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kurata (Thomas Kurata)

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Your Turn: Inequity threatens U.S. society

Hello Leslie!

I don't often comment publicly on stories or opinions published in the LJW. However, when I do look at the comments posted by readers, I'm always impressed by the intelligence, humility, sincerity and civility expressed in your words.

For your information, back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Journal-World did have a regular column written by two excellent Lawrence High School students, Robert Seaver and Paul Carttar. I don't recall the title of their column, but they addressed many pressing issues of the times.

Your suggestion of having the LJW have columnists from both high schools in town is excellent, and I hope the LJW is paying attention.

I think Stefan's constructive way of expressing his thoughts is an excellent example of the hidden writing talent at LHS and FSHS. And I would enjoy reading his opinions in a regular column.

Best wishes.

December 14, 2014 at 5:56 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Plans filed for retail strip along South Lawrence Trafficway

Thank you, Richard Heckler, for pointing out that the Bauer Farm is a special tax district where the stores there impose an additional 1% sales tax that goes back to the developer(s). I believe this is what is known as a Transportation Development District, or TDD. The Oread is the second special tax district in Lawrence in which an additional tax is added to the sales tax.

When I communicated with the city commissioners about this in January, 2010 after my wife and I discovered that the CVS pharmacy at Bauer Farm was charging 8.85% rather than 7.75% sales tax, then commissioner Dever responded with,

"The short answer to your many questions is that the DEVELOPER of the property asked for a special taxing authority to help pay for their required improvements for the Bauer Farms Development. The city had several public meetings related to this request and it was approved by the city commission.

This is becoming more common in other communities, and there are several examples of such special tax areas (TDD’s) in suburban Kansas City.

I am sure you will get a more comprehensive response, but I wanted to quickly answer your question. This was not a CITY driven tax increase. This was at the request of the developer only. They are the ones “taxed “ with finding tenants for their development, and shoppers willing to pay the extra amount for the privilege.

I hope you have a great day."

The problem I have with these special tax districts is that the taxpayers are not allowed to vote on them. Moreover, there is a lack of transparency. For example, where are the financial reports showing the amount of sales tax being collected from both Bauer Farm and The Oread, and how much is going back to the developers? Commissioner Bob Schumm has referred to these special taxes in the past as "sneaky taxes." I recall Commissioner Mike Amyx once stating that the businesses should prominently post a sign that an additional sales tax is being imposed.

Here is a link that describes the experience of Columbia, MO with their 13 TDDs. There have been a lot of problems with compliance, according to this report, not to mention dissatisfaction by Columbia taxpayers. http://columbiabusinesstimes.com/4402...

March 28, 2014 at 2:53 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Backroom deal

Very well stated, Laura. This is all corporate welfare.

Recall that the Bauer Farm and The Oread Hotel are so-called Tranportation Development Districts, or TDD, which were approved by the city commissioners a few years ago. I discovered a couple of years ago that the Bauer Farm is a TDD after my wife and daughter made a purchase at CVS at 6th and Wakarusa. The sales tax was 9.85%, not 8.85%, on the sales receipt. After I contacted the Journal-World about this in early 2010, reporter Chad Lawhorn ran a story on the Bauer Farm to help expose what a TDD is and what it means for local consumers. The city commission at the time the TDD was being established did a very poor job of explaining this to the public, though commissioner Dever scrambled to cover his rear end by saying that the TDD had been brought up during a city commission meeting in the past.

Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, is another creative financing scheme which will be used in the 9th and New Hampshiire project, as I understand.

In either case, businesses that operate within a TDD or TIF have to charge an additional sales tax to patrons. The amount can be 1% or greater. The Bauer Farm and The Oread charge an additional 1%. This additional tax gets recycled back to the developers, apparently as a reimbursement to the developers for so-called infrastructure costs.

I would like to see the records of how much sales tax is being collected from Bauer Farm stores and The Oread, and how much is being recycled back to Compton, et. al.

I recall Mayor Schumm publicly stating at least two times during his city commission campaign in 2010 that he thought the additional sales taxes involved with a TDD or TIF were sneaky. I can only wonder if he still feels the same way. Commissioner Amyx rightly suggested that all businesses located within TDD or TIF districts should let customers know they are being charged an additional sales tax. Whether or not that got passed as a new ordinance, I don't know at this time.

I refuse to patronize any businesses located on the Bauer Farm or The Oread because I don't believe in providing corporate welfare for Compton, et.al. While Compton, et. al. have skillfully played the TDD and TIF schemes with the city, I don't agree with these schemes because in spite of being legal, taxpayers in the end get screwed. I will never patronize the future development at 9th and New Hampshire. Unfortunately, it is schemes like TDD and TIF that are helping drive the cost of living up in Lawrence.

July 27, 2012 at 9:17 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

Koch influence present in school lawsuit

http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/edito...

Some Florida State University administrators are suffering buyer's remorse over having accepted contributions from Charles Koch. Too many strings attached.

