Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Question of the Day #2

Who's job is it to pay me a living wage?

Question of the Day

My brother owns a home in Maryland. It is worth in the neighborhood of $700,000 and his property taxes are roughly $4,000 per year.

I own property in Racine. It was assessed at $478,000 and my tax bill was over $11,500.

The Maryland property has a tax rate of approximately $5.70 per $1,000 of property value while my tax rate was over $24 per $1,000 of value. Racine residents pay over four times the property tax than does my brother in Maryland.

Now my question for readers, especially liberals, is this: How do property tax rates affect property value and the behavior of property owners?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

City Will Fail in Housing Business

The city of Racine now wants to buy and flip forclosed homes in marginal neighborhoods with your money. Read about it here: http://www.journaltimes.com/articles/2008/12/27/local_news/doc4956ea55c1ee0781977341.txt

Not a good idea. The city "already owns six houses which it has obtained through defaulted home improvement loans" according to city development director Brian O'Connell. In other words, taxpayers are holding the bag for the city's previous failed efforts in the housing business. What will be done differently this time? Did someone at city hall get fired for squandering our money the last time? Nothing and no are the correct answers I suspect.

The city officials will fail again and again in the housing business because they fail to recognize an obvious truth: People who can afford to but a home in Racine's rough neighborhoods don't want to live there and many people who do live there aren't stable enough, economically or otherwise, to be successful homeowners. This leaves renting as the only realistic option for the homes in question.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Unions and Ponzis

This might be a stretch, but here goes. There are significant similarities between unions (perhaps not all or even most) and ponzi schemes.

Getting in early is key. Early investors in a ponzi scheme often do quite well before the gig is up. Similarly, early participants in unions often will cash in with higher wages, health care expenses paid in large part by the younger healthier union members, and pensions. Before the union ultimately destroys the source of the money, some more realistic negotiations may start to take place. Sometimes these include sacrificing new employees with two tiered compensation packages, so the new guys continue to fund the original union/ponzi members.

The unions destruction of the money source can take decades. The more clever and powerful unions then set their sights on a deeper reservoir of cash, taxpayers. But, as we will eventually find out, bailouts and hidden obligations to municipal employees etc... will bankrupt communities and individuals alike. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Coming Clean

I have a confession, of sorts, to make. My son, age 13, has discovered the joys of anonymous blogging. He was active on a recent post concerning climate change, claiming that Florida will be under water soon and that the clown fish will soon be extinct etc...

Yes I was aware of his antics and I even begrudgingly gave permission. Sorry Sam, Nemo, UP. I will discourage, but not forbid, anonymous postings by my son.

But there was some value there IMHO insofar as it demonstrates just how easy it is to parrot liberal positions.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Unions Prevail Over Taxpayers

The Journal Times reports today that several people were protesting outside of City Hall yesterday. The protesters say the city's heating and air conditioning contractor is not paying the prevailing wage. "Josh Garner, a union member, said the nonunion Kenosha company Southport Heating and Cooling pays 50% percent less than prevailing local wages mandated by the state."

I have no way of knowing whether the city's contract is lawful or not, but I think it ought to be. If the city can get the job done, employ willing workers, and save taxpayers 50% on labor costs, they should be allowed to do so.

It seems that "prevailing wage law" is designed to protect overpaid union labor while sticking it to the taxpayer.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Evidence of Climate Change

The other day I was rifling through my car, looking for an ice scraper. Though none was to be found, I did find three umbrellas and some sun screen.

I am starting to believe in climate change.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Michael Gibson Does Something

The near completion of an unsustainable, wasteful, feel-good environmental project atop a dilapidated school building prompted local student Michael Gibson to announce that "It just shows something can be done with this location in the inner city. It shows something can be done with this group of students."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Opposition or Hatred?

I went to the city council meeting last night intending to speak in opposition to a proposed ordinance concerning landlords. I was also aware that a battle was brewing over a proposed LGBT center.

