In the aftermath of one of the most shocking presidential upsets in U.S. history, many of us are reeling. Yes, the election of Donald Trump as our next president was surely an unpleasant surprise for half the country, but it’s not my biggest source of outrage (at the moment). It’s those pesky down-ballot issues to which we like to pay so little attention.
On Nov. 9, I woke up to a sinking realization: My community is under fire. Worse yet, it’s by a state that routinely condemns government overreach. I live in Missouri, a state that, by many accounts, leans heavily to the political right. However, I first and foremost consider myself to be a citizen of the metro area in which I live: Kansas City.
On Election Day, the majority of my fellow Missourians made a decision for me and the members of my community: We can’t impose sales taxes on things that don’t currently have a sales tax. This came in the form of an amendment to the state constitution, ensuring that this stays a reality in perpetuity.
Proponents said this amendment would protect the service industry, such as auto mechanics, barbers and plumbers, which is currently exempt from paying sales tax. The amendment was heavily backed by the Missouri Association of Realtors.
Opponents argued that, because of long-term economic changes that have resulted in the service industry comprising an increasing proportion of local economies, new sales taxes in the future would likely be necessary. To inhibit the ability of local governments to pursue these funds may threaten the very way community services, such as maintenance of roads and sidewalks, fire and police departments, and public sanitation, are fiscally sustained.
The thing is, in a conservative state, neither of these positions should matter. Just don’t tell me how to run my community.
Missouri Amendment 4 was just another example of state governmental overreach. It doesn’t get the media attention like federal overreach and it’s certainly not unique to right-leaning states. However, it is a phenomenon that would seem to cause dissonance within the Republican Party, an entity which continually purports to fight governmental overreach.
This is all coming on the heels of Missouri’s even more conservative neighbor to the west, Kansas, enacting a new law in 2015 that prevents local governments at the county or civic level from prohibiting the open carry of firearms. Rural counties rejoiced. Urban centers, such as Kansas City, Kan., where crime rates far exceed those of the rest of the state, felt threatened.
That’s the crux of the issue. The differences between rural and urban communities are so stark that rarely does a one-size-fits-all policy work. In fact, on the national level, states are more or less balanced. Every state has urban centers and rural areas. That is to say, the differences between Wyoming and New York as states are far less than the differences between urban St. Louis County and rural Crawford County, Mo.
This observation is meant to show that state governmental overreach on local governments is an even bigger violation of community control than is the federal government affecting states. So, to conservative state governments, I say, stay out of my backyard the same way you want the federal government to stay out of yours.
Braden Anderson is a cartographer, researcher, and entrepreneur from Blue Springs. He is also the co-founder of Atlas Lens, an urban geographical media and research team in Kansas City.