I am in agreement with Wayne on this one - Rob
October 4, 2008
There is an old adage about a political mess, “The more you stir it the more it stinks.” And so it is with Johnson County’s Triangle proposal. The more I learn about it and the people pushing it, the more it stinks. I began my objection to the tax based on 2 simple concerns; it is another (the third) “forever” tax in Johnson County and there is no meaningful governance. I had planned to just vote no on this tax proposal but as more details are brought out in the open, I can no longer sit in silence.
Now, I find that my 2 primary concerns are closely intertwined since any “forever” tax basically has no governance. Once it is passed, that’s it. As with the Triangle tax, there may be some kind of yearly accounting by the spenders but there is nothing a taxpayer can do to hold the spenders accountable. Remember Enron and the S & L scandal. Those companies were audited yearly and produced the required yearly accounting reports – and look what happened.
The “Subprime” mess is an excellent example of inadequate accountability. When the federal law was changed to decrease regulations on the Wall Street money changers, it was like giving them a license to steal. Couple that with government pressure on lenders to make “subprime” housing loans to people who could not afford them and you have a formula for disaster – a $700 billion disaster. Warren Buffet pointed this out last week in an interview with Charlie Rose when he told Charlie that all you had to do with some of the financial instruments Wall Street was selling was to plug in any numbers you wanted to show any profit you wanted. Buffet also pointed out that AIG was a sound, well managed company before they got into derivatives. Then he said, “If AIG had never heard of derivatives, they would still be in excellent shape.” (NOTE: Derivatives are financial instruments whose values depend on the value of other underlying financial instruments.) When the derivatives are based on housing loans to people with no money or people who overextended themselves to buy a lifestyle they really couldn’t afford, there will certainly be a day of reckoning. Today is that day and I reckon its you and me who will have to pay for it. To learn more about your government’s involvement in the subprime crisis, read the Boston Globe article at http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2008/09/28/franks_fingerprints_are_all_over_the_financial_fiasco/ and the Fox News article at http://www.foxnews.com/printer_friendly_story/0,3566,432501,00.html.
We have been told, “An appointed board will oversee the Triangle project.” Loosely translated this means the spenders and their friends will appoint some of their own kind to examine what each other are doing. The board will answer to no one – not even the regents of the colleges involved. We are also told the board will be made up of elected officials. That’s true but they will not be elected to the board and they can not be removed by any action of the people. We have a board like that now. It’s called MARC (Mid America Regional Council) and, it too, is immune to any action by citizens, voters, taxpayers, etc. Since there are no consequences, there is no accountability.
I recently spoke in opposition to the Triangle tax before an Olathe group where Senator Karen Brownlee spoke for the tax. During the Q and A session someone asked the senator, “What happens if the tax fails?” Her reply, “The Triangle will still get built. It will just take longer.” I find it interesting that the purpose of the tax is not to make the project possible; it’s just to speed it up. This is not a conditional tax. You and I will continue to pay this tax “forever” even if the Triangle never comes to pass or if it is created and produces little or none of the pie in the sky promises its promoters have been shouting about. In fact, if it is created and becomes wildly successful, you and I still get nothing tangible. We don’t share in the profits. They will pay little or no tax. Nothing tangible comes back to the county. Olathe is donating 80 acres of the people’s park land to the project and then giving them a tax abatement. I thought I had heard everything – but I was wrong.
One of the leaders on the push for the Triangle is Bob Regnier of the Bank of Blue Valley. His bank has just been downgraded to a D minus, which is like being wheeled into intensive care. Today, in the Kansas City metropolitan area, there are 24,000 homes on the market (it’s usually around 15 or 16 thousand). The average time on the market now is 11 months. With a glut of houses on the market few homes are being built so banks are hurting. The “forever” Triangle tax would be like a shot in the arm, providing cash they so desperately need. Ol’ Bob is taking no chances. He is over in KCMO with the Greater KC Chamber hustling the light rail tax just in case Johnson County comes to its senses and votes this Triangle Turkey down. The light rail tax is another boondoggle with lots of taxpayer cash to go around. I take no pleasure in the misfortunes of anyone but neither do I feel any responsibility to provide them with tax money to fix their problems – which brings up another point.
Triangle spokesperson Mary Birch recently told a neighborhood group that if they (the Triangle) needed more money, they would be back. They don’t even have the tax but are already planning to pick our pockets again. I bet you thought “forever” would be long enough for them.
Lets look at the tally sheet: A third “forever” tax, free land that used to be a park, tax abatements, plans to ask for more money, no sharing of any profits, no accountability, save a bank that’s in trouble, and only 2 guarantees – we’ll pay and they’ll spend. And just in case you think that’s the end of the story, I’ll give you 8 to 5 that everyone who builds in the Triangle will want a TIF, and why not since it seems to be open season on us taxpayers.?
Now I’m absolutely certain I will vote no on the Triangle tax.