Today’s highly interesting read (09/28/18): He’s Going to Get Reelected, Isn’t He?

Today’s read is from Sarada Peri, former senior speechwriter for President Barack Obama.

Image result for image, photo, picture, trump, news conference, united nations

If you live in the reality that reads The Atlantic, you watched that press conference and thought Trump had gone off the rails— this was not the behavior of a commander in chief but of a WWE personality.

But if you live in the reality that mainlines Fox News, you saw something else—a strong president. You heard Trump assert America’s resurging greatness: Steel mills are being built, farmers will thrive, and the economy is doing better than even he predicted.

Read the entire column here.

Congratulations to the mayor…of La Crosse

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That would be Tim Kabat.

Earlier this week Kabat released his annual budget proposal for the city of La Crosse. Kabat is calling for a tax rate decrease with a very slight increase in spending (the tax levy).

I find that to be fiscally responsible. There’s more, however, to my praise for Kabat.

The mayor is one of many locally elected officials in Wisconsin that has been outspoken in their opposition to what they call the “dark store loophole.” A frequent pattern has seen national retailers appealing their local assessments that are based on the property value of an active store. The businesses claim they should be taxed as a vacant building. Courts have repeated ruled the business have been overtaxed by the local municipalities who are then obligated to pay back the businesses. Local officials lament the situation, and this is important, submitting they are forced to shift the subsequent tax burden onto homeowners.

At a roundtable discussion last week Mayor Kabat said the lawsuits by big boss stores have cost the city of La Crosse nearly $400,000 since 2014, and the problem is growing.

“They’re basically suing us every year for every assessment,” Kabat said. “That burden is being shifted onto our homeowners, which just isn’t fair.”

Then why is Kabat commendably proposing a budget tax levy that is essentially nothing? Shouldn’t he be crying the blues that he has no choice because of the big, bad, evil corporations but to raise the taxes of the little guy?

Kabat’s actions don’t fit the anti-loophole template.

UPDATE: What about Franklin?

Erik Hanley reports for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Overall, the city is budgeting for a 1.72 percent increase in the tax levy, which amounts to $361,526 more coming into the city.

Sounds quite reasonable, but Hanley also reports:

The mayor’s recommended 2019 city budget includes a lower estimated tax rate compared to 2018.

The estimated tax rate for 2019 will be $5.43 per $1,000 of assessed value, which is over 3 percent lower than the 2018 rate of $5.62 per $1,000 of assessed value.

But taxpayers should beware the recent reassessment done by the city could mean that even though the tax rate is going down, the value of your home on the assessment rolls might have gone up, so your total tax bill might not actually decline. 

 

Poor customer service: Part 2 (the MJS)

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A friend of mine received a love note recently from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. It began with a few paragraphs informing him how absolutely terrific the newspaper is and has been. The self-congratulations were a prelude to asking for and justifying a rather substantial subscription increase.

His subscription was for seven days of the week. So wonderful was the paper, according to the paper, that the letter writer from the company said a $61.99 monthly fee would now be charged, along with taxes. Conservatively speaking, that’s more than $750 annually.

Is the Journal Sentinel worth it? The Milwaukee Business Journal reported the fee my friend was being asked to fork over amounted to a 28% increase.

My friend called and canceled his subscription. The paper called him back with another offer that he found unacceptable, and declined.

I, too, received a similar love note from the Journal Sentinel, except that I only get the Sunday paper, so my letter carried nowhere near the punch in the stomach my friend got. The same deal would now cost me $21.99 per month.

After thinking about the increase for a few days I called the number in the letter to speak with a representative. Naturally, I got the obligatory recording. All agents were busy helping others. If I decided to remain on hold someone would be available in 55 minutes…to 1 hour and 24 minutes.

Click. Didn’t take me but a few seconds to hang up.

I opted instead to engage in an online chat with a representative that began immediately. She was very pleasant.

First, I mentioned that I had seen an ad on the paper’s website promoting a $13.00 offer. She wrote that it was only a special rate for new subscribers. Good for them, but how about longtime patrons like me?

Eventually we got around to that. Turns out I was eligible for a $17.00 rate. Why? Because it was a discount rate that had been charged in the past, but had run out. She offered me the discount.

Hmm. Odd that wasn’t stated in the letter I received.  And why not just apply it again since it had expired and I was eligible for it?

I’ll continue to get the paper because I need it for work, I enjoy the sports section that’s the best part of the paper, and my wife loves the Sunday coupons.

Otherwise I would have joined my friend in saying no more.

Today’s highly interesting read (09/27/18): The 45 Tough, Forbidden Questions A Normal Person Would Ask Christine Blasey Ford

Christine Blasey Ford is sworn in before testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee, alongside her attorneys Debra Katz, left, and Michael Bromwich, in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 27. Photo: Win McNamee—Getty Images

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford prepares to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 27.

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford prepares to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 27. Photo: Tom Williams—CQ Roll Call/Pool

From today’s read by Kurt Schlichter that was written before today’s (Thursday’s) Senate hearing:

Our GOP senators are more concerned with their reputations in the Beltway Bubble, while Normal people just want to get at the truth. And to get at it, their questioning would be very different than the kind of “We want to nurture and support you in this difficult time” garbage we’re likely to hear from people who should be shredding her flimsy fabric of lies.

Here are questions I’d ask if I were a senator doing the questioning, along with some anticipated colloquy with my distinguished colleagues.

You can read those 45 questions here.

Today’s highly interesting read (09/26/18): Eight big problems for Christine Blasey Ford’s story

Today’s read is from author and columnist Paul Sperry.

Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Brett Kavanaugh are serious. She is accusing him of violent attempted rape.

But her story is also growing less believable by the day. Here are eight reasons why it’s hardly “anti-woman” for senators to question her account at Thursday’s hearing.

Read those eight reasons here.

City of Milwaukee sticks it to parkers

On Tuesday the Milwaukee Common Council voted to increase parking meter fees in a move that will only deter more people from dining, shopping, and doing business at certain times and in certain parts of the city.

When I covered the Milwaukee County Board for many years at both WUWM and WTMJ there was a member named Gerald Engel (who died in 2016). I recall Engel kept one of those engraved nameplates on his desk that read:

“A Tax is a Tax is a Tax.”

Sad but true, that thought is lost on too many elected pols today.

And a fee is the “F word” for a tax.

Clearly the intent is to stick it to suburban motorists.

“A lot of the parking revenue is generated by non-Milwaukee residents, and that is the only way the city has to recoup some of the costs of providing infrastructure that is used by thousands of people who don’t live in the city and don’t pay property taxes here,” Milwaukee Alderman Robert Baumann said earlier this month.

Baumann added the following.

“And a substantial percentage of the net income, anywhere in the neighborhood of 15 to 18 million dollars a year, is transferred to the city’s general fund to offset property taxes.”

Milwaukee’s most famous mayor, Henry Maier would disagree.

During his toughest re-election campaign in 1980 Maier narrowly lost the primary to challenger Dennis Conta who argued for a tax on suburbanites who worked in the city of Milwaukee. Maier countered at the time that you do not reduce taxes by increasing other taxes.

Remember, a fee is a tax.

And even Anne Kim, Senior fellow at the lefty organization,  The Progressive Policy Institute understands the danger of depending on tax and fee hikes, albeit from a liberal perspective. She writes on Governing.com:

Despite the short-term boosts civil and criminal fines and fees appear to bring, the long-term cost to cities, states and their residents is likely to be far greater.

Kim and I may not agree on why increased taxes and fees are a negative, but there’s something to smile about when she rips the practice as her lefty colleagues keep resorting to the same tired old playbook.