Archive for Thursday, October 29, 2009

Letter to the editor

October 29, 2009

To the editor:

As citizens of Baldwin City, who believe in the city’s future, we are asking everyone to please get out on Nov. 3 and vote “yes” on each of the separate sales tax questions.

The one-half cent sales tax for capital improvements must pass to keep property taxes down. In 2012 Baldwin City and Douglas County will split the estimated $3.5 million in construction costs for the North Sixth Street improvement project. A sales tax will disperse the burden of improvements onto everyone who visits and calls Baldwin City home. If the sales tax does not pass the burden to pay for these improvements will fall directly on the property owners of Baldwin City.

While the one-half cent sales tax is providing funding for infrastructure improvements, the additional one-quarter cent sales tax will generate a steady revenue source to improve quality of life for all ages in Baldwin City. There have been many suggestions from the community about what quality of life projects to fund first. Some of the ideas that have been brought to the attention of the current city council include, but are not limited to: walking/biking trails, bathrooms and water fountains in parks, athletic fields, dog park, skateboard park, Frisbee golf, community center, improvements to library and/or historical sites. This city council has been prudent about educating themselves on the quality of life needs in the city. The council recently commissioned a Parks Master Plan and asked the Baldwin City Recreation Commission director to conduct a Recreational Needs Survey of Baldwin City residents.

The recent Parks Master Plan and Baldwin City Resident Survey identified paved walking/biking paths and park bathrooms and water fountains as the first projects to tackle. The paved walkways throughout the city would solve the long-standing problems of worn inadequate sidewalks and getting the children and residents around Baldwin safely. Think of Baldwin City’s residents’ improved health when children have a safe option of riding a bike to school and all have a safe passage to our beautiful parks, pool, lakes and historical sites. What a wonderful day it will be when Baldwin City residents don’t have to worry when their child is headed by foot or bike to a location across U.S. Highway 56 because there is a tunnel or an overpass to traverse it.

The practical and urgent part of pursuing the paved walking/biking trails first is that there is a Transportation Enhancement reimbursement program that would pay up to 80 percent of the construction costs. The deadline for this reimbursement program is Dec. 30 for 2011/2012 projects. A yes vote on the tax question would provide the last 20 percent to fund such a project.

In addition, the Elm and North Sixth Street project timeline allows coordination with a 2011/2012 walking/biking path project and this would most likely reduce costs.

Let’s continue Baldwin’s long-standing tradition of steady improvement and keep our property taxes down. Please vote “yes” on each of the tax questions on Nov. 3.

Christi and Hank Darnell

Baldwin City

Comments

Torch 5 years ago

Dear Christi and Hank:

I'm interested in the future. As an example I'm interested in being able to feed my family more than I am whether there is a biking trail in Baldwin.

In case you hadn't noticed there's a recession going on and now really isn't the time to take more money out of our pockets for frivolous projects (e.g. The Cooper Performing Arts Center.)

Take an appetite suppressant and let us try to pay back a fraction of what we've already borrowed before we take any more money out of our already-strapped pocketbooks.

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Peabody 5 years ago

Torch,

I know you are fond of hyperbole in your posts, but, dude, you've got to do better than "interested in feeding my family."

If you spend $2500 per month buying food in Baldwin City -- admittedly a huge amount of money -- the .0075 tax on which we are voting will add $18.75 to your grocery bill.

If that amount keeps you from feeding your family, then, in all sincerity, please contact me and I will be more than happy to write you a monthly check for that amount. Heck, I'll GIVE you a $20 bill and let you keep the change!

I am not in favor of taxes for no reason, but I believe the current city council has made a good case of the need on this particular issue. You obviously disagree, but don't pretend to all of us that we are taking food out of your children's mouths by supporting it. That is disingenuous at best and insulting at worst.

Tony Brown

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SpeaksSlowlyToIdiots 5 years ago

Hey Torch,

In case you want something else to rail about, there is a certain person in town who seems hell-bent on explaining at the top of her voice that residents of the City of Baldwin should fund, out of the City budget, the lights for the new ball fields to be built with the $22.5M bond issue that certain consitituents of USD 348 shoved down our throats. Apparently this person felt strongly enough about this to voice her point at last week's town hall meeting. She feels that USD 348 should not be required to find the funds within their budget but instead it should be the responsibility of City residents like you and me to pay for electricity so her children can play ball at night.

It just so happens that this person is married to a particular person who is highlighted in another story in this week's edition of the signal based on his exceptional talents with regard to the fine art of Karaoke.

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SASHA 5 years ago

Tony, would you agree that it is dangerous to pass a permanent tax with no checks and balances. Where is the accountability? If this proposal would have had an ending date or more specifics, then I would have voted for it. Governments are known to waste money from the federal, all the way down to the local level. This is why I urge people to vote no, and let the city rewrite this tax proposal.

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Nathaniel Johnson 5 years ago

Sasha,

Checks and balances are not, in general, a function of individual legislation but of the legislative system. It is my belief that the system in Baldwin is reasonably transparent.

