Archive for Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Town Talk: ‘Sneaky taxes’ heat up City Commission forum; Carter, Dever, Schumm win police and fire endorsement

March 30, 2011


2011 Lawrence City Commission election

Our special section for the 2011 Lawrence City Commission election has videos, live chats, stories, a straw poll and a candidate selector to help you choose which candidate you're voting for.

News and notes from around town:

• The campaign kitchen is getting a bit hotter in the race for the Lawrence City Commission. At a candidate forum this morning — hosted by Downtown Lawrence Inc. — candidates mixed it up over the idea of special taxing districts. Candidate Bob Schumm has been highlighting the issue often; he recently sent out a mass mailing deriding the idea as a “sneaky tax.” And he hammered on the issue again today, saying Lawrence would have a world-class reputation as high-tax community if it starts approving these districts.

“It is going to kill you people and it will kill me too,” Schumm told the room of largely downtown merchants.

Schumm owns Buffalo Bob’s Smokehouse and Dynamite Saloon in downtown.

But candidate Mike Machell made a point to take exception to some of Schumm’s reasoning on the project. Machell said he wants to be cautious with the use of special taxing districts, but said he doesn’t want to rule out their use entirely. He said Schumm’s strong opposition to the special taxing districts will make it more likely that new development will happen on the edge of the community instead of in areas that need to be redeveloped. Machell reasons that the special taxing districts can help make some redevelopment project more feasible. Without the districts, developers will be tempted to go to “greenfields,” on the edge of town where the development hurdles are usually shorter.

Machell wasn’t done there. He also made sure to mention that Schumm had benefited from a city subsidy in the past. The city previously had a program that helped pay for the installation of fire-sprinkler systems in downtown buildings. The program was short-lived and only a few businesses ended up receiving any city assistance, but Schumm’s was one of them.

“The money for that came out of the taxpayers' pockets,” Machell said.

The comment came at the end of the candidate forum, and Schumm wasn’t given a specific opportunity to respond. But he was asked about the sprinkler project previously on a chat.

• A key political endorsement in the Lawrence City Commission race has been handed down. The two unions — technically “employee groups” — that represent Lawrence police officers and firefighters are endorsing Hugh Carter, Mike Dever and Bob Schumm for the three spots up for grabs on the commission. As far as endorsements go, this one is viewed as an upper-tier one by most candidates. That’s because city employees are pretty motivated to vote. The firefighters group has 115 members, and the police organization has 122. Plus, it is my sense that quite a few city employees look to these groups for advice since both the police and fire organizations ask a lot of questions about how candidates would address pay and benefit issues for city workers. The city has about 1,400 employees (not all full-time), and that is certainly a sizable potential voting bloc in the City Commission race. The third place-finisher in the 2009 race won with 3,585 votes.

• The endorsement also comes with a monetary donation to each of the candidates’ campaigns. The Lawrence Police Officers Association’s Political Action Committee gave $500 each to the three candidates. According to the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission, the police officers association recently registered its PAC as a state organization, meaning the group also can give money in state elections. It also means it doesn't have to file a public report of contributions and expenditures until January.

• I know I said yesterday that I would post the responses candidates gave to the Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods questionnaire. But, it is now 1 p.m. as I write this and I haven’t got the information all formatted yet. So, tomorrow, really. Also, I’ve gotten the responses to the League of Women Voters questionnaire. For those of you who are election fans, it is something for you to look forward to. For those of you who aren’t, well, April 6 (the day after the election) will be here before we know it.


somedude20 7 years ago

Gordon Shumway for President of Lawrence!!!!!! He will rid the town of feral cats (no, that is not a term to describe any people of color you R's of the world)

Steve Jacob 7 years ago

Never a big fan of Schumm, but I always thought the special tax was a "sneaky tax" too.

no_thanks 7 years ago

I don't know whether it is "sneaky" or not as we don't advertise our guest tax at Hotels, or the tax supporting infrastructure and mass transit. Personally, the one thing I like about the CID (as opposed to abatements) is that I am in control of whether I pay that additional tax by determining my purchasing decisions.

