Archive for Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sales tax forum draws crowd

Monday’s public forum on sales tax questions brought a crowd of about 35 to Legion Hall. City Administrator Jeff Dingman, left, gave a presentation prior to the forum.

Monday’s public forum on sales tax questions brought a crowd of about 35 to Legion Hall. City Administrator Jeff Dingman, left, gave a presentation prior to the forum.

October 22, 2009

A public forum regarding the upcoming sales tax ballot questions at Monday’s Baldwin City Council meeting was designed to inform voters and learn what they want from the revenue generated if it passes.

Judging by the responses of many of the 35 in attendance, it worked. City Administrator Jeff Dingman gave a presentation on the city’s sales tax history and what is on the line this time prior to the forum being opened for questions. Voters will decide Nov. 3 on whether to renew the city’s present half-cent sales tax, which is proposition 1, as well as adding a quarter-cent sales tax, which is proposition 2.

Dingman said if proposition 1 passes, the estimated $180,000 it raises would go to infrastructure projects, repair and replacement needs such as storm-water control and possibly paying down current debt. The infrastructure needs are many, most notably the north Sixth Street project that has a price tag of $3.5 million, which will be shared with the county.

He said if proposition 2 passes, which would raise about $87,500, that money would go to “quality of life issues,” such as hiking and biking trails, improvements to existing parks, such as adding restrooms and parking, improvements to the library and historic places.

Ralph Tanner, former Baker University president and state representative, was in attendance and liked what he heard.

“I came here tonight fully expecting to vote no against both these propositions,” said Tanner. “I don’t like taxes. Mr. Dingman’s presentation has changed my mind on proposition 1 because he said storm water.”

Tanner, who was joined by neighbor Don Nutt, another long-time member of the community, explained how their neighborhood has been plagued by storm-water runoff for decades.

“Before you talk about bike trails and soccer fields, you better take care of storm water,” he said. “I want some relief on storm water that runs across my backyard on Lincoln Street.”

Mayor Ken Wagner thanked Tanner for his comments and explained how the questions had been put on the ballot, trying not to tie the council to a specific project such as the pool, which was funded by the half-cent tax after an election in 1998. It was paid off early and that tax will end in March. The idea for renewing that tax is to help provide property tax relief.

“I sold these guys (city council) hard on giving the people a choice,” said Wagner. “On infrastructure, there is such a laundry list of things that need to be done. Quite frankly, we don’t have the money to do it. It illustrates the need to continue the half-cent to be able to pay for that.”

Gene Nelson, another longtime resident and former Baker professor who routinely attends council meetings, said he likes the sales tax propositions.

“There are two things I like about this,” said Nelson, who is also a businessman and has rentals. “No. 1 is broadening our tax base. No. 2 is being competitive with our sales-tax rate. It’s not at the top, not at the bottom. Could it be used to ease the burden on property tax for a year or two?”

Wagner said the tax money could be used to pay off some debt as it is written. Dingman added another item.

“We wouldn’t have to continue to fund our capital improvements with property tax,” he said.

Two other businessmen threw their support behind the propositions.

“I’ve heard some good points tonight,” said Dave Hill, a local banker. “The part that excites me is all the people who were here this weekend (for the Maple Leaf Festival). There are 4,000 people in the city limits and 8,000 people outside the city limits who call this home. I personally think that 75 percent of the sales tax will be paid for by people outside the city limits. A user tax is a fair tax. I think this is a good thing.”

Bill Harmon agreed.

“This sales tax would not hurt my business,” said Harmon. “What would hurt my business is higher utility bills. I’m excited to get other people to support the community. I’m greatly for this.”

But not everyone in attendance was for the propositions.

“My concern is we are going to give you this money and we don’t know what you’re going to use it for,” said LeighAnne Bathke. “This tax never ends. It goes on and on.”’

Wagner answered that.

“If this goes down to defeat, we could come back with specifics on this every year,” he said. “That’s the reason we decided not to do it that way — not be specific so we don’t have to go through this every year.”

Wagner said he hopes there is a good voter turnout for the Nov. 3 election. It will be the only vote being cast in Douglas County and County Clerk Jamie Shew will count the votes here. The Signal will have those results as soon as possible at baldwincity.com.