I think it has been stated before that the reason this tax is not being allocated to specific projects is one of a practical nature. The sales tax is a general revenue tax that is needed to continue the progress that has been made in improving the infrastructure of Baldwin. The city administrator. council, and mayor have been completely forward about how they intend to utilize the money.

Making Highway 56 safe for our children to cross is of paramount importance. Several accidents have occurred involving children in the last few years, thankfully nothing serious. I do not consider this a frivolous expense.

Not all of the proposed elements meet with my approval. I think that building public restrooms at the smaller parks just invites problems that will force the city to eventually shut them down . However, I can live with it, such is the nature of compromise.

These sales taxes represent prudent sources of revenue while having little real impact on citizens of Baldwin City. I strongly support both taxes.

-Nathaniel Johnson gruyere.emmentaler@gmail.com

P.S. Torch - I don't have very much money, but I would gladly share some of the produce from my garden with you and your family.

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Justask 5 years ago

There is no guarantee in either of these ballot questions about where the money will go.

The mayor and council have said the money in Prop 1 "could be" used to repair Sixth Street, fix streets, add sidewalks, fix stormwater issues, repair bridges, maintain streets, and a ton of other promises on an estimated $180,000 a year. Did you hear the catch? "Could be."

Prop 2 money "could be" used for trails. Or bathrooms. Or golf courses. Or swimming pools. Or tunnels. Or crosswalks. Or an expanded library. Another bunch of promises based on an estimated $80,000 annually. Another "could be."

Maybe. Or maybe not. It's not in the ballot language that the money could be used for any of that.

And let's not forget that neither of these taxes ever ends, no matter who is in elected office.

I'm not against the ideas presented in both of these ballot questions. I live in a neighborhood with no sidewalks or curbs or storm drains. I would love to have them. Parks, trails, bathrooms, a larger library and recreational amenities would make Baldwin a more pleasant place to live.

But Prop 1 and Prop 2 are not the right way to go about this. Let these fail. Let's pass sale taxes that end in 10 or 15 or 20 years. Let's make sure the money goes where it is needed, not some pet project of the mayor and the council.

As for the argument about the mayor and council "have been completely forward about how they intend to utilize the money," I won't go into how much I disagree with that statement here. But consider this: In two years we hold a new election and perhaps get all new leaders. If these sales taxes pass as they are currently written, these new leaders get to choose where the money goes. And their priorities will probably be different from what we have now.

So vote no on both sales tax propositions. Let's pass sales taxes with endings and specifics. It's just common sense that we place more control on where our tax money needs to go.

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Peabody 5 years ago

SASHA & Justask,

I think you raise good points and make logical arguments against the current tax issue. I do not have any arguments with your points of view. Thanks for your thoughtful opinions.

I am also concerned about the accountability issue and lack of specifics, but I understand the volume of projects that need to be funded. I do not know where the money will come from if this tax proposal is not passed. If it is not sales tax, it will be a mill levy increase. I don't like either choice, but one is coming one way or another.

Given the choice between two bad options, I choose this one. But it is clear to me that other folks have different opinions. That's good -- that's democracy. Let's let the system work on Tuesday.

Tony

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Justask 5 years ago

Tony,

I am not positive on this information, but I'm posting it anyway because that's what Speak Out is all about! : )

If these two ballot questions don't pass, then the city has three choices: raising the mill levy, have another special election, or make some budget cuts. If they choose to raise the mill levy, I doubt if any of them get re-elected in a couple of years. And I don't know if they could raise the mill levy now, or if they would have to wait for the next fiscal year. No matter, it won't be a popular choice.

If they choose to have another special election, they will have to write ballot questions with specifics and deadlines, things they should have done in the first place. It will actually take a little research and time and maybe they might even listen to the committees they appoint.

As for budget cuts, I am not sure where these can made, although there are some folks on Speak Out who seem to have some interesting ideas.

Personally, I think they should go with the special election and the mayor and council should all have to pay for it out of their own pockets, including the city manager, for putting questions like these on the ballot in the first place. (And yes, I am being facetious....sort of.)

But who knows, maybe one or both of the questions will pass on Tuesday. Then Speak Out can go back to sleep until another tax idea raises its head.

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Peabody 5 years ago

Justask,

Let's hope your predictions are correct and Speakout! can go back to normal! The various discussions about this tax issue have been "interesting" on a variety of levels. They make me wonder what the founders would have done with this technology.

I think the ballot measure is better than the alternatives and that is why I am in support of it. But the people of Baldwin City get to decide together on its merit -- so let's see what happens.

Not to be overly dramatic, but I think the vote tomorrow speaks to larger issues that we are having to consider here in Baldwin City and, to a larger extent, the entire state of Kansas: the tension between how much do we want to invest in the "community" and how much do we want to rely on the "self."

The debate between these two options will, of course, continue beyond tomorrow's vote, but I am very interested in seeing how the latest chapter plays out.

Tony

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