Bob Forer 7 years ago

Ever notice the small framed written notices in motel room, typically found on the door or in a wall on the bathroom? Those notices set forth the room's typical rental rate and applicable taxes charged.

More importantly, however, is the fact that hotel room rates are assessed uniformly throughout the city. Regardless of where one chooses to stay, the guest tax will be applied. Not so for the TIFF tax. It is only applicable in rare circumstances where it is specially approved by the city commission. As a consumer I have the right to choose where I shop, and when one business charges more tax than another, that is something I feel I have a right to know. Thats what makes it "sneaky"--most consumers are unaware that they are paying more in tax at a TIFF business than at a regular business.

Richard Heckler 7 years ago

The bottom line is taxpayers should be voting to approve any new sales tax not bypassed! The CID projects allow a back door method of bypassing voters on new sales taxes.

IF there is no need for new retail development city commissioners are not by law forced to approve any new project. All new projects somehow require OUR tax dollars. Therefore all taxpayers are stakeholders.

Then Lawrence Taxpaying Voters should weed out the city hall “Free Lunch” programs:

"Here’s what happens. And this is a good example of where the news media hasn’t done a good job. I have tons of news clips that say, oh, this new shopping mall is coming or a new Wal-Mart or a new Cabela’s store, and thanks to tax increment financing, this store is going to be built. Well, what is tax increment financing?

I’ll tell you what it is. You go to the store with your goods, you pay for it at Wal-Mart, and there’s a very good chance that that store has made a deal with the government that the sales taxes you are required to pay, that government requires you to pay, never go to the government. Instead, those sales taxes are kept by Wal-Mart and used to pay the cost of the store. And typically in those deals, the store is tax exempt, just like a church.

Now, there are two ways that it’s important to think about this. One is, that means your kid’s schools, your police department, your library, your parks are not getting that money. And you’ll notice we keep saying we’re starved for money. We’re twice as wealthy as we were in 1980, but we’ve got to close hospitals, and we’ve got to close schools, and we don’t have money for all sorts of things like after-school programs, even though we’re twice as wealthy.

The second thing to think about is, imagine that you own Amy Goodman’s or Juan’s department store across the street. You suddenly have to compete with people whom the government is giving a huge leg up on. You think you would go broke after a while? Well, in fact, you will.

And I tell about a man named Jim Weaknecht who owned a little store in the Poconos of Pennsylvania. He sold fishing tackle, hunting gear, stuff like that. And the way he made his living in his little tiny store, enough that he was able to have his wife stay at home and raise their three kids full time, was by charging less than a company called Cabela’s. Well, then Cabela’s came to town.

This little city of 4,000 people made a deal to give Cabela’s $36 million to build a store. That’s more than the city budget for that town for ten years. It’s $8,000 for every man, woman, and child in that town to have this store. And even though he charged lower prices, he was pretty quickly run out of business.

That’s not market capitalism, That’s corporate socialism. And what we’ve gotten is corporate socialism for the politically connected rich—not all the rich, the politically connected rich—and market capitalism for everybody else."

David Cay Johnston New York Times

Richard Heckler 7 years ago

The fact that the current city commission would not take steps to insure consumers KNOW how much sales tax will be charged as consumers enter a building leaves a lot to be desired. As far as I know Dever,Carter and Machell are not inclined to change that. Dever certainly had plenty of time to push on behalf of consumers.

It is disgusting that WE consumers should be expected to pay a developer over and above profit margins to upgrade or rehab a project. Who the hell are these people that think like that?

Bob Schumm is on the money!!!

The sprinkler thing got a big push from the fire department if my memory serves me well. Sprinklers are a safety issue.

