to see answered as part of this dialogue. I've given a couple of speeches in Bismarck and I know we have a lot of readers, and a few members there, so it gave me some pride to read these questions.

Has Bismarck’s growth been “productive growth” or simply “growth at any cost”?

Why hasn’t the growth Bismarck has experienced been able to pay for the public costs of the growth?

Does the city realize that the need for higher taxes proves that the growth has not paid its own way?

Why does the city have a “growth management plan” if it does not keep the public cost of growth below the revenue generated by the growth?

Has the city devised a long-term policy to ensure that the costs of growth will not outweigh the benefits of growth if voters approve a tax increase?

How will the city change its ways to ensure that the cost of growth does not exceed the benefits of growth in the future?

What actions has the city taken to ensure that growth is at worst a revenue-neutral situation?

Why should the current residents of Bismarck support growth if the growth is going to cost everybody more in taxes?

If generating more revenue from visitors is the solution, why is that not enough with the sales taxes as they are today?

How can the city prove that this tax increase will do the job?

Now I don't know anything about the North Dakota Watchdog Group. They may be far from Strong Towns thinking -- which is not reflexively anti-tax -- but, regardless, I'm happy to see these ideas inserted into the conversation. I hope policymakers take them seriously.

If they do, they will discover that the transportation investments they have been making -- which resemble the investments they are planning to make if they get more money -- are financial losers for the community. They create, at best, an illusion of wealth but are leaving Bismarck with enormous long term liabilities. It is the culmination of these liabilities that the city is now dealing with. More money to do more of the same will only make things worse.

A different approach --a Strong Towns approach -- starts with asking and answering those questions, particularly the first two. When this is done, Bismarck will see that the problem they are trying to solve is actually insolvency, not cash flow. That realization will put them on the path to become a stronger place.

Because Strong Towns comes at these issues from and engineering and accounting approach, they are considered to be more of a technical reform organization than a political reform organization. The founder and president of the organization is a civil engineer and urban planner by trade.

These questions must be answered by those wanting higher taxes and claim that higher taxes are the only way.

The public must demand that the city have a plan to make sure even more taxes are required later on.

-Dustin Gawrylow, Managing Director

North Dakota Watchdog Network

(701) 390-9231

Paypal Button

Sales Tax Debate Information

Paypal Button