During the 1750s and 1760s, some British colonists in America took up the slogan no taxation without representation, which became a rallying cry throughout the American Revolution.
Four individuals who reside outside Cortez city limits approached the Cortez City Council on Tuesday and asked why, as people who own property in Cortez and pay property tax in the city, they cant vote or run for office in Cortez.
Loren Workman said he owns a business and property in Cortez.
We feel that the actions and the decisions made on the council have a direct effect, both good and bad, on our business and our property values, Workman said. We would like to have the same rights as the people who can rent our properties, that can vote. But we own our properties, and we cant.
Although the council seemed amiable to considering the change, the process of changing the city charter to allow nonresidents to vote is far from simple and streamlined
A change in the city charter to allow individuals living outside city limits to vote or run in municipal elections would require voter approval by registered city voters as a ballot measure.
Getting the measure on the ballot requires a city council ordinance or certified petitions signed by a percentage of registered voters in Cortez, said Linda Smith, Cortez city clerk.
To hold a special election to send the issue to Cortez voters, 10 percent, or approximately 560 registered voters, must sign the petition, Smith said. However, only 5 percent or approximately 280 registered voters would have to sign a petition to get the measure on the ballot for a general election.
Because of the time needed to complete the arduous process, a potential change would not be able to occur in time to allow out-of-town residents to vote in the upcoming May 3 recall election, Smith said. Further, she said it is unlikely the process would be completed in time to put the issue on the ballot for the recall election.
The next opportunity to put the issue on the ballot in a general election is Nov. 2012.
Also at issue is how much taxes a person has to pay in a city to be able to vote there.
While those who spoke Tuesday said they paid taxes on their in-town property, City Manager Jay Harrington pointed out that property taxes make up less that 2 percent of city revenues. Sales taxes account for more than 87 percent of revenue.
Everyone who makes purchases at a Cortez business pays city sales tax, including those just passing through.
Lyle Rice told the council he paid $4,037.98 in property tax to the city last year. He said within the city limits, there are 2,706 properties 20 percent of which are owned by out-of-town residents.
I cant help but think that these people have the knowledge, experience, background to help all of the folks in the city of Cortez by being on the council, Rice said.
In the 1998 regular election, voters approved a change in the city charter to allow nonresidents to serve on city boards, such as the library board or the parks and recreation board.
Councilor Tom Butler said he would consider supporting the right to vote for Montezuma County residents who own property in the city limits but might take issue with those who reside outside the county or state.
People that own property, or own a business here, should have some say in city government, he said.
Mayor Dan Porter also said he would be willing to consider it. He requested city staff get more specific details on the process of changing the charter and said he would present that information to the property owners at the next city council meeting, scheduled for March 22.
Reach Reid Wright at [email protected]