“It’s our property because we’re the tax payers,” said every American at some in their life.
Upon first thought, this argument seems solid or at least something you can throw at elected officials when they make a decision you don’t like. After all, public property is for public use. Our tax dollars pay to upkeep it and we elect people to oversee the use of it, so we expect that when we want to use it, we can.
However, it’s a bit more involved than it simply being “our property.” We pay taxes for the US government to manufacture stealth bombers, and I can’t just go to an air base and say, “I’m a tax payer. It’s really my stealth bomber. I can fly it whenever I want to.”
Actually, I can’t easily think of an instance where paying taxes on something gives citizens the right to use it on their terms.
We pay taxes for local and state maintained roads, yet I’m required to do so under fairly strict regulation, which includes obeying state traffic laws and not using a road that has been blocked off for safety reasons.
It’s the same thing for our Ellwood parks. Ewing Park is intended for us, the citizens, but we have to obey the laws laid down by the borough whether we agree with them or not. If we want to have an event, it’s up to our elected officials to decide if that’s a proper use of the park.
If my requested event involved beer tasting, council may decide to temporarily lift the ordinance prohibiting alcohol in the park. If it involved a paintball tournament in the Kid’s Creative Kingdom, they’d probably determine that isn’t a proper use of the resources.
Collective public property isn’t the same as private property. No individual person or entity has the discretion to use it at its leisure. The use of said property is regulated by ordinances, and elected officials, which represent the entire collective, have the discretion to determine if a requested use is a proper use.
Beyond just taxes, I can’t easily think of anything where “paying for it” means you can use it however you wish. To the contrary, paying for something usually means you have to obey the user requirements established by the organization you’re paying.
College students say, “We’re paying to be here, so we can use our cell phones in class.” But a student isn’t paying to merely exist in the classroom for 50 minutes, they’re paying to take the class, which means following the rules established by the professor, which frequently include “not using cell phones during class.”
If I paid to attend a conference, I have to obey the rules of that conference. I can’t show up in a rhinoceros suit with an AR-15 just because “I paid to be here.”
If you’re renting a house or car, you obey the lease agreements. If you’re paying for Internet, you’re obeying the terms of service, which includes not using the service for illegally downloading.
Saying, “It’s our property, we’re taxpayers, we can use it in ways that please us” just doesn’t stand up to any precedent that I can think of.
The power to establish the rules for use and determine if certain requests will damage said property is in the hands of the appointed people responsible for maintaining that property.