June 3, 2012 at 2:54 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Reader disputes view of Kochs

Hi Ralph,

It's been a long time since we last delivered pizzas together at the Green Pepper in the spring of 1974 when we were both at KU. I very much enjoyed reading your response to Dolph Simon's Saturday Column concerning the Koch brothers. Kudos to both you and the Journal-World to air opinions about the Kochs. For the space allotted to you, your views were expressed concisely and, I believe, hit the nail on many heads. I don't know if you have heard about the university donations the Koch brothers have been making but I attach the following link for your interest: http://www.bravenewfoundation.org/top... It seems now there is push back from those universities that accepted donations from the Koch brothers due to infringements on academic freedom. It appears a lot of the Koch donations come with strings attached, i.e. the Kochs wish to influence faculty hiring decisions to support the Koch's philosophies. Having been in Florida recently, I learned that Florida State University is suffering severe buyer's remorse for having accepted Koch donations. I recently contacted KU about this and was informed that none of the Koch donations to KU had strings attached concerning faculty hiring. Controversy is one of the greatest spices of life, and I thank and salute you for having the courage of your convictions to express your views out in the open, and not from behind the cloak of anonymity. Well done!

April 7, 2012 at 11:53 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

Kansas Congressional delegation dismayed at supercommittee's inability to reach agreement

Ther Americans For Tax Reform website shows that Senators Moran and Roberts and Rep. Jenkins all signed Grovor Norquist's pledge not to raise taxes. The website does not indicate Rep. Yoder signed the pledge prior to the start of the 112th Congress. The words of disappointment expressed by these politicians about the recent failure of the supercommittee to reach an agreement to reduce the debt are hollow and disingenuous on this matter.

November 23, 2011 at 12:06 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

U.S. losing art of compromise

Thank you, Prof. Hoeflich, for a thoughtful and incisive editorial on the decline of civility and inability to reach compromise among our elected leaders in congress. Your comments are spot on.

There was a time during the 1960s when there were many more moderate democrats and republicans than what we have today. And civility in debates reinforced by the art of compromise was in full force then in our congress. Whether we can restore civility and the art of compromise by ourselves remains to be seen. It may be forced upon us by China, India, Singapore, South Korea, Japan and other countries to whom we are so indebted. This may happen sooner than we want.

My hope--and I believe you also share this--is that, sooner better than later, our congresspeople will truly view themselves as Americans, and not allow party affiliation to cloud their judgment on making decisions in the best interests of the common man, woman and child in our country. Unfortunately, today so many are beholden to special interests and corporations with very deep pockets that it is no wonder so many Americans feel angry and perhaps helpless about the current system.

Thank you again and I look forward to reading your next editorial.

June 30, 2011 at 2:54 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback promotes three E’s of energy policy at KU Energy Conference

Hi Les,

It is very encouraging to see folks like yourself trying to come up with good technical solutions to our nation's energy availability challenges. I presume you attended the conference last Thursday in which Gov. Brownback spoke briefly about energy, economics and environment. I am a registered professional chemical engineer in Kansas and California with nearly 30 years of experience in fossil energy and engineering software designed to calculate the material and energy balances and thermodynamics of fossil energy conversion processes and novel conversion processes. Much work remains to be done in the US to develop a comprehensive energy policy that considers all options, conventional and unconventional. As a nation we are woefully, and dangerously, lagging behind countries including China, India, Brazil and countless others concerning energy. If you were present at the conference and listened to the keynote speaker John Hofmeister, he stated very clearly--and depressingly--that we have gone through 19 congresses and 7 presidents that have yet to come up with a coherent plan. In short, quoting Hofmeister, "we have a government that is dysfunctional, broken and unfixable when it comes to energy policy." I couldn't agree more. In my view, the key challenge all entrepreneurial, forward thinking and creative engineers and scientists face when promoting an invention is marketing and capturing the necessary mind-share of opinion leaders and decision-makers, which I believe you are dealing with based on your comments. I would urge you not to give up and keep talking to as many people as possible. Don't let the naysayers and those who throw stones at your ideas to cause you to waver. Recall that Edward Deming, the father of statistical quality control, was laughed at by GM, Chrysler and Ford. Deming took his messages to Japan's auto industry during the 1950s, and the Japanese fervently embraced his ideas about quality and reliability using statistical models to reduce defects and variations from their manufacturing processes. And we all know which country ended up developing and delivering to the marketplace a vehicle that was more reliable, safer, fuel efficient and attractively priced. While you may not have to go overseas for your invention and patent to be accepted, I would urge you to think about those possiblities. I welcome the opportunity to look at your invention and provide feedback and suggestions. In the current environment we find ourselves in, any answer, even a hard-earned answer that is way off, is better than no answer at all. And remember what Albert Einstein once remarked, "All great spirits have encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds." Be the miracle you wish to see in others.

Best wishes and keep up the good fight,
Tom Kurata

April 16, 2011 at 4:37 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

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