“I would view this differently if I thought 100 percent of the sales tax was paid for by our citizens,” said Wagner. “It’s our only chance to get money from those who come here.”

Comments

501gdm2 4 years, 6 months ago

I understand what the council is asking isn't much in taxes, and that there are projects which can be completed with the added tax but there is one thing I haven't heard from the city fathers or the city manager! That is what has been done to curtail spending to prevent continued increases in taxes and the looming 11.5 percednt increase on water which was purposed earlier this year. Baldwin has a reputation of passing all these added taxes, and I feel it's time to send a message to the city fathers to reduce the spending to help all residents through these tough times.

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sparky 4 years, 6 months ago

Where exactly does Dave Hill get his numbers on this 75% coming from out of town? I'd like to see these statistics. I would be amazed if the number was higher than 35%, and unless you show me some hard facts, there is no way you're going to convince me of those numbers. And don't forget to include the extra money collected on "sales tax" when I purchase a $30,000 car in Kansas City and then bring it home to register it and pay sales tax based on my home city rate.

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NanCrisp 4 years, 6 months ago

"I personally think that 75 percent of the sales tax will be paid for by people outside the city limits. A user tax is a fair tax."

On the other hand, sales tax always disproportionately affects people of lower income within a community. While sparing everyone in FireTree and other points north of Ames from increases in property tax, the sales tax will take a big bite out of the fixed incomes of senior citizens and lower income families who are less mobile than their well-to-do counterparts. Many who wish to see property taxes kept low probably buy their groceries in Lawrence, their clothes in Kansas City, and spend their dining and entertainment dollars elsewhere, too. Since many of those other cities already have higher sales tax than B.C., it seems like no burden at all to these folks to increase the sales tax here.

If our city politicos had any real regard for people on fixed or low incomes, they would allow the burdens to be placed on developers through special assessment taxes, and on high-value property owners through real estate and property taxes. If we really want to help the people who really need a break, we will keep sales taxes and utilities low and put the burden where it can best be borne.

This is a good example of why the overblown school bond issue was a big mistake. Now that all the eggs are in one basket (schools) we have to grope for ways to fund other important needs in our community. On the surface, it sounds great to think that people from outside of B.C. are going to help us make ends meet in our city budget. That is just a pipe dream at best. In the meantime, ask your neighbors on fixed incomes whether their household budgets can absorb the extra they will be paying at the grocery store, gas pump, doctor's office, pharmacy, etc....

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sparky 4 years, 6 months ago

As I agree whole-heartedly with NanCrisp, I see this solution as a pipe dream as well, simply because the politicos that we have put in place are usually pitching the "growth" card. "We need more growth to lower taxes." If we have special assessment taxes (Like I said, I agree totally with), it would deter their beloved growth. Last I heard, the approach was to give tax breaks to incoming businesses and developers so we would get more businesses to come to town.

All of this just keeps leading us down the same road that I have heard time and time again, we're trying to become a Johnson County suburb. Which we are not, and I personally don't want to become, but the way the city keeps going, it appears is inevitable.

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Justask 4 years, 6 months ago

As I have previously stated, these two ballot issues are faulty because there are no specifics about what the money will pay for. This article backs that up. Is the money going toward infrastructure or to ease property taxes? It can't be both, but the mayor and the council are counting on voters being too stupid to understand that these proposals won't raise enough money to pay for both infrastructure and lower the mill levy.

And as you can tell from Mayor Wagner's nonanswer to LeighAnne Bathke's question: There is no end to either of these taxes. Why not put a sunset on them? They wouldn't have to "go through this every year." Why not every five years? Or ten? Or 20?

I don't want to give this council and mayor and all future councils and mayors a blank check with my tax dollars. These two sales tax proposals don't guarantee that ANY of these projects will be funded.

Vote No on Both Sales Tax Initiatives.

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Torch 4 years, 6 months ago

...and the Baldwin zombies continue to spend other peoples' money.

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uapinochet 4 years, 6 months ago

What a waste of taxpayer money, e.g., holding a special election (the only November 03 election in Douglas County.)

Only politicians can be so bold, i.e., wasting taxpayer money on a special election where they plead with the electorate to give them more tax money. [I would say ballsy, but I think those run in short supply on the council {no offense Ms. Plumberg}]

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jmyrick 4 years, 6 months ago

I have enjoyed this discussion immensely. I hope it continues.

