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No matter how you slice it, votes shouldn’t be for sale in ski towns.
If we voted on the basis of property ownership, then the rich, who own more property, would vote more often. While taxation without representation may seem unfair to resort second-home owners, it’s a greater offense to sell the right to vote-which is the bottom-line result of tying voting rights to property ownership. That’s a royalist scheme, and we had a revolution over it.
Do we really want to give the wealthy a turbo-charged franchise at the ballot box? If you own a home in Chicago and one in Snowmass, should you get to vote in both places? Is that fair to the parent who lives year-round in Snowmass, yet watches second-home owners shoot down a school bond? What if you also own property in Taos and Sun Valley? Do you get to vote in four places? If you have a fractional ownership in a condominium in Steamboat Springs, do you get one-fourth of a vote in local elections there?
We are taxed daily without representation. Stop at a roadside diner; you’ll pay tax on your lunch. Pass through Denver International Airport; you’ll pay tax on your ticket. We accept these levies because the tax on your grilled cheese sandwich pays for a cop to watch the street. The DIA ticket fee pays off the bonds that built the airport. Did you get to vote on these taxes? No. But you expect a cop on the beat and a working airport escalator.
Those who want to vote somewhere can choose to reside there. Yet full-time residents may have no choice about losing control over their towns if second-home owners gain the right to vote without a residency requirement, as is now the case in Mountain Village, Colo., the ritzy development above the town of Telluride that has won a court decision over the matter.
Full-time residents, who have the most to gain and lose, must have the most say over a town’s fate. Second-home owners haven’t chosen to put in the hard, day-to-day work of shaping a community. They may care about their vacation spot, but it’s not home-and nobody cares as much as those who call a place home. It’s residents who have the foresight to pass school bonds and limit growth. They must live with the choices they make-so they are the only ones who should choose.