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Archive for Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Overwhelming approval of three sales tax increases surprises many

The decision was put in the hands of the voters - and the citizens of Lawrence have decided that the sales tax in Lawrence is going up.

November 5, 2008

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Kansas University graduate student Yu Qian, of Shanghai, China, leans backward Wednesday in an effort to spot the number 8 T bus, which travels to the KU campus, at the stop on Ninth Street between Massachusetts and New Hampshire streets. The results of Tuesday's election ensure the continuation of the T as well as talks between KU and the city concerning the potential merger and operation of the bus systems.

Kansas University graduate student Yu Qian, of Shanghai, China, leans backward Wednesday in an effort to spot the number 8 T bus, which travels to the KU campus, at the stop on Ninth Street between Massachusetts and New Hampshire streets. The results of Tuesday's election ensure the continuation of the T as well as talks between KU and the city concerning the potential merger and operation of the bus systems.

Election 2008

In-depth coverage of the candidates and the issues, all leading up to the Aug. 5 primary and the Nov. 4 general election.

The roar of the Douglas County Courthouse had died down. Fist pumps and raised arms had given way to quiet handshakes, and lungs that once yelled now exhaled with relief.

City Commissioner Mike Amyx walked down the courthouse's concrete steps Tuesday evening but stopped before heading to his car. There was time for one last big-picture observation on a night when the country was in the mood for big-picture punditry.

"You know, I think this is going to end up being a pretty important night for Lawrence," Amyx said.

Time will tell on that, but the results of Election 2008 certainly showed that it was an unusual one. Let it be shown that on Nov. 4, a City Hall issue actually had united the city.

Voters approved not one but two sales tax increases with approval ratings of 70 percent or more. A third sales tax increase won with nearly 69 percent of the vote.

Victories of 70 percent or greater aren't unheard of in Lawrence - Lawrence school bond issues in 2005 and 1992 passed with 70 and 73 percent of the vote - but the across-the-board support all three sales taxes received is unique.

Not a single precinct in the city voted against any of the three sales taxes. On Question No. 1 - the infrastructure sales tax - all 49 precincts posted approval levels of 65 percent or more. On Question No. 2 - the sales tax for basic transit services - support levels fell below 60 percent in only one precinct. Voters near Corpus Christi Church in west Lawrence gave the tax a 57 percent approval rating.

Few people were making such predictions in August when city commissioners agreed to place all three sales tax questions on the ballot. The idea of three separate sales tax votes - one for infrastructure and two for public transit - was the brainchild of Mayor Mike Dever. He was immediately criticized by varying groups that the separate votes would likely doom all three issues, but especially the transit funding.

Dever, though, held firm to the idea, saying that his research showed that nationally about 70 percent of all transit sales tax votes won approval.

"All the data showed that was the national trend," Dever said Wednesday morning. "I just didn't think we would be that different from everybody else."

As the national news over the last month turned particularly sour on the financial front, Dever continued to remain confident that the sales taxes would be approved. Privately, he predicted two weeks ago that all three sales taxes would win comfortably.

"I think we have a lot of people in this community who are willing to look at the big picture," Dever said. "And I think people were happy they had the chance to vote. The vast majority of people thanked me for allowing them to vote.

"When you allow people to control they're own destiny they are more willing to do something hard because they feel like they made the decision themselves. Taxing yourself is still hard, but people showed they're still willing to do it for the right cause."

Comments

lawrencian 6 years, 1 month ago

Eride, if you go to http://www.kansastreasurers.org/kstax.htm and try out different cities, such as anywhere in Johnson County, you will quickly discover that Lawrence is now on par with those counties, NOT higher than anywhere else in the state.

Jaysbird 6 years, 1 month ago

When will government learn to work with the same fiscal efficiencies as the private sector?Before we approve any more tax increases I would like to see government take a look at all programs and spending and find the efficiencies to reduce spending at least 50%.The systems are broken, let's start with a clean slate and find better ways to do the work more efficiently.And no we do not need any more consultants telling us what to do.

Alia Ahmed 6 years, 1 month ago

Jaysbird (Anonymous) says: When will government learn to work with the same fiscal efficiencies as the private sector?Which private sector corporation are you talking about that we should use as shining examples or beacons of light? Lehman Brothers, the banks, mortgage holders? Give me a break! They are only fiscally responsible for their CEO's and their golden parachutes!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 1 month ago

"When you allow people to control they're own destiny they are more willing to do something hard because they feel like they made the decision themselves. Taxing yourself is still hard, but people showed they're still willing to do it for the right cause."Does that mean you're going to put the rest of the city budget up for a vote, too, Dever?