I would like to shine a little thought light on one statement, however. That is "Is the money going toward infrastructure or to ease property taxes? It can't be both, but the mayor and the council are counting on voters being too stupid to understand that these proposals won't raise enough money to pay for both infrastructure and lower the mill levy."

That is the whole point. Voters can either decide to pay for these infrastructure improvements with a sales tax that has been in place since 1991 or they can pay for it with increased property tax if the sales tax goes away. "It can't be both?" Wrong. Think about it, whether you're for or against the sales tax. Would you like some help from all those Johnson County tags that come through town?

Otherwise, as the old saying goes, you can pay me now, or you can pay me later. You choose.

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Justask 4 years, 6 months ago

Jeff, My problem with the Prop 1 is that we have no specifics about where it's going. I thought we were going to use it to fix Sixth Street. Or is it to lower property taxes? Or fix Ralph Tanner's storm water problem? Or add sidewalks? Or fix the Elm Street bridge? Or whatever pet project the mayor and the council decide upon? That's stretching $180,000 annually pretty far.

I don't have a problem with a sales tax. I have a problem with the way these two questions are written with no end and no specifics. Figure out that question, and I'd vote yes. Until then, no blank checks.

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jmyrick 4 years, 6 months ago

Justask, please reread "Voters can either decide to pay for these infrastructure improvements with a sales tax that has been in place since 1991 or they can pay for it with increased property tax if the sales tax goes away."

If there isn't sales tax money to pay for Sixth Street, property tax money will have to be used to pay for it. Chances are that would mean a jump in the mill levy.

The infrastructure needs are endless. That won't change. Ever. So, like I said, you choose.

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greyghost 4 years, 6 months ago

The mayor, council, and the editor of the local paper want you to believe there are only two options (of which one sounds like a threat): Raising your property tax or by continuing a sales tax that has expired.

Please understand that other options exist, e.g., making due with what you have.....which is substantial. Nearly the highest mill levy in the state -- MAKE DUE!

Learn how to budget and, oh yeah, plan on infrastructure upgrades and repairs. Of course, financial officials at KU couldn't budget for infrastructure repairs, so it is a stretch to think that some podunks could budget for theses needs.

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hipgrrrrl 4 years, 6 months ago

If my property taxes increase any further, I'm afraid that the term "foreclosure" is in my future. So...let's see...it will be a cold day in you-know-where before my house sells for what we financed it for. I'd actually assume that it will sit in the hands of the bank for quite some time. Then, it will finally sell for $70,000 less than what the county has assessed it for - at least. Should that happen to my house (or anyone else's that purchased homes in Baldwin in the last 5-7 years), the City will have to start refiguring what their tax base REALLY is. If we choose to stay, we are certainly going to fight the tax assessment next year because my house isn't worth remotely the amount that we pay taxes on in this real estate market.

We've started considering begging for a short sale so we can move outside the city limits, keep our kids in their current schools and stop being penalized by those in Baldwin who really, really want to live like they're in Lenexa. If I wanted to live in Lenexa, I would have moved there instead of here, thank you very much.

So, have there been no infrastructure improvements done since 1991? It seems to me that there has been some work done around town since I've been here. We appear to have a quite visible Baldwin City staff driving around town in marked trucks. How have improvements made prior to today been paid for? Has money been mismanaged? Embezzled? My point is that work has been done around town today, yesterday, etc.. Is it so minor that we can't keep chugging along, paying for what we can afford, continuing the effort or has the City Administration/elected officials mismanaged things so terribly up to this point that the only way to keep our City from washing away with our out of control storm water is to add to the already highest property taxes in the area?

Jeff, are you an editorialist or reporter?

Will someone please educate me to the whole 6th Street thing? What does it need? Why does it need it? Why is it more important than other desired improvements and how much will it cost the City taxpayers?

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jmyrick 4 years, 6 months ago

I can't call you greyghost. I can agree with what you are saying, somewhat.

Make due with what you have. We have the half-cent sales tax, which was used to pay off the pool. If it hadn't been there, you would have paid for the pool with property tax.

