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"The wolf is at the door ... again!"

Are you Ready for a City Income Tax Eugene?
By Scott Rohter, January 2011

Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy and her rather shrewd advisor and friend David Funk think it would be easier to pass a restaurant tax in Eugene than a city income tax.  Well I have to agree with them on that point, but how about passing no new taxes or tax increases at all?  How about just balancing the budget with existing revenue, in other words try making the hard choices?  Piercy and Funk estimate that a 5% tax on food and beverages consumed in a restaurant would generate much less opposition at the polls, and after all the whole point is to get more of your money, not how they obtain it?  Right?  At least that’s what they think.  Wrong!! 

Joy Marshall, a leader of some so-called grass roots (that’s a joke) group is promoting the idea of a new tax, any new tax, to get more money for schools.  She feels, if she could just explain to you why you need to part with more of your hard earned money, that you would further impoverish yourselves in order to enrich your local government employees, for the sake of the children of course.  I guess she must think that you are a bunch of idiots!  Well if you buy her tired, old, worn out arguments then I guess you are!  See Register Guard article on 1‑10‑11 by Ed Russo, City to study a tax for schools. Marshall calls herself a “school advocate” that’s cute!  She probably works for, or has worked for, or has a family member who works for the public school system.  No wonder she’s promoting the idea of more money for schools.  Of course it’s all for the children!  We KNOW that!  Yeah, right!  It’s more like, “Can I use your children for my own partisan political purposes to get more money for myself and my friends?”  That sounds like it’s more on the mark to me! 

Ms. Marshall and other “tax promoters” are only proposing a “temporary tax” they say.  Oh - my - Gosh!  They really do think you are stupid!  Where have I heard that one before?  “Oh, just one more drink, just a little one. I promise! It will be my last one.”  Give me a break!  Let’s prove them wrong.  Did you ever hear of a government tax, once it was passed, that was ever done away with?  If there are any examples, and I can’t think of any, they must be very rare.  A far more likely scenario is that a new tax is marketed to the voters in one limited form and after it is passed it grows over the years and expands to become far more onerous, like the Federal Income Tax for instance. The American people were promised that it would never be more than 1% when it was passed in 1913 but it has risen over the years to as high as 75% at one point.  “Give them an inch and they will take a mile.”  If you believe Ms. Marshall about it being only a temporary tax, then I have some swamp land I’d like to sell you in Florida! And since when does the City of Eugene have anything to do with funding schools anyway? Isn't that supposed to be done at the County level?

Mayor Kitty Piercy and her “trusty sidekick” David Funk know full well the mood of the voters with respect to new taxes.  They watched what happened to Commissioner Bobby Green and witnessed the conversion of Commissioner Faye Stewart and his about-face on the county income tax.   But instead of respecting your will they want to figure out a way that they can maneuver around your obvious opposition to new taxes.  Doesn’t that sound rather shrewd to you?  “An income tax goes right into people’s pockets,” David Funk said. (Actually, it goes right into the government’s pockets.)  “It’s an uphill battle and would generate opposition from people unhappy with the PERS retirement benefits for school teachers and public employees.”  (Ah… but a restaurant tax, he mused, we might be able to finagle that one through, because we could bribe the restaurant owners to go along with it by giving them a part of the take, I mean the “Kitty”.  We will just call it a fee for collecting the tax. What a great idea!)

Talk about devious and conniving.  Do you folks realize what kind of people you have elected to public office?  Kitty Piercy’s advisor David Funk once again, “If there is not something in it for the restaurants you can expect a big fight,” he said.  That was on Jan 10th.

Well, Mr. Funk and Mayor Piercy were just a little off the mark on that point, because they still had a big fight on their hands on Tuesday January 11th in a city council meeting with the restaurant owners association and angry restaurant owners present.  Even though they did offer them a part of the take and also a fee for collecting the tax, the restaurant owners were clearly united in their opposition to any new tax.  That’s refreshing.  I guess bribery doesn’t always work.  So they bagged the idea of a 5% restaurant tax and now Mayor Piercy and the Eugene City Council are just focusing on a City of Eugene income tax  once again. – Sheeeeesh!

Maybe there are too many non-teaching positions and administrators in the public school system? To what travel conferences and teaching seminars is the 4J School District sending its teachers or spending your money on? What is the combined total of the salaries of all of the various administrators and other non-teaching positions, and what is its share of the overall school budget? We don’t know the answers to any of these questions because there hasn’t even been a budget drafted yet! But we do have students, parents, and teachers all worried about the closing of their neighborhood schools. We do have new teachers worried about losing their jobs! And everybody is getting ready to throw somebody “under the bus”! There is no school budget drafted yet, but there is already a proposal by the City of Eugene to pass an income tax! How nice of them, but wait a minute. Aren’t they putting the cart before the horse?

I don’t have anything against George Russell. Actually, I’ve met him and I like him. He helped me get my dog back from LCARA (Lane County Animal Regulation Authority) many years ago (he used to oversee that agency) when I lost him and the dog pound wouldn’t release him back to me. George Russell is a good man with a good heart. He would literally go out of his way to help a lost dog, and he did too! But I don’ think that any outgoing public official should be making these kinds of important policy decisions in the remaining days of their term of office. Not only is George Russell retiring, but 4 out of the 7 School Board positions are “going up for grabs” in the next election. These are the kinds of substantive issues that should be the fodder for an election campaign. Why do we always manage to pass off the very tough decisions to outgoing office holders, so that they make the hard choices just before they leave office? It makes absolutely no sense. Then we have no one left to hold accountable.

Something very similar to this also occurred several months ago in Lane County when the outgoing members of the Board of Commissioners (Dwyer and Fleenor) were scheduled to cast deciding votes on a very controversial water quality overlay map and a proposed ordinance change, requiring a 200 ft. setback from any surface bearing water. See my articles Lane County Planning Commission and the Water Quality Canard and Don't Just Push the Reset Button. Another example is what occurred in the last “Lame Duck” Session of Congress (see my article Shooting Down a Lame Duck Congress). The whole point is this: we should defer any decision on the school budget cuts until after the election for School Board members is over and a new School Superintendant is chosen and AFTER a new budget is drafted! Doesn’t’ that make more sense?

Folks, do I need to remind you that people are broke?  They are loosing their jobs and their homes.  Just last month one non profit charity handed out help to 118 different people in crisis, in Eugene.  What do you do when you’re broke?  You cut spending!  It’s not rocket science!  Tell them to balance the budget with existing revenue and stop trying to raise your taxes!  The deadline for putting something on the ballet is February 15th. Don’t let them waist any more time on this.  Call the mayors office and your city council member.  Tell them to balance the budget without raising your taxes!

"The truth, the political truth, and nothing but the political truth.
A journalist has no better friend than the truth."
- Scott Rohter

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