Mayor Disappointed He Won’t Get to Keep Jacking up Fees for People Who Can’t Vote Against Him

Gov. Doug Burgum, right, speaks with Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford as they walk down Second Avenue with Mayor Shaun Sipma, left. Minot Daily News photo

“We’re deeply disappointed by the sole action of Representative Dan Ruby for making this local control matter a State issue,” Mayor Shaun Sipma says.

Sipma is responding to legislation passed in Bismarck this session which restricts the ability of cities to charge citizens in extraterritorial zoning areas more for building permits. The genesis for the legislation was a situation which saw the City of Minot charging a woman double for a building permit.

The woman, Patti Eisenzimmer, is not a citizen of Minot. She cannot vote in city elections. But she does live in the city’s extraterritorial zoning area, and so is obligated to pay the city for building permits and abide by other regulations the city applies to the jurisdiction.

Extraterritorial jurisdictions give local politicians the power to govern people who cannot give their consent even if they wanted to.

The legislation in question is HB1471, which passed the House and Senate by wide margins and was signed into law by Governor Doug Burgum last week. In its original form it prohibited cities from implementing “a regulation on any section of unincorporated territory which is more restrictive than an existing regulation in the city exercising the jurisdiction,” but it was watered down in its final form so that it only applies to building permits.

Which is too bad. Citizens like Eisenzimmer who live in extraterritorial jurisdictions are vulnerable to abuse from local governments.

Why wouldn’t they be? Local politicians can put the screws to them with little fear of a ballot box reprisal because while they have the power to govern the people in extraterritorial jurisdictions, those people can’t actually vote in city elections.

That sort of situation is what concepts like “no taxation without representation” and “the consent of the governed” are about.

Extraterritorial jurisdictions give local politicians the power to govern people who cannot give their consent even if they wanted to. Those who defend the jurisdictions say they make long term planning for things like development and public utilities easier.

I have no doubt that’s true, but at what cost comes the convenience of local bureaucrats and politicians? “As was explained to the Legislature, the City subsidizes its planning and building permits fees with property taxes,” Sipma said by way of defending what his city government has been doing to Eisenzimmer and others. “Those in the ETA don’t pay property taxes and so the City imposed a surcharge to make up the cost difference. It was simply a reasonable effort to make sure the cost of our government is paid by those who access and utilize our services.”

There’s a solution for that.

If the City of Minot, or any other local government, wants to govern people living in extraterritorial jurisdictions they should annex those areas and make themselves accountable to those people by way of elections.

Otherwise, leave them alone.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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