The group’s members describe themselves as citizens who have not always agreed on issues in the past.

The group’s members describe themselves as citizens who have not always agreed on issues in the past.

But this time, a former Independence City Council member, an attorney/Planning Commission member, an ex-labor leader, a former City Council candidate and citizen activists are in agreement: They are opposed to a real estate tax increase that will go before voters one week from today.

The “Vote No Team” rallied outside of City Hall prior to Monday’s council meeting, and nearby, those in favor of the tax stood by and listened, holding “Protect Our Community” campaign signs. Henry Carner, a former leader of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 781, said he researched and examined the tax proposal from every angle.

“It’s just not justified,” Carner said, encouraging rally attendees to also call their neighbors and friends to get their message out.

In an anti-tax pamphlet that was recently mailed to Independence residents, the “No More Bailouts” campaign questioned the upcoming measure’s ballot language, its permanent nature as a “forever tax” and whether the terminology “general property tax” included personal property.

In a recent email to The Examiner, the city manager’s office clarified “general real estate tax” and what the word “general” means. Jackson County and the state of Missouri refer to the tax levy being proposed in Independence as the “general tax levy,” as opposed to any other type of tax levy.

Currently, the city of Independence does not have a personal property tax levy, and if approved by voters, the ballot measure would not apply to personal property, such as vehicles.

Small business owner Elisa Breitenbach, who ran for an Independence City Council at-large position in the spring of 2010, said the opponents aren’t “anti-cops.” As an anti-crime activist, Breitenbach said, she’s vocalized the use of more effective police services.

“We need to get the light out there in this darkness,” Breitenbach said, adding that senior citizens living on a fixed income need relief and not a real estate tax increase. “I’m just so sick over this.”

Others in attendance for the opposition included Jack Willis, who worked to support the public safety sales taxes campaign in 2004; former City Council Member Jason White; Planning Commission member Karen DeLuccie; group spokesman James Bailey; and Independence Republican Brent Lasater, who serves the 53rd District in the Missouri House of Representatives.

Nearby, both Police Chief Tom Dailey and retired Police Chief Fred Mills listened. Mills is a co-chairman of the Protect Our Community pro-tax campaign.

“Everybody has the right to their opinion,” Mills said.

But what bothers him, Mills said, is the ongoing confusion of the city auditor versus the city management analyst as presented by the opposition. The city auditor is an outside contractor who reviews the city’s finances annually.

The management analyst is employed by the city full-time and looks at best practices among city departments, as well as ways of improving efficiency, in addition to some financial analysis. In the city’s original charter, the position was called the “city management auditor” but that title was changed in 1985 to “city management analyst.”

Mills said he also is frustrated by opponents combining the issue of needing more police officers with separate issues at City Hall, including the debt service payments made for The Falls at Crackerneck Creek development.

“Why anyone would want to jeopardize the future of this community or the safety of this community by saying we need more policemen, but I’m mad at City Hall?” Mills said. “I think they are totally separate.”

Just a few informational meetings on the police tax proposal remain before next Tuesday’s election. One is at 7 tonight at 4513 S. Willis Ave. Also, at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Fairmount Community Center, the Hardy Bunch Block Watch will sponsor a meeting.

Neither citizens nor City Council members will speak about the election at next Monday’s meeting.

The council Monday night approved to allow citizen comments at the April 2 meeting only about items on that evening’s agenda. Council members also voted to waive their right to speak on election-related topics since the meeting is just one day before Tuesday.