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Thread: No taxation without representation

  1. #1
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    Default No taxation without representation

    Heading into this year's Annual Town Meeting, I appreciated the importance of voting on numerous measures, not the least of which were the operating and capital budgets. The issue that I looked forward to voting on the most, however, was of an entirely different nature.

    Article 23, "AUTHORIZE LOCAL VOTING RIGHTS FOR PERMANENT RESIDENT ALIENS RESIDING IN WAYLAND," was proposed by resident (and Discussion Forum administrator!) Kim Reichelt to petition the Massachusetts Legislature to allow permanent non-citizen residents to vote in local elections. The rationale is one of fairness and inclusion--these residents pay real estate taxes in Wayland. Like others in Town who do the same, why not allow them to vote for town officials and local ballot questions?

    At the meeting last night, two residents rose to speak in opposition of the proposal. The first speaker argued simply that a process exists by which one can gain citizenship, and that said process was sufficient. Not a compelling argument in my opinion, but delivered without inappropriate overtones.

    It was the words of the second speaker that troubled me. First, he argued that passage of the measure would sully the service of armed forces veterans who gave their lives for their country. I cannot remotely see a connection. I looked up the armed forces Oath of Enlistment to see if I was perhaps missing something.

    I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

    Nothing in this Oath speaks to supporting and defending only the citizens of the United States of America.

    Second, the speaker cited terrorism as a reason to defeat the proposal. I found this alleged connection to be abhorrent in its own right, and unsupported by any basis in fact. I thought of acts of terrorism committed on US soil. While there may be examples of such acts being committed by permanent non-citizen residents, I couldn't come up with any from memory.

    Instead, I thought of Bruce Ivins, accused of the September, 2001 anthrax attacks. (Dr. Ivins was never charged, as he committed suicide before charges could be brought.) I thought of Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber. I thought of Jared Lee Loughner, the shooter in the recent attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. And, of course, I thought of Timothy McVeigh.

    We Americans may outsource a lot of things, but when it comes to terrorism here at home, we're plenty capable in our own right.

    Fortunately, Town Meeting approved the measure, albeit on a voice vote that was closer than I would have liked. Bravo, Kim!

    The difference may have been made by a woman who stood at the "Pro" microphone, pointed to an American Flag themed piece of art hanging on the wall, and read these words by President John F. Kennedy.

    "We do not want a nation of spectators. We want a nation of participants in the vigorous life."

  2. #2
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    Thanks for the support, Jeff. I, too, was disappointed by the nature of some of the arguments against the article, but heartened by the arguments made for it.

    I loved the use of the quote painted on the wall that I had been staring it for three long sessions of Town Meeting, but had not thought myself to incorporate into my comments.

    I loved the comments of the gentleman who had lived abroad and been able to vote there, and spoke about how that helped him get more involved in that community. I wished I had thought to seek out some such person to speak, but was pleased he just showed up on his own!

    It took a community working together to collectively make the compelling arguments, and I particularly enjoyed that.

    I hope now that we can get our state legislature to pass the special act needed in order to enact the proposal. Then, not only will these members of our community be able to vote, but we will be able to take advantage of their skills and energy on our town boards. I should have thought to highlight this point before having to be asked whether that would be a consequence of passing the article -- there are many people who are already contributing and would love to do more but are limited by our laws. It would be great to have them more actively and productively included. (Yes, Gordon, that means you!! :-)

    Thank you, Wayland, for doing the unusual, bold, and I firmly believe, right thing.

  3. #3
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    Just to add to Jeff's point - currently 35,000 non-citizens serve in US Armed Forces and about 8,000 join the US Armed Forces every year.

    http://www.cna.org/documents/D0011092.A2.pdf

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    Nick, great point. I'd argue that anyone serving in the US Armed Forces, regardless of citizenship, should have the right to vote ... at the local, state, AND national levels. Or perhaps to put this another way, serving should confer that citizenship.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Nick, great point. I'd argue that anyone serving in the US Armed Forces, regardless of citizenship, should have the right to vote ... at the local, state, AND national levels. Or perhaps to put this another way, serving should confer that citizenship.
    Non-citizens who serve in the military are provided with an expedited path to citizenship:
    http://usmilitary.about.com/od/theor...itizenship.htm

    However, that is definitely beyond the scope of what we can vote on at Town Meeting!

  6. #6
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    With a gap of almost 6 years, I'm wondering if this post represents the deepest-digging resurrection of a thread in WEN DF history?
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Yesterday's bostonglobe.com featured an excellent (okay, well, half-excellent) pro-con discussion of Wayland's renewed proposal to "allow legal residents who are not citizens to vote in town elections?"

    Wayland eNews Executive Director (and Wayland School Committee member, and personal friend) Kim Reichelt so ably articulated the pro position that I have nothing to add to that side of the debate.

    Finance Committee chair David Watkins argued the con side, apparently on behalf of at least a majority of that committee (as there was no "writing on his own behalf" caveat). While I don't know Mr. Watkins well enough to call him a friend, I did work with him when I served on the WPS Technology Task Force. At the time, I was impressed by the experience, expertise, and professional demeanor that he brought to those interactions.

    As such, I was incredibly surprised but the utter lack of merit in his con arguments. I dissect those attempts at argument below.

