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March 16, 2011

Inbox — March 16, 2011

Letters to the Editor

Mean Liens
The March 2 LEO Weekly article “Lien on me” provided an example of how corporations collude with government, and government does not usually act as a counterweight to corporate power but often amplifies it. Thus limiting government power may limit government’s ability to give out special favors to select corporations.

The other issue is what should be done to make the situation better. I believe there are three actions that should be taken. First, local governments should not be permitted to sell tax liens. Surely they have the resources to do their own collecting. Perhaps as part of this, they can improve their notification systems to delinquent taxpayers. Also, sending someone out to the taxpayer to work out a solution might be helpful.

Second, property taxes should be means tested. Too often, property tax is a way for separating low-income people from their land. In addition to the racket for fees extracted by corporations and the resulting profitable resale of the property, from the perspective of the local government, churning the real estate market is good for the government’s books, not least because new buyers may improve the property to raise its value, which in turn increases property tax revenues.

The third action is something we can do. Wouldn’t it be productive if a fund were established to pay the overdue taxes of low-income folks in Metro Louisville? I don’t know for sure how this could be done, but I would contribute to such a fund.
Rich Mills, Shawnee

Sacred Security Cow
Jim Welp’s tongue-in-cheek commentary on our deficit was amusing (LEO Weekly, March 2), but it would seem to keep Social Security in the debate on cutting. Why even mention that as part of the equation when it is completely solvent until 2037 and can be easily fixed by simply raising the salary contribution above its present level? As for a quick fix, one could simply give Medicare the power to negotiate directly with the drug companies on prices, which would cut our drug costs for seniors in half. The VA’s drug bill is only 47 percent of Medicare’s cost due to the ability to negotiate directly. Just imagine how many billions that would shave off our national deficit. Judging from the lack of any discussion on that topic, it would seem it is a sacred cow.
G. Stanley Collyer, Highlands

Citizen Indignant
Regarding “It’s not easy being Green” in the March 2 LEO: Can any of your staff members or readers explain to me why the “citizens” of Louisville remain so indignant about politics as such? “Allegations of wrongdoing,” “unethical behavior” and “financial mismanagement” all apply to the case against Judy Green, but are they not indicative of a larger system, a totality in which we are all forced to take part? Also, do these descriptors not sound oddly familiar to the case of Bernie Madoff (not in terms of scale, but of ethics)?

Don’t mistake me, I’m no apologist on behalf of Green. I believe we should be ruthlessly critical of those in positions of power. But seriously, who is surprised any more by this type of news and why?

I will commend you for writing the article, but those who think Green was just one bad apple are missing the point. This whole system is rotten to the core. People who abuse their power are a structural necessity in terms of the bitter capitalist reality of late. People who desire something different could best start by understanding that people in power do what they want — they always have and they always will. From now on, “citizen” should read “indignant.” Take from this what you will.
Brent Tinnell, Old Louisville

Iron Quarter Solution
No one wants to destroy these buildings. They represent a significant part of Louisville’s heritage, and their loss would be devastating. The author Pearl S. Buck said, “Every great mistake has a halfway moment, a split second when it can be recalled and perhaps remedied.” There’s still time!

Todd Blue has a significant investment and needs to see a return. Although it may have looked different initially, his current view is that keeping the buildings as part of the development he has in mind isn’t cost effective. However, Blue has said publicly that if others want to step up and take over the property, let them make a proposal.

In order to prevent demolition, the Fischer administration is now seeking folks with the interest and resources to chart an alternate course. But since the recent agreement will allow the buildings to be torn down in May, the problem is time.

The administration has proposed a city contribution of $450,000 to preserve the facades. Why not use this money as an option fee to give the city six months to purchase the property at a fair price? When the new development group is ready, the city can assign the option, and the property can be transferred. If a new developer doesn’t come forward by then, Blue keeps the option fee and continues with his project.

The payoff here is the legacy it creates for the Blue family and the Fischer administration. By working collaboratively, they become champions for the best interests of the city. The historical marker will be a reminder of their good judgment and community spirit. The alternative is another sad testament to what’s been lost. As Joni Mitchell said, “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.”
Robert Gamage, Old Louisville

Ticket to Wait
Regarding David Eugene Blank’s “Ticket to Ride” letter in the March 9 LEO: Blank claims Ticket To Ride is underutilized. Quite the opposite! Ticket To Ride is a great service for commuters between Louisville and Frankfort — if you can get a spot in the van. When I started working in Frankfort, I contacted every single vanpool hoping to get a spot but was told again and again there were waitlists. The waitlists are months or years long — essentially, you wait until someone retires, quits or drops out of the vanpool. Luckily, through the Ticket To Ride website, I found three other commuters who had been waitlisted for the Ticket To Ride vans, and we started a carpool. For most commuters who despise the drive (for any number of environmental or monetary reasons), the best Ticket To Ride has to offer is the contact information of other jilted vanpool-rider wannabes.

Ticket To Ride supposedly is getting around a dozen more vans this summer. They are sorely needed. With the six different schedules that state employees can work and vans only going to specific buildings, it’s difficult to find a vanpool that fits an employee’s schedule, provided there were spots in the vanpools available for new commuters. Even if there were adequate numbers of vans available for commuters, the safety, comfort and smaller environmental footprint of rail would make such an option a superior choice for many, if not most commuters to Frankfort. Given the state of the state’s budget, however, I won’t be holding my breath.
Amanda Gatewood, Crescent Hill