Flap Doodle 7 years ago

merrill, how many people in and near Hamburg, PA work at Cabela's? How much money do those folks earn at Cabela's and spend in their community? Your citation of DCJ makes it sound like they ponied up $36 million in unmarked $20s. Why do you & DCJ have such a bone for Cabela's, anyway? BTW, there is no win if you vote for the svombie.

Bob Forer 7 years ago

Bob Schumm has been around Lawrence a long time. My impression was that he was your typical conservative downtown businessman. But on second look, he appears to have quite a view progressive views that are in line with the "New Lawrence." He has my support.

igby 7 years ago

Got no use for drug dealers! doesn't matter how you package them and make them look. Fy.

irvan moore 7 years ago

a lot of us liked the "old Lawrence" just fine.

BruceWayne 7 years ago

Keep in mind that Svenderella and his campaign treasurer could not get his finance report in before the deadline. Why? My guess is there is some shady goings on over at Camp Svombie. They BOTH declared bankruptcy, and blamed everyone but themselves. No single candidate has more of an ax to grind than Sven Alstrom. A vote for Sven is very irresponsible.

tribalzendancer 7 years ago

I would trust your word just a bit more if you weren't... anonymous. How do we know you don't have an ax to grind? (This would seem pretty apparent since a majority of your comments focus on attacking Sven) I doubt your comments would have such a malicious bite if you spoke under your real name. But then if you did, you'd probably alienate a lot of your real friends, since your anonymous personality is incredibly uncivil.

Flap Doodle 7 years ago

Bub, if you had been on this board in the time of HWMNBN, you'd know why a lot of posters remain anonymous.

Boosh 7 years ago

That post reminds me of cagey...speaking of whom, did you hear he were finally booted off cjonline

And didn't you know Bruce Wayne is the Batman.

BruceWayne 7 years ago

If the LJW would post the comments Sven made that resulted in the ban, you would know the true meaning of "uncivil."

Hudson Luce 7 years ago

Yeah, maybe, but you've posted hundreds of messages running down Sven even if he isn't mentioned in the article you're commenting on, it's like some sort of weird obsession with you, some sort of deeply held personal grudge.

kamikazen 7 years ago

Something shady going on in the camp.... Isn't it shady to write sth. like that?

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 7 years ago

Vote for Bob Schumm, no special taxing (rip off) districts. Thank you, Lynn

BruceWayne 7 years ago

Whit- At around 8:30 Tuesday night, when you ban Sven Alstrom from this site will we ever be allowed to speak of him again? You know you have another banned user that it is somehow a TOS violation to mention. Just curious. Thanks

kamikazen 7 years ago

Bruce, This is forum to voice opinions with respect for others, no matter how little they would be. Your constant attack on Sven is inappropriate, particularly if many of your comments do not contain any substantial points but offensive statements.

BruceWayne 7 years ago

my guess is you are not aware of Sven's history here.

gl0ck0wn3r 7 years ago

How are his opinions inappropriate or offensive? Offensive to whom? You? Who made you forum cop? He's correct: both Sven and his campaign manager have declared bankruptcy. They were late with their paperwork. The paperwork is... questionable. Sven does have a habit of behaving like a child even after he declared his intention to run. This type of behavior is consistent with his past behavior and - likely - consistent with his future behavior. If Sven doesn't like the commentary he can always file suit.

