Archive for October, 2013

Term Limits-A Great Idea

Monday, October 28th, 2013

 

October 28, 2013

 

Taxpaying citizens often feel like they are ignored until election time. Then the politicians come out of the woodwork and tell them what a great job they have been doing for them and promise all sorts of solutions to real problems. Then they get reelected and those promises go on the shelf in most cases. The citizens feel frustrated and impotent and don’t know what to do.

 

Well I know the answer and it is to organize, talk to each other, don’t get discouraged and let the pols know what you want. I want to give you some examples.

 

In 1994 a petition drive by Citizens Against New Taxes proposed an amendment to the County Charter setting term limits to two consecutive four year terms for the County Mayor and for County Commissioners. The amendment passed with 81% support. Then in 2004 John Lunt and a group of citizens, including myself, instituted a charter commission which resulted in two four year term limits for the Memphis Mayor and the City Council members.

 

What was the politicians’ reaction to the 1994 amendment to the County Charter. That Charter was enabled by petitions with required signature amounting to 15% of those who voted in the last gubernatorial election. AHA said the politicians. Let’s change that to 15% of registered voters, a much higher and almost impossible bar. That will teach those citizens who want to mess in our business, a lesson. Here is the language in the County Charter with the amendment passed in 1997 at the state level.

 

[may propose any such amendment by a petition addressed to the board of county

 

commissioners and containing the full text of the proposed amendment. Any petition

 

proposing a charter amendment must be filed with the clerk of the board of county

 

commissioners and must be signed by qualified voters of the county equal in number to

 

at least 15 percent of the persons who voted in the last gubernatorial election in Shelby

 

County. The clerk shall immediately deliver it to the county election commission. When

 

such petitions have been determined sufficient, the county election commission shall

 

submit same to the voters of the county in accordance with this section.

 

Editor’s note: The Charter, § 5.05C., which states “at least 15 percent of the persons

 

who voted in the last gubernatorial election” is superseded by the state law, T.C.A. § 2-

 

5-151(d) which states “at least fifteen percent (15%) of those registered to vote in the

 

…county.”]

 

That makes my blood boil. How about you? Let’s let the state Senators and Representatives know we want to go back to the old language for petition signatures.

 

After the 1994 term limit success, Walter Bailey and two other pols filed suit to overturn term limits and they lost. Unfortunately Walter Bailey sat out and was reelected later. Unfortunately the term limit language did not have the provision of the US XXII amendment which will prevent George Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama from being reelected again.

 

Finally I have attached a shame honor roll showing the longest term USA Senators and Congressmen. What happened to the founders’ intention to serve for a short term and then return home and live, work an earn a living under the laws that they passed rather than becoming a highly paid and corrupt lobbyist insulated from those laws.

 

Stand up, organize and let your representatives know you are sick of what you see.

 

 

 

 

The Importance of Open Records

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

October 23, 2013

The Importance of Open Records

I just got back from four days visiting with my two brothers at Perdido Key in Florida. Great time and very relaxing.

Now back to local business. I recently sent an open records request to the new Shelby County School System. It was a simple request to be able to access the textbooks and material that the students will have this year. Also I requested access to the data that will be collected from the students and whether this data will be with or without the permission of the parents. Seemed like a simple request. Their answer to the data request was “Your request is not granted because it is not understood.”

You would think that there must be a list of things that “Student Records people” want such as name, address, date of birth, parents names, race, health records, income, address, religion, etc, etc. I am sure there is more data that they want but I will try to explain my request better in order to get an answer.

Several years ago I proposed that they give access to all the books that the students use by putting just two copies of each book and pamphlet in the central Memphis library. I called and got permission from the library head and she approved of the idea. However the then Memphis City School Board decided that two extra books of each book was too expensive. Therefore taxpayers are denied access to review the books for which they are paying.

I would appreciate your thoughts on this open records request and their response.

What Is In The School Books?

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

October 17, 2013

I have been in contact with a very active group of people in Nashville about common core, school books and material and data collecting. Following is part of a recent email from this Nashville group about a great success they had in reviewing school books and reporting on what is actually in these books. I have recently sent an open records request to the new Shelby County School System requesting access to books, book lists and data collection. I have not yet heard back from them on this request. I will keep you informed on this request. Eventually I will get access to these books, pamphlets, material and data collection. At that point I will need help to review and report as did the Nashville group. It is a big job but are the kids worth it? Please let me know if you are up for the work.

 

This report came from Dr. J Lee Douglas, Nashville.

 

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Voter Power

Monday, October 14th, 2013

Voter Power

This is an anniversary of sorts. I have been at the work of informing the public about local government for nine years. I have created two website, filed seven lawsuits to open records and have had some effect on local government. Here is a short recap of my efforts and results.