KsTwister 6 years, 1 month ago

Sure enough they are installing traffic calming devices soon on 9th street. So much for responsible spending/management or common sense.

Jaysbird 6 years, 1 month ago

Alia Ahmed says: Which private sector corporation are you talking about that we should use as shining examples or beacons of light? Lehman Brothers, the banks, mortgage holders? Give me a break! They are only fiscally responsible for their CEO's and their golden parachutes!Wow hope you did not strain too much thinking up those shining examples.How about some local companies that work well, such as Martin Logan, Capital Federal, and Douglas County Bank to name just a few.

sherbert 6 years, 1 month ago

I'm glad the voters saw the need to help with city upgrades, instead of wondering why nothing ever gets done.

cowboy 6 years, 1 month ago

log , talk about an arrogant attitude , one does not need to be a right winger to expect efficient use of tax dollars regarding the T. I think it an impossible argument to categorize the T's implementation and operation as any measure of success.Plus the fact that this increase is a carte blanche funding while the city has no publicized concrete plan to improve efficiency , propose any structural changes , or even set a goal to work towards. Its called a complete absence of accountability.Those arguing the tax is relatively insignificant are probably correct but when you look at the total sum dollars it is quite large. One only need to think back to the last few years of budget meetings to remember that this group has been incapable of generating any operational cost savings in the city budgets , and now have no reason to given a new credit card to use.One example that kind of smacked me in the face last week was watching the downtown meter maid drive a block in the new hybrid vehicle , a 20,000 vehicle dedicated to moving a walking patrol a block at a time. Does that make any sense at all ? Jeez buy her a couple hundred dollar bike !

lawrencian 6 years, 1 month ago

Bowhunter, my point wasn't that the tax needs to match the highest around, just that Eride was not necessarily correct.

John Hamm 6 years, 1 month ago

Now it's time for the commissioners to "control their own destiny" by getting of their collective duffs and doing something to FIX the T!That's my new slogan, "FIX the T!" I like that it's easy to chant and paint quickly."FIX the T!""FIX the T!""FIX the T!""FIX the T!""FIX the T!"

jrm83 6 years, 1 month ago

"When you allow people to control they're own destiny ...Their own destiny, you mean.

Eride 6 years, 1 month ago

It is nice to see that the citizens of Lawrence would rather go along with the fiscal irresponsibility of our leaders instead of holding them accountable for the reckless and ever increasing patterns of spending.Massive tax increases should be a LAST resort, not the FIRST resort, We now have not only one of the highest property taxes in the state but ALSO the highest sales tax in the state... YAY!

Alia Ahmed 6 years, 1 month ago

Jaysbird,There are some government programs that are considered very efficient, we just seldom hear about them. For example, the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program has long been regarded as key to avoiding costlier medical bills. Preventive programs work and often are very efficent. http://www.doh.wa.gov/cfh/WIC/health_effects.htmI don't know specifically about the local companies you mentioned above, but my point is just because something is private sector doesn't necessarily mean it is efficient and government programs don't need to be inefficient.

rushlimbo 6 years, 1 month ago

JRM83,Great comments. That is the kind of CONSTRUCTIVE criticism that is needed to improve the transit system. Everyone needs to participate in the process. After all it is our transit system. Lets make it be the best we possibly can. We need to be clear in what we want the transit system to accomplish and we need to develop realistic goals regarding its performance to appropriately measure its success. There will be all kinds of trade-offs that will have to be considered. That is why it is very important for all of us to get involved in working with City leadership to help make some of these difficult decisions.

Ragingbear 6 years, 1 month ago

~~One example that kind of smacked me in the face last week was watching the downtown meter maid drive a block in the new hybrid vehicle , a 20,000 vehicle dedicated to moving a walking patrol a block at a time. Does that make any sense at all ? Jeez buy her a couple hundred dollar bike~~First of all, the city hybrids were bought several years ago.So that would mean they are not new. As for the 20,000 I can only assume you meant to put a $ symbol there. New hybrids cost more than that. Heck, most old hybrids cost more than that. As for her driving up and down the street, meter readers walk all day and do not use their car. So that was yet another lie.When making up stuff like typical Republicans (like yourself) do, you need to understand that people are able to fact check things, and you look like an idiot when just make stuff up. That is a big reason why your kind lost the election.