    Quote Originally Posted by David Watkins, Wayland Finance Committee chairman
    The Department of Homeland Security oversees immigration and gives permission to live and work in the US permanently. This proposed bylaw bypasses that authority. It would allow aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States who meet all qualifications for voting except US citizenship to participate in any election for local offices or ballot questions, and at Town Meeting. ...
    This last sentence is undeniably true. His middle sentence, however, is undeniably false. The proposed measure would in no way bypass the authority of DHS.

    Quote Originally Posted by David Watkins, Wayland Finance Committee chairman
    ... By rewriting these rules at a local level, we compromise our existing laws. ...
    Not true. By "rewriting these rules at a local level" (with subsequent Commonwealth approval before they would take effect), Wayland would be UPDATING existing law.

    Quote Originally Posted by David Watkins, Wayland Finance Committee chairman
    ... The structure of election laws was not to intended to create a special class of voters with different voting rights.
    Not true. It took on the order of 150 years for women to be granted the right to vote. Before that travesty was corrected, there was very much a special class of "voters" (non-voters, actually) with different (that is, absent) voting rights.

    Quote Originally Posted by David Watkins, Wayland Finance Committee chairman
    The proposal would also allow a permanent non-citizen who wants greater participation to run for local office. Yet this could create complications with our existing bylaws. ...
    "Complication" is a horrible reason not to change a horrible law.

    Quote Originally Posted by David Watkins, Wayland Finance Committee chairman
    ... For example, there is no provision in the proposal to remove an elected official if there is a change in immigration status during his or her term in office.
    The Town Meeting amendment process likely allows such a provision to be added (although I see no reason to add one). The need would apply to vanishingly few cases. And does it really matter if someone who's stripped of their Green Card (I'm guessing that's what Mr. Watkins has in mind) is still able to vote on matters by virtue of their owning property in Wayland? In any event, I'm guessing that said person will have bigger things (hiding from the President, fighting deportation, etc.) weighing on his or her mind.

    Quote Originally Posted by David Watkins, Wayland Finance Committee chairman
    Moreover, done right, developing and managing new processes for non-citizen voting is complex ...
    In what way?

    Quote Originally Posted by David Watkins, Wayland Finance Committee chairman
    ... and more than our existing town resources can easily manage. ...
    What's the evidence for this?

    Quote Originally Posted by David Watkins, Wayland Finance Committee chairman
    ... There is a price associated with identifying, validating, managing, and monitoring non-citizens voters. ...
    A tiny one. One that certainly doesn't offset the "no taxation without representation" abomination created by the current situation. Didn't we battle for our independence under exactly this battle cry?

    Quote Originally Posted by David Watkins, Wayland Finance Committee chairman
    ... We cannot reference current precedents to determine the financial impact of allowing non-citizen voting since the state and federal governments ...
    This is not a federal issue.

    Quote Originally Posted by David Watkins, Wayland Finance Committee chairman
    ... and local Massachusetts municipalities do not allow non-citizens to vote.
    That's (mathematically) reflexive logic--the proposal is to make a change to allow exactly that. As for referencing "current precedents," what does that have to do with anything? Without creating new precedents, how can there be progress? The first biracial couple to marry didn't reference current precedents. The first gay/lesbian couple to marry didn't reference current precedents.

    Quote Originally Posted by David Watkins, Wayland Finance Committee chairman
    ... As long as Wayland is the only town that allows non-citizens to vote, the cost to establish and implement processes to manage validation and monitor for abuse falls squarely on us, with no option for economies of scale derived from sharing with other municipalities.
    Wayland is NOT the only such town: right-thinking Amherst, Cambridge, and Newton have already passed similar provisions (as have the right-thinking residents of Wayland in the past). A town of ~13k residents and ~2800 students (I'm working from memory here) can hardly claim that taking advantage of economies of scale drives how it goes about its business. And, if righting a wrong is at issue, the cost is worth paying.

    Quote Originally Posted by David Watkins, Wayland Finance Committee chairman
    Non-citizens who are recent or transient residents are also more likely to vote on issues that directly affect their immediate interests with benefits they can leverage from a municipality. ...
    Wouldn't a transient resident who IS a citizen have the exact same incentive? For instance, don't people (who ARE citizens) sometimes move to Wayland for the schools? And sometimes leave once their kids have graduated?

    Quote Originally Posted by David Watkins, Wayland Finance Committee chairman
    ... This has the potential for skewed votes that may not represent the majority of citizens who live in Wayland. ...
    There are MANY issues (in fact, EVERY SINGLE ONE in which the vote at the polls or TM is not unanimous) that may not represent the majority of citizens who live in Wayland.

    Quote Originally Posted by David Watkins, Wayland Finance Committee chairman
    ... When a special interest group attends Town Meeting to vote only for a specific article and leaves immediately after the vote, all Wayland residents, present to vote or not, have to carry the financial burden of higher taxes, reduced services, and reductions in other department budgets.
    This isn't a bug, this is a feature, a hallmark even, of democracy. This last situation against which Mr. Watkins cautions has always been true in a democracy. And will always be true (as long as democracy survives), regardless of citizenship and how this fantastic, inclusive, and just proposal fares.

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