Now the same tax, which you are use to, should be used to pay for additional infrastructure work. That's making due with what you have. I don't see that as a threat, either. I see it as common sense.

Please don't lump me with the mayor and the council. I am completely separate. I watch what they do closely, because other than Gene Nelson, no one else comes to council meetings. That's why I'm not bothered by specifics and an end to the tax. I know the tough decisions the council has to make. I'm there when they make those. Everyone online here should join us.

I've been covering city councils for 30 years. I have never seen anyone get rich off serving their community. The paranoia about what the tax is for and that it won't end are just that. If you don't like what the council does, vote them out. But a long line of Baldwin City voters are the ones that voted in the sales tax. It just makes too much sense. It works.

But, again, you choose.

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jmyrick 4 years, 6 months ago

hipgrrrrl. I love that name, by the way. That would be an editorial comment. I understand your pain. I feel for you and hope it doesn't come to foreclosure. I've seen that too much, I'm afraid.

To answer your question, I am the editor of the Signal and I do write editorials. I am also a reporter, covering the city council. Nowhere in any of these posts have I said vote yes or vote no. I've said you choose. That is not editorial.

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greyghost 4 years, 6 months ago

You should show me some respect and call me greyghost. That is who I am. . ..just another anonymous poster. Oh, perhaps I'm the top poster (much like Marion Lynn of LJWorld notoriety). I bring in an audience. I have a following that frequents your site. Again, just a little respect might be due.

BTW, it's not my fault how you handled the switch to the new format -- that, sir, is your fault.

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jmyrick 4 years, 6 months ago

You, sir, are not the real greyghost. Long story. I do not respect you for what you did in hijacking a highly respected name of a member of this online community. I do, however, enjoy your contribution to it. I wish you would give up your charade and come in as yourself.

As for your contention that I had much to do with the switch to the new format, I'll say, yeah, right. Like I'm a Web master. I wish was. I wouldn't have let you steal the real greyghost's name.

I honestly don't know why you did what you did. You have a valuable opinion. Why don't you stand on your own two feet instead of hiding behind grey's good name?

Despite her/his constant reminders. You say nothing. OK, hipgrrrrrl, I may have crossed the editorial line with this one. It has been bothering me.

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SpeaksSlowlyToIdiots 4 years, 6 months ago

hipgrrrrl,

You ask how improvements to date have been paid. It's actually very simple. Bonds have been issued for such things as the South 6th Street improvements (back in 2006). Those bonds are paid for each year through (mostly) the mill levy. I think you know this, but for those readers that don't know, mill levy means property tax.

Here is the opportunity to shift the funding for future, needed infrastructure improvements to a sales tax rather than depending on yet another property tax increase to pay for it. Pay no nevermind to the idiots that believe we can just make due with crumbling streets, curbs, gutters, sewers, and bridges. For too many years before you and I were tax-paying homeowners, the skinflints that lived here didn't want to pay for hardly any improvements. That's why we have so, so much need now.

And that's what really, really chaps my hide is that these skinflints are now the people on fixed incomes that want to whine complain about any increases in property or sales taxes. It's about time that these misers suffer for making us pay their way when they refused to do so during their productive years. That's why we have such high electric rates now. These cheapskate fossils refused to invest at all in the electric utility for DECADES (yes, decades). So in 2001 some gutsy city leaders decided to do something about it, paying for significant infrastructure improvements with the only funding source available at the time (mill levy bonds). Now we have to pay higher rates for the cheapskates' selfishness and shortsightedness. The electric rates are high for one simple reason: because we are paying the principal and interest on those bonds.

Let's quit listening to these pikers. They ran Baldwin City into the ditch and then took a leak on the smoking wreckage. Why would we want to take their advice on anything now? Especially when we finally have an opportunity to take steps in a positive direction.

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hipgrrrrl 4 years, 5 months ago

While I can certainly understand your point, SpeaksSlowlytoIdiots, I'm finding myself quite resentful about compromising my financial future in order to pay for the past failures or misjudgement of others. Perhaps I should have realized these massive issues existed when we purchased a home here, but the bottom line is that we didn't. I am a person that would desire to fix something the right way rather than putting a patch over it for someone to uncover later, but choosing to do this now in regards to the entire infrastructure of Baldwin City is not sensible - at least not when it comes to my pocketbook. We've already been sold that argument in regards to the schools but at this point, turning around and shouldering that responsibility for the City just isn't feasible.

