The Edmond Sun

Opinion

June 7, 2012

Your tax dollars (not) at work: Oklahoma Municipal League

EDMOND — We are told Oklahoma has been fortunate during the economic crisis. While our state has fared better than most, people have suffered, services have been reduced, and budgets are tight in towns and cities from Beaver’s Bend to Yukon to the Panhandle. In a time that has caused almost everyone to tighten their proverbial belts, we would expect our state and local governments to do the same.

So why is Edmond paying dues (a.k.a. taxpayer dollars) to a city lobbying group known as the Oklahoma Municipal League? The dues, which range from $1,250 to $77,500 depending on the size of the city, are in addition to other fees the OML charges these cities. Edmond taxpayers shelled out an astonishing $65,843.27 in 2012 “dues.”

There are many reasons taxpayers should be concerned about this. If you’ve never heard of the Oklahoma Municipal League before now, well, you’re not alone. That’s because they don’t necessarily want you to know who they are. Even though the majority of their funds come from taxpayers, funneled through cities, they are not subject to Open Records/Open Meetings acts, nor are they required to comply with requests for information. In fact, there’s no oversight at all that we can find.

So why is your city government spending your tax dollars to fund an organization that uses your tax dollars to fight for issues of which you probably don’t approve? You are, in essence, forced to fund your opposition as the OML advocates for laws which broaden the powers of eminent domain and add property tax to cities’ taxing authority, all while lobbying for more of your tax dollars. The OML even opposed a commonsense bill requiring municipal elections to be held on general or primary election days if local taxes were being proposed.

I bet you’re wondering how such an organization has been able to stay afloat for so many years. The answer is even more disturbing. It seems that if you appoint key mayors and city council members to your board, you can just about stay around forever. In mayors’ circles, it’s a prestigious appointment. In OML circles, it’s an insidious way to keep fleecing taxpayers from their hard-earned dollars.

Even though the OML gets nearly all of their money from your wallet, they refuse to disclose their budget or give an accounting of their efforts to the taxpayers. Oh, they’ll tout their bill tracking efforts for the city or their lobbying efforts that have resulted in the city receiving more tax dollars from the state, but is this all really necessary? Is this not why we elected “representatives” to represent us at the state Capitol? Are not our representatives looking out for our fair city’s interests? Besides our local representative and senator, we also have a mayor, City Council, and economic development authority, who are also looking out for our welfare.

Recently, several cities renounced their membership in the Oklahoma Municipal League. One city manager was quoted by the Tulsa World as saying “the Municipal League doesn’t have anyone on staff with city experience …. It is time we joined Broken Arrow, Bixby, Collinsville, Jenks, Owasso, Coweta, Mannford and Norman, in leaving the OML and redirecting our resources here at home. Join me in calling on the city leaders to get out of this anti-taxpayer group.” We wholeheartedly second that sentiment.

 

STUART A. JOLLY, is an Edmond resident and Oklahoma state director of Americans for Prosperity. More information about AFP can be found at www.AmericansForProsperity.org.

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Poll

If the Republican runoff for the 5th District congressional seat were today, which candidate would you vote for?

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