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Taxation without representation

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Salt Lake County Commissioner Randy Horiuchi may be an enemy to those who want to change the county's form of government. He has made that clear enough in recent months. But he is right when he notes that unincorporated areas ought to be given fair representation in any proposed council-executive form that makes it to voters this fall.

The problem, however, is that the county's unincorporated residents are not all grouped in one spot. They are spread across the county from Magna to Holladay. Some even live in small pockets, such as White City, that sit like islands amid incorporated cities.Horiuchi raised his concerns earlier this week as commissioners began considering whether to start the process of putting a proposal for change on the November ballot. A task force appointed by the commission has presented a recommendation for a nine-member county council and an elected executive. Only six of those council members would be elected to represent geographic districts, and only one would represent a majority of unincorporated residents.

Horiuchi says this would lead to "taxation without representation." Before he is tempted to don a tricornered hat and begin throwing out more quotes from the Revolution, Horiuchi should know we agree. A county council would have a primary responsibility to provide municipal services to unincorporated residents. They, of all people, deserve representation.

Do the math. If six council members are divided into the roughly 800,000 county residents, each would represent about 133,000 people. The county has about 300,000 unincorporated residents. By all rights, two of the council members should represent nothing but unincorporated people.

That may not be possible. The county should avoid odd-shaped gerrymandered districts that try to include as many unincorporated residents as possible. In the end, those people may have to face the reality that the only way to achieve true representation is to either join or form a city.

But in the meantime, this is a problem that ought not stand in the way of allowing voters to chose change in November. Commissioners should redraw the districts, if necessary, but they can't afford not to adopt a resolution next week that starts the process toward a ballot measure. Polls show people want change, and, despite Horiuchi's philosophical objections, they shouldn't be denied the opportunity to choose it any longer.