You see above a campaign sign from the 2004 effort to elect a charter commission after John Lunt started a campaign to reverse the financially disastrous January 2001 pension resolution that allowed City of Memphis elected and appointed officials to receive a pension after only 12 years of service regardless of age. None of the named people in the above sign were elected. However the result (more…)

Halloween and Smart Meters

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

September 10, 2013

Halloween and Smart Meters

Halloween is approaching and a good friend and neighbor told me that he had seen Janis Fullilove following around two men dressed in scary costumes. They were knocking on doors and telling residents that they were there to deliver their “SMART METERS”. While it was impossible to tell who these two costumed gentlemen were, one wag told me that he heard them calling each other Jerry and Chris.

Well no one has knocked on my door yet, My neighbor apparently is in one of the chosen groups that are scheduled to get the first of the recently approved smart meters. After the knock on his door, he asked how to opt out of the program and he was given the attached letters and documents. Talk about scary!! He is still looking over the details of the OPT OUT and has not come to a decision yet. The documents point out lots of good things that will happen if he OPTS IN and lot of bad things that can happen if he OPTS OUT.

But be of good heart. You time will come eventually in the OPT IN/OPT OUT game. In the meantime study the choices. And let me know what you think.

The Sears Crosstown Project

Monday, October 7th, 2013

October 7, 2013

The Sears Crosstown Project

I am old enough to remember going to the Curb Market in crosstown with my mother and buying a bushel of snap beans for canning. I would have to spend the rest of the day  cleaning and preparing them. On many occasions we then went to the Sears Crosstown store. It was huge and impressive. It was built for a certain time and market and whether it paid for itself over time I do not know. Looking at the Sears Company today, you have to wonder about their long term business knowledge. The Sears catalog was the amazon of its day and this store I believe was a catalog sales and warehouse center. Too bad they did not keep up with technology.

 

Now we have a choice. Tear down the old Sears building or spend at least $175 million to turn it into another Robert Lipscomb non tax producing renovation project. Where is the financial pro forma report on this project? If it is available I would like to see it.

 

Meanwhile let us look at how this is currently being financed according to a recent CA report.The Crosstown Development team says it has essentially assured $160 million in

funding — $25 million raised privately, $30 million in historic preservation tax credits,

$15 million in new market tax credits, $10 million in grants and other sources, and an

$80 million loan. Add the $15 million requested from the City of Memphis and you have the $175 million supposed front end cost.

 

 

  • $30 million in historic preservation tax credits. The legislative incentive program to encourage the preservation of “historical buildings”. Congress instituted a two-tier Tax Credit incentive under the 1986 Tax Reform Act. A 20% credit is available for the rehabilitation of historical buildings and a 10% credit is available for non-historic buildings, which were first placed in service before 1936. Benefits are derived from tax credits in the year the property is placed in service, cash flow over 6 years and repurchase options in year six.
  • $15 million in new market tax credits. The New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) Program was established in 2000 as part of the Community Renewal Tax Relief Act of 2000. The goal of the program is to spur revitalization efforts of low-income and impoverished communities across the United States and Territories. The NMTC Program provides tax credit incentives to investors for equity investments in certified Community Development Entities, which invest in low-income communities. The credit equals 39% of the investment paid out (5% in each of the first three years, then 6% in the final four years, for a total of 39%) over seven years (more accurately, six years and one day of the seventh year) . A Community Development Entity must have a primary mission of investing in low-income communities and persons.

 

If it goes forward, will it throw off tax money to the City of Memphis? If there are new small businesses that rent space or locate in the general area because of new traffic and people who live in the renovated building, I suppose there could be new sales tax money and employment opportunities. However it sounds like most of the occupiers of the space will be non-profits and art enterprises. There will be people living in the building but many of these will be rent subsidized people under section 8 or other federal and state programs. Taxpayers will be funding the whole project funded through these various federal tax credits.

 

As far as the building is concerned, I think it is ugly and really not worth saving. Possibly the architects can make it beautiful but at what cost compared to tearing it down and doing something else? I would like to see a financial analysis of this proposed project and no decision should go forward without this being presented to the public for discussion.

 

 

 

The Unfunded Liability of the United States

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

October 3, 2013

The Unfunded Liability of the United States

Is the shutdown of government a bad thing? What has happened is that 800,000 nonessential employees have been furloughed. Federal agencies have the power to designate their employees’ status in the event of a government shutdown. The last time Congress and President Obama stalemated, in 2011, the administration estimated that 800,000 of the 2.1 million employees in the federal workforce would be furloughed. Now that the there is a stalemate, we will see how it works. If we can get along without the 800,000 nonessential employees it will give us some indication of how much fat and waste there is in government. I have no doubt that these nonessential employees will be rehired and paid but it is a great demonstration of how much is our government overweight.

We have had one federal program after another and each has cost more than the government projected. Starting with social security, then the war on poverty, then medicare, medicaid, food stamps and now Obamacare. Here is the headline from the CA just yesterday. “Shelby County expects big bill to comply with Affordable Care Act”.

We have to face up to the unfunded liability of the federal government as well as our local government. We have not had a federal (more…)