Champaign votes to intervene in MTD tax annexation cases

By Danielle Gaines

The Champaign City Council voted 8-1 to approve a resolution allowing the city to “intervene into cases involving the purported creation of the Southwest Mass Transit District.”

The SW MTD was created to defend citizens on the Western edge of the city from being annexed into the C-U MTD tax district.

Scott Tapley, a resident of the area and a county board member, said mass transit districts are the only bodies that can tax whenever they want and he is against “heavy-handed and perhaps undemocratic action” by the C-U MTD.

“I would encourage you not to back up the C-U MTD’s extremely arrogant actions,” he said to the council before their decision.

Duane Ryherd, another community member said the C-U MTD’s actions were akin to taxation without representation.

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“This is tyranny,” he said as he ended his comments.

No one from the C-U MTD was at the meeting to speak publicly.

Council member-at-large Tom Bruno said there was much more at hand than a tax annexation disagreement.

“We all use the MTD whether we use a private vehicle in 100 percent of our trips,” he said. “You don’t have to be inside the bus to use the MTD.”

He said the city had a legitimate interest in the ongoing litigation in order to prevent duplicative services to the citizens of the area.

Tapley agreed that having two bus systems is not the ideal solution and said the best resolution is for the annexation to be rescinded.

Marci Dodds, District 4, echoed Bruno’s sentiments.

“We can’t be a great city if we start splintering into smaller groups,” she said. “Cessation is no solution at all.”

Dodds said although there is some general distaste directed at the C-U MTD, it was once one of the best systems in the country.

“It will get there again. It has to get there again,” she said.

In his comments, Mayor Gerald Schweighart acknowledged the need for both sides to come together. Schweighart suggested other areas of attack including requiring the members of the C-U MTD board to be elected by the community instead of appointed.

After the meeting, Tapley said he was not surprised by the council’s actions.

“They can try to intervene in the case, Tapley said. “It is a free country.”

He also said that no one was trying to shut bus service down but were trying to make sure the voices of citizens are being heard and respected by area authorities.

“It’s about exercising power and ramming it down people’s throats because they can,” Tapley said.