Taxation Without Very Much Representation

By Darryl Manzer
"Way Back When"
The Signal
Sunday, June 18, 2006

T
he State of Rhode Island is a little more than 29 percent the size of Los Angeles County. It has about one-tenth the population of L.A. County. It also has 75 members in its House of Representatives and 38 state Senators, or one elected official for every 9,277 citizens of that state.
    Los Angeles County has a population of 10,223,000 — and five — count 'em, five — elected officials. That's one elected official for every 2,044,600 citizens. Even if you count only those folks living in unincorporated areas of the county — 1,085,632 — there still is only one elected supervisor for every 217,126.4 citizens.
    If I were to combine the states of Rhode Island and Delaware, as does the Los Angeles County Web site, the numbers of citizens per elected official only gets worse.
    It is obvious, my friends, that you are suffering from a real bad case of taxation without very much representation. The Fifth District of Los Angeles County is larger than the whole state of Rhode Island, and while it has only about half the population of that state, it is represented by just one supervisor.
    Sure, the Los Angeles County supervisors have many liaison folks who work with town councils and such, but those people are not — I repeat, not — elected, but rather appointed by the supervisors.
    The supervisors' liaisons are hired and paid to answer to the supervisors, not the citizens. They do a lot of work for you, but they are not answerable to you at the ballot box. You can't hardly get them fired, and you can't get them out in a recall election. They answer only to their boss, a county supervisor.
    Some would argue that Rhode Island's government must be very inefficient. I've been there, and I'd almost agree with that, but it is truly a government by, for and of the people. Isn't that what our republic is supposed to be?
    Are five county supervisors really able to provide representative government to a population equal to — and an area nearly four times in size of — a state? I don't think so.
    If you want efficient government, go to Singapore, where you can't buy, sell, own or use chewing gum. Maybe you want to have the governments of Germany or Italy in the 1930s. Those governments were efficient. They weren't very democratic and certainly weren't republics.
    A republic of the people is, by its very nature, an inefficient, ponderous system that answers to the people.
    If Los Angeles County government — the supervisors — were really to perform in the manner the people want, they would never have agreed to an out-of-court settlement over the Cemex mine. They would have said to themselves, "The people don't want the mine, and no matter the legal costs we will incur, we will fight it for them. We may not win, but they want us to fight it, and that we shall do."
    Instead, they folded at the first appeal and settled out of court.
    The settlement includes a clause that says the county must assist Cemex in getting the mine approved — and those aforementioned "liaisons" are forbidden from saying or doing anything that might cause Cemex a problem. Some settlement!
    How the county settled the Cemex mine problem was very efficient, but it wasn't what the people wanted. All the cards hadn't been played, and the county folded its hand before the game was over.
    The people wanted to see all the cards. Now we'll never know what cards were played.
    Maybe I should get a Web site like the Los Angeles County supervisors have. In my 36 years of public service, I sure I could fill it with lists of my awards, commendations, pictures, accomplishments and whatever else that compares to what I see on the Web sites of the county supervisors.
    No, I'll keep them hanging in a room in my home and in the couple of file drawers that are filled with such things. I was well paid for my service and am content to be a citizen. I'm very proud of my accomplishments, but I'm not going to run for public office.
    The Web sites of your Los Angeles County supervisors look like what one would see in a political campaign. You're paying for that. Check it out. It appears that humility is not a trait found in any of them.
    I conceived, created and managed a project for the U.S. Navy that has saved us taxpayers more than $3 million a year in Navy fuel costs since 1983. (Not adjusted for inflation or rising fuel costs. Those are 1983 dollars.) I think it would be great if the ship that does that job were named after me, but that isn't ever going to happen — nor should it.
    No, I'll never have a ship, or courthouse, or park, or nature preserve named after me. I don't want it and wouldn't accept it. I was just doing my job to the best of my ability.
    Isn't that what you want from those who serve you — especially your elected officials? But when you're only one of 217,126.4 citizens trying to get your supervisor to listen, you have little chance of being heard.
    Rhode Island suddenly looks efficient. I don't recommend moving there. Too cold in the winter, and you can almost trip over a state representative or senator.
    Maybe that isn't a bad thing, after all.

Darryl Manzer grew up in the Pico Canyon oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s and attended Hart High School. After a career in the U.S. Navy he returned to live in the Santa Clarita Valley and eventually relocated to Boulder City, Nev. He can be reached at dmanzer@scvhistory.com. His older commentaries are archived at DManzer.com; his newer commentaries can be accessed [here]. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].


©2006, DARRYL MANZER · ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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