Living in Baldwin is costing me money that I could be investing in my kid's college funds. It's eating into my family's entertainment budget. It's making it impossible to continue to improve my residence and make it less of an eyesore. I'm getting priced out and am finding it harder and harder to justify living here and I find that sad.

Of course, the rumor that the Baker U Endowment has pretty much been dessimated (sp?) by the economic downturn doesn't make me real hopeful that Baldwin will continue to be any more attractive than Edgerton or Wellsville when it comes to desirable places to live in the future...

...and thank you, Jeff, for liking the name :). the grrrrl might be becoming a bit of a stretch, but there are people that say you're only as old as you feel :)...

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SpeaksSlowlyToIdiots 4 years, 5 months ago

hipgrrrrl,

Totally understood that you would be resentful for having to pay for past mistakes. I know I am. That's why the City is looking for avenues to pay for these improvements that do not place more burdens soley on homeowners. It is hoped that at least half of the amounts collected for the sales tax will be from folks who travel into our community. I can't come up with an idea for how we would accurately measure this, but we do know that large numbers of folks travel into the community for events like Maple Leaf, Thomas the train, and school graduations. That's gotta help.

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hipgrrrrl 4 years, 5 months ago

Well, I guess I just need to stop whining :). I would rather have a increased sales tax than increased property taxes. At least that way, there is some personal option involved with the penalty I have to pay for desired improvements to the existing infrastructure.

I do think that the City administration is making a mistake in attempting to avoid a sunsetting designation on the half cent tax, however. Lots of people are going to vote against it on principal solely for that reason. Reasonably so, I believe.

In my mind, the further quarter cent would be gilding the tarnished lily in an unnecessary manner at this time and there's little to no justification for it.

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sparky 4 years, 5 months ago

So you're saying that the boat anchor of a generator we have downtown doesn't have anything to do with our high utility rates? The last I heard, it had a LOT to do with our high rates. And then last summer when we needed it and went to use it, the load was to much and nobody was able to benefit from it. It sure is good that we had those gutsy leaders to spend all that money to upgrade/update it a few years back after ignoring it all those years. How's that working out for us? We trusted them to do what was right with our money also.

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SpeaksSlowlyToIdiots 4 years, 5 months ago

I'll try to be short with this explanation. The City has several generators. I believe there are 3 older ones at the downtown plant and 2 newer ones at the new power plant on Orange Street. There are three reasons for the generators:

1.) Backup power if the feed from the power company is down (from a windstorm, for example) 2.) Generating capacity if Baldwin City is "curtailed" by the power company (I'll explain this in a bit) 3.) Spare generating capacity that can be sold to other municipalities (the electric utility earns a bit of money selling unallocated capacity to Gardner each year, for example).

The contract that Baldwin City has with the power company (KCP&L) requires that Baldwin is able to generate its own power for a certain amount of time per year at essentially any point in time (with perhaps an hour's notice or so - this is "curtailment"). Sometimes the power company requires that Baldwin generate power and push the power back up the line to be routed elsewhere. Nevertheless, this is part of the contractual arrangement with the power company that requires that Baldwin's generators be available and in good working order 24x7.

Early in this decade as I remember, before the new generators at the new power plant were built and online, one of the generators downtown failed because it had not been properly maintained (due to the lack of investment from the skinflints as was previously discussed). Baldwin City could not meet its capacity requrement and was in violation of a contractural agreement. As such, the City had to pay a large amount in damages, in additon to paying to have the generator rebuilt in an emergency timeframe. That drained the electrical reserve fund completely and the City had to kick in additional contingency funds as well ( I don't know where those funds came from).

So this IS the lesson. Stewardship is essential, not just as an ethical philosphy that we try to teach our children, but because it makes good business sense so you don't find yourself bent over a barrel with your pants around your ankles.

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jmyrick 4 years, 5 months ago

Fakeghost = wrong. I respect Gene Nelson very much. He is the only person that routinely attends city council meetings. However, I don't believe he does this Internet thing.