BruceWayne 7 years ago

I am also guessing your son never slid through a pile of dog crap at the LHS football field. Sven BRAGGED about walking his dog there. Bet it wasn't your equipment that got ruined when someone flooded the oread job site(twice). Sven praised the responsible party, even offering to buy the perp a beer. While the children are suffering and teachers are getting laid off, Sven files a frivolous lawsuit against the district costing the district thousands of dollars. Ask Sven about the spam job he pulled just a few weeks ago. So if you think I just woke up one day and decided to hate Sven you are wrong. He has also threatened myself and many others right here on this forum. Anonymous? You bet your butt. I do not trust Sven and his "room full of indians." And yes, some of my comments are offensive. It is not my intent to offend you or the two or three other supporters he has. The voting public needs to understand what kind of a person is running for this public office. Why didn't Sven turn in his report by the deadline? Appears to me he spent his funding on gas, food, and a dozen yard signs. I am a jerk. I pop off and have knee jerk reactions that offend. I am not always great with my own money but I work every day and always pay my taxes ON TIME. Consider this...after reading my comments would you elect me to the city commission? I wouldn't either. That is why I AM NOT RUNNING. If LJW would man up and post his comments you would be shocked by the behavior he displayed. Ask yourself, how bad must it have been to get the lifetime ban? Remember to vote April 5th. I am an anonymous poster and I approve this message.

kamikazen 7 years ago

I understand that you would like to voice your opinion. If you know that comments are offensive, why do you post them? What is the benefit of offending?

Richard Heckler 7 years ago

Voting Sven and Schumm would be best for the community in general.

Voting Dever,Carter and Machell will not bring any change. I am convinced these 3 will support the CID or otherwise known as a sneaky sales tax. Also beware of the RM 32 aka party dorms that will house at least 64 residents without adequate parking..... in already crowded neighborhoods. How many want one of these in their backyards or next door?

Taxpayers should be voting on the sales tax no matter what it's called. Signs should at all entryways of these establishments receiving preferential treatment. If taxpayers approve this nonsense so be it.

Voting Sven and Schumm would be best for the community in general.

Richard Heckler 7 years ago

David Cay Johnston then boggled the crowd with a blunt assertion: "We pay billions of dollars in taxes that never get to the government." Much of the sales tax we pay at big box stores and shopping centers is diverted to the large companies that own the stores. It's just one of the many swindles these chains have learned to perpetrate against city and county governments.

The heart of the wealth transfer is tax increment financing (TIF). Store owners come to town leaders and offer to build a new store that, they promise, will "create jobs." In exchange, the city gives them the land, builds the store to their specifications, and finances it all with tax-free municipal bonds (which are usually held by associates of the store owners). To cap it all, the store keeps the sales tax generated in the store to pay off the bond holders. If the store is built on government land, it's also exempt from paying any property taxes.

Why do city governments take such a blatantly bad deal? Many of them are struggling, and believe that a new Wal-Mart will bring in shoppers from all over—shoppers who will stick around and shop in their town. It never works out that way. Under stiff competition the small shops go out of business, taking the town's tax base with them. Schools, parks, recreation programs, and libraries are starved. Almost always, these city councils would be far better served putting the money in upgrades to local Main Street businesses, rather than financing the competitor that will kill them.

Johnston also noted that as a result, the nation is losing mom-and-pop businesses that are often more efficient in real terms than the big box stores, which carry tremendous overhead in management and distribution. He suggested that audience members do an experiment: first, eat at a chain restaurant like TGIF—and then go the next night to a local family-owned place. Not only will you spend half as much in the family place—the people working there are probably making more money. That's what real efficiency looks like."

Other tax dollar scams Johnston noted:

Richard Heckler 7 years ago

oneeye_wilbur may well have some interest in these RM 32 college party dorms if my memory serves me well. Build them and the parties will commence and of course some disturbance.

I know of no neighborhoods that wants these monsters. No vacant lot is too small.

gl0ck0wn3r 7 years ago

Merrill may have a financial interest in keeping businesses out and wages low if memory serves. Also, he hates Mexicans.

Flap Doodle 7 years ago

There is no win if you vote for Sven.

Richard Heckler 7 years ago

See consent agenda for April 5

How about RM 64 = not friendly to any neighborhood

And again keep this in mind:

"Local Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (And Stick You with the Bill)"

Flap Doodle 7 years ago

How many times have you posted a link to tate 3 years old demonow article, planet-killer merrill? 300 times? 400 times? Do you even bother to keep track?

Kontum1972 7 years ago

how about an ice cold Flat Tire...?...LoL...!

right now!


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