Letters to the Editor

Out of touch

August 17, 2010

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To the editor:

This letter regards the economic issues facing Douglas County property owners, specifically increases in real estate property taxes. I’ve expressed my concerns to commissioners and school board members as to the impact increased taxes will have on property owners and local businesses. Eight of the 15 elected officials responded to my comments. Their responses ranged from “form” letters to indifference to self congratulations. It’s no coincidence that a disconnect exists between our elected officials and the local majority, inasmuch as many of these officials work for government entities.

There’s been no serious discussion for the need to lay off or reduce wages for county and city employees. In fact, just the opposite has occurred with wage increases for many public employees. With the stated concern these “highly skilled” people will leave Lawrence for other cities, it’s a risk we may have to endure. Only City Commissioner Lance Johnson has had the courage to attempt to rein in employee compensation.

These are difficult times in Lawrence. We have no job growth, minimal population growth and local taxing bodies unwilling to exercise fiscal restraint. Without decisive reductions in employee payroll, we will be revisiting property and sales tax increases very soon. It’s disconcerting that the voting electorate continues to choose candidates so disconnected from those paying for their free-spending decisions. The end result is a provincial, elitist, socially liberal community devoid of the economic opportunities that made Lawrence the envy of our neighboring cities for decades. Lawrence will ignore these concerns at its own economic peril.

Comments

cato_the_elder 4 years, 9 months ago

While this letter is right on, the problem is that for some time - with very few exceptions - the most qualified people in Lawrence, especially people in business, have simply refused to run for public office. What we get left with is exactly the situation that the letter writer describes. If the letter writer desires change, he should run for office, get others to do so, get elected and then do his best to effect change.

lawrence1 4 years, 9 months ago

Evidently, you don't know Mike Garber. His letter never implied he was running for office. He started his OWN company over 35 years ago, from the ground up, not his father's. Before you so eloquently try to "bash" someone, perhaps you should know whom you're bashing. You're obviously confused Grandma.

lovelawrence2day 4 years, 9 months ago

Wow Grandma, sounds like you either can't afford one of the "overpriced" homes or you owe the man money. Jealousy or owing someone money are what usually brings out this kind of response.

lovelawrence2day 4 years, 9 months ago

Sorry to burst your bubble Grandma but I'm not family or Mike. Don't even know the man. I just find responses such as yours with such negativity usually is from jealousy or anger. Per your input on the subject you sound like both.

avoice 4 years, 9 months ago

Evidently, you didn't know a lot about Gordon, either.

ou812mr2 4 years, 9 months ago

Evidently YOU didnt know a lot about Gordon!!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 9 months ago

This is a reaction to our fiscal and economic problems, not a solution.

While it feels good to bash government and its employees, by and large, they provide needed services, and they do it at wage levels generally lower than what comparably trained and skilled workers get in the private sector.

And while Mr. Garber's "solution" may help keep tax rates down, it comes at a cost-- reduced services. Conservatives like to pretend that money that goes into government just disappears down a hole, but the truth is that most of it goes to paying the salaries of government workers who spend that money in the local economy on food, rent and mortgages, taxes, etc. In short, on precisely the same things that any other employee does, regardless of who the employer is. When government employees lose their jobs, or have pay cuts, that's passed on directly to the businesses who provide for their needs.

Isaac McPheeters 4 years, 9 months ago

Sadly Bozo, many government employees are payed more than their private counterparts. In fact, "by and large", most are paid more. http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2010-03-04-federal-pay_N.htm

Also, there were a few regions in the U.S. that reported a net increase in income throughout this financial crisis. One of the top regions? Washington, D.C.

MyName 4 years, 9 months ago

Yeah, and if you'd RTFA, you'd have seen that they also have 50% higher levels of education and almost no part time jobs, which is why the "average" compensation is higher than the "average" worker. If you look at the breakdown of the salaries, you can see that the compensation job-by-job is < $10k per year (so about $5/hr difference), which is less than the difference between the high end and low end of competing firms or between firms that do the same job, but have different costs-of-living in their locations (i.e. a firm in NYC had better pay at least $5/hr more for the same job than a firm in Wichita).

And finally, Goldman Sach's average employee compensation is higher too, but you don't see that turned into a BS talking point. Why is that?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 9 months ago

And also not mentioned is that the head of any government agency or dept. probably doesn't make more than 5 times what the lowest paid employee gets. Contrast that with CEO's who make 50 times or more what their average workers make.

jafs 4 years, 9 months ago

Actually, the figure I've read is that CEO salaries are about 300-500 times average salaries these days.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 9 months ago

I've read the same, but didn't want to be accused of hyperbole.

beezee 4 years, 9 months ago

The term "needed services" is a crutch. Get over it-- we don't NEED half of what's stuffed into local budgets. Anyone insisting they DO need ALL such "services" ought to get used to doing for themselves instead of whining for yet more public money to provide for them.

As for gov't workers spending in the local economy, what is your factual basis for asserting this? Or, like many local dispensers of empirical wisdom, are you just assuming this flow of funds? I read that sort of BS constantly, but know quite a few county employees who do the bulk of their shopping in Topeka and/or Olathe. I personally don't care that they do so, but the assertion that local budgets get spent locally swings on a very thin thread.

County and City employees should have had raises at BEST deferred, and more honestly not been given them. If they felt they could do better elsewhere, fine-- go for it! My guess (qualified here as a guess) is they'd not have left. At least not in any significant number.

The voter slogan for the next few election cycles needs to be "If you voted for a tax increase, we vote YOU out."

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 9 months ago

"The term "needed services" is a crutch. Get over it-- we don't NEED half of what's stuffed into local budgets."

Care to give us a few examples?

"I read that sort of BS constantly, but know quite a few county employees who do the bulk of their shopping in Topeka and/or Olathe."

Well, that really settles it. Now that I know that you spend all your time auditing where all county employees spend all their money, I withdraw my statement.

Should we just fire all county employees? That way, taxes could go to zero.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 9 months ago

Even if you don't like these particular expenditures, they still make up a small percentage of overall expenditures.

And just because you don't like them doesn't mean that there isn't a valid argument to be made for them. These expenditures most certainly aren't any justification for declaring all government and government workers as worthless leaches on society.

paavopetie 4 years, 9 months ago

The level of government-provided services increased out of need. It's not as if the 1995 city commission could decide to give everyone in Lawrence a free cupcake on July 4th. The money allocated for electric cars and recharging stations, et cetera, all have a demonstrable need. Cato the Elder has it right, "If the letter writer desires change, he should run for office."

Go ahead and axe the jobs and salaries of city/county workers. But I guarantee you the same person complaining about reducing government will be writing a letter to the editor next year about the incredibly longer lines at the DMV or the $25 parking ticket (up from $3).

I'm afraid, for people like Mike Garber, they will never be happy until the local and federal governments stop preventing him from doing whatever he wants to do, when he wants to do it. Laws are enacted for a reason. And with tax laws, they are there to afford the level of services an advanced society like ours demands.

Oh, and if you can't afford your property taxes, you are probably in a house you can't afford. Don't have sympathy for people like Mike Garber; he will have no sympathy for you.

monkeyhawk 4 years, 9 months ago

I'm sure everyone is familiar with the city owned properties around town. Surely there is some value somewhere that the city leaders could consider unloading to ease the burden. In case you haven't looked at the list in a while, here is the eye opening list:

http://www2.ljworld.com/propertyvalues/?q=city+of+lawrence

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 9 months ago

Are there any particular pieces of property that you'd like to see put up for sale?

ou812mr2 4 years, 9 months ago

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