Mark Zwahl 6 years, 1 month ago

My overall sense is that the city is not accountable in regards to their street repairs. The streets I regularly drive on (Barker, 19th, 23rd, 32nd) all have been resurfaced in the last few years, and have multiple potholes and repairs. Is the city getting their (our) money's worth on street improvements and repairs? Who's watching this? When is the LJW going to do some good investigative journalism around city funding and management of street repairs?

geekin_topekan 6 years, 1 month ago

Vote Yes.Vote early.Vote often. (Beg,you pardon?...Really?...It did!!)Never mind!!As I said before, the people of the city of Lawrence will decide what is right and are able to separate $$ from God and Law from Justice.These boards represent a minority;those of us with extra time on our hands.

jrm83 6 years, 1 month ago

That's my new slogan, "FIX the T!" I like that it's easy to chant and paint quickly."FIX the T!"-----------------------------------------------------------Best suggestion I've heard on this page yet. People have to keep the pressure on the city and MV to take the money and make the system work (KU merger or no). As someone who (until recently) rode the T twice a day, 5 days a week, for 3 years solid, I'm exceedingly conscious of its shortcomings. The #1 thing they could do is get the frequency of buses up. I cannot count the number of times the buses got behind schedule because one bus had to wait for another who was running late to drop off a transfer. If the buses run more often, the transfer can just wait a little while and catch the next bus instead of holding up the whole system.

Thinking_Out_Loud 6 years, 1 month ago

Jaysbird wonders "When will government learn to work with the same fiscal efficiencies as the private sector?"To which the answer is "when the government enters a competitive environment with a profit motive."

rtwngr 6 years, 1 month ago

Ragingbear, what kind of fact checker are you. Cowboy called it a walking patrol. As for you argument, it is all anecdotal evidence and has no validity in the exchange of ideas either. As for the election I have two words for you; Carter administration.

cowboy 6 years, 1 month ago

Mr Bear , number one I'm not a republican a$$hat , number two your typical kneejerk in telling me I didn't see what i saw is the same as many of your other posts , number three they don't walk all day , they drive short distances in a really pretty hybrid vehicle that taxes paid for. And if youre correct on the cost , the use of the vehicle makes even less sense !find it funny that the behaviors you attach to republicans are the exact behaviors youre exhibiting today.

bolshavik_vw 6 years, 1 month ago

Yeah it passed. That is so awesome, I am glad that the T Drivers have their jobs. And I am glad that people are on the T. There are a lot of people who ride. It people wonder why it looks empty on the T at certain times of day. Well the windows are tinted. And you can not see in the T windows. It is going up now that we still have it. I have yet to get on an empty bus.

mortinger 6 years, 1 month ago

Students are already paying for their bus.... they pay student fees and for parking pass. NOW they will also be sharing the sales taxes. Students are the largest investors in TRANSIT in LAWRENCE Under any new system this will remain the same!!!

eb 6 years, 1 month ago

Exactly. Buy from somewhere else. I think people missed reading a few clauses on these tax increases. Read and understand before you vote. The T increases are fine- I know quite a few people who could benefit if the funds do contribute to a more efficient transportation system. The first proposition is just sketchy. Lawrence doesn't need to be "on par" with Johnson county. Ask the effective city leaders, and they'll tell you that the desired outcomes of these tax increases won't be seen right away- at least not where we want to see them.

Kat Christian 6 years, 1 month ago

Fixed the T by getting rid of Mike Sweeney for one. Then raise the state minimum wage so we can pay for the higher taxes. Higher taxes means less spending for some folks here in town.

whatupdown 6 years, 1 month ago

Its a scam, they all were voted down by about 70%

MeAndFannieLou 6 years, 1 month ago

How about scrapping the downtown-hub route system and simply running buses up and down the main thoroghfares all day (6th, 9th, 11th, 15th, 19th, 23rd, 31st, and Haskell, Harper, Mass, Louisiana, Naismith/Michigan, Iowa, Kasold, and Wakarusa). Or some kind of interlocking squares incorporating these main arteries. Definitely, the buses need to run later in the day (you can take the bus to a Lied Center event, but not home?!), and on Sundays.

jumpin_catfish 6 years, 1 month ago

My feeling is that it will still be the mT a year or two years from now except it will be costing the taxpayer more money.

Confrontation 6 years, 1 month ago

I voted "yes,"I voted "early,"but, I could only vote once.

jafs 6 years, 1 month ago

That would be a smart idea.I've talked with many folks at the city about that kind of system - please get involved and make your voice heard.According to the interim transportation person, they only have enough buses to run along 5 streets each way, so your suggestions might have to be modified a little.But it's obviously a better system - more efficient and useful to more of the population.Please let them know this is the kind of system you want.

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