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SpeaksSlowlyToIdiots 4 years, 5 months ago

That is quite an honor to be confused with Mr. Nelson. He's one citizen that takes his responsibility to be an informed and involved member of the community very seriously. However, I am not Mr. Nelson, nor would I wish to burden Mr. Nelson with the responsibility for my ramblings and desire to dope-slap the mouthbreathing wankers that want to spew their vitriolic stupidity on this site..

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beevo 4 years, 5 months ago

A clear message needs to be sent to our city fathers and school board. No MORE NEW TAXES! Most of us can’t afford them. VOTE NO!!!!!!

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Stacy Napier 4 years, 5 months ago

Grey Ghost or Gray Ghost

As Jeff said "you choose"

Even the editor can't stay out this conflict.

You guys are killing me. ROFL

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TheOnlyGreyghost 4 years, 5 months ago

The subject of any tax is a sensitive one, but most locals, like Hipgrrrl, will find they do better with a slightly higher sales tax than with higher property taxes. So many things need done--it makes good sense to let visitors help carry the burden.

While I respect that some wish to have the sales taxes nailed to certain projects, it doesn't make much sense to me. It is too limiting. Tie it to Projects A, B, & C, and when those are complete we will have to go through the expense of holding yet another special election to fund the next projects.

Jeff makes a good point about voting the council members out if you don't like what they do. That's exactly what would happen if the council used higher taxes for frivolous projects. They'd be out in a heartbeat and presumably the new council members would use the money more wisely.

SpeaksSlowly~ I agree about the "old guard" having their heads buried in the sand for decades, letting infrastructure crumble and failing to look ahead. The rest of us will be paying for their shortsightedness long after they're gone. Even they should now realize that they will pay less by agreeing to a higher sales tax than voting it down and seeing their property taxes rise.

Then there's the little faker.... whining that he should be respected, then attempting to out an anonymous poster. Very classy--and typical. He should consider the radical concept of earning respect--b/c he's sure not going to have it handed to him for his consistently weaselly behavior.

notwhatyouthink~ Try this: establish an onscreen personality here for a few years, be part of a community of posters, then have a scumbag steal your posting name if the system changes. See how cute you think it is when the scumbag starts making comments that others think are coming from you. Obviously, it is not something that will keep you awake nights--if you're like me, you won't think about it except while you're reading these threads. But during that time? I believe that you, too, would give the scumbag its due and not let it rest easy with "your" name. Only a doormat would not protest. And as my old SpeakOut friends know, GG is not a doormat.

Jeff, thank you for "getting" it. I appreciate that. To those who don't, what is wrong with protesting loudly when someone has done wrong? Should wrongdoers be encouraged to be unethical? If someone cuts into a line ahead of you, would you be a sheep and let them get away with it? If so, you're reinforcing their behavior.

Statistics show that people who abuse animals often go on to abuse humans. Similarly, I suspect that someone who would steal an established posting identity would not bat an eye at credit card identity theft or something equally serious. Unethical is unethical--whether the "theft" is a serious crime or one that just inconveniences someone. It's still wrong.

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SASHA 4 years, 5 months ago

The language should have said, ” We the city wish to continue the half cent sales tax to help offset the infrastucture improvements to the future sixth street project.” I would vote for that, but not for vague language, and a tax that doesn't end. Is it that painful for the city to be precise about big projects. It passed with the pool because voters knew exactly what the money was going towards. Vote no on this version! The city can rewrite it, and put it on a later election.

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greyghost 4 years, 5 months ago

My stealing your "established posting identity" is not at all comparable to abusing animals. Nice try though.

I would suggest it's more like me stealing your shoe and then kicking you in the a$$ with it.

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NanCrisp 4 years, 5 months ago

I'm sorry, but I can't sit still for another minute with all these posts about making "due." The phrase is "make do," which means to "do" with what you have. "Due" means something that has a deadline or needs to be paid. We've been over this ground before, when our watchdog editorialized long ago about "making due." I pointed this out then. Guess you all missed the point. I wish that, at the very least, the editor of a newspaper would be able to correctly utilize the English language, as this serves as an example that other will tend to follow. Get it wrong and soon everyone is repeating and escalating the same mistakes. Such as the overabundant use of "definately" everywhere you look these days.

Carry on.

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