When I arrived I became involved in a brief discussion with, I think, the would be proprietor of the LGBT center. I asked him why there was opposition to the center and he responded that it was all about bigotry and hatred by Christians. I thought that this was not a very charitable assessment of his opponents motives, so I asked what his opponents might offer as a reason for their opposition. He didn't know.

In my previous post I suggested that a council meeting about a conditional use permit was probably not the proper venue for Christians to hold forth on the immorality of homosexual activity. But is this hatred?

No, it is disagreement. And disagreement and hatred are not necessarily synonymous. And disagreement resolved through an open, fair and just process is what we should aspire to as citizens.

I didn't see hatred coming from the Christian speakers last night. I saw strong, though misguided, opposition coupled often with a stated concern (whether sincere or not I don't know)for gay people.

After perusing the JT and Racine Posts blogs on the subject, it seems that many supporters of the LGBT center are quick to declare that hate is what motivates their Christian opponents. Which makes me wonder whether it is hateful to assume that an opponent is hateful.

Christians Right?

Efforts to block the opening of a LGBT community center at last nights city council meeting relied almost entirely on religious arguments. Homosexual activity is immoral, the bible says this or that, the end is near etc.... were just some of the arguments offered by members of the public to try to put a stop to the center. But the issue before the city council was not whether homosexuality is right or wrong but whether to approve a conditional use permit. The permit requirement is used by city officials to try to ensure that permit seekers will genuflect (keeping with the religious theme) to the council and promise to cut the grass, paint the exterior etc...

While Christians are certainly free to view homosexuality as sin, in this case they should be careful what they wish for. I recall not to long ago that a Christian church opening was delayed and nearly prevented by this very same permit requirement. Mayor Becker and the city had hopes for condo development along the river and they used the permit requirment to try to block the project. Requiring a conditional use permit was wrong then and it is wrong now.

Christians and gays should work together to protect private property rights and allow the legal use of property to proceed without government or public interference.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Landlord Law Enforcement

It appears as though there is already a law on the books in Racine that permits the city to fine lanlords for the trangressions of their tenants. In today's JT local section, one Diana DeChenne was contesting a nuisance citation issued to her because her tenant allegedly fixes cars commercially in the garage. DeChenne asked, rather sensibly, why she was receiving a citation when her tenant has not, to which the judge replied that it was the law. For DeChenne to be in compliance with the law she must make an effort to prevent her tenant from fixing cars commercially.

Wow! So DeChenne must now become part time investigator and law enforcement official. She is now required to somehow detirmine if her tenant is recieving payment for his work or whether he is working on his own car or doing a favor for a friend or whatever. Perhaps she should set up a sting operation, FBI style, then swoop in arrest her tenant, cuffing him to the steering wheel.

As ridiculous as is the present law, the city is considering a change that would, in addition to requiring lanlords to become unpaid law enforcers, seek to prevent them from having their day in court. "If a revised ordinance passes it would send nuisance cases to the Public Safety and Licensing Committee and City Council rather than to Municipal Court."

And so the city's attacks on property owners continues.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Hubris or Experience?

Renowned Democrat Donna Brazile asks and answers the following question: "What in the name of all that is holy made Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich think he could put a U.S. Senate seat on the auction block? There's only one answer: hubris."

Really? Only one answer? How about experience? If a governor has spent years selling government favors, it seems to me perfectly rational that he would think he could sell a senate seat. And what about buyers? Every seller needs buyers. Blago had lined up at least one buyer for the senate seat and he clearly had buyers for his other nefarious schemes.

So, to answer Donna Brazile's question, to hubris I would add experience, buyers and a culture of corruption as the reasons that Blago thought he could sell a senate seat.

Ending Legal Corruption

It is perfectly legal for a political candidate to accept money and/or support from an individual or group and it is perfectly legal for the politician to make and deliver on promises to said individual or group. It is not legal to explicitly state that campaign contributions are the impetus for favorable legislation. So it seems that exchanging campaign contributions for favorable legislation is legal so long as you never say that that is what you are doing.

Obviously there is but a very fine line between legal representation and illegal corruption and there is such a thing as legal corruption.

As I see it, the only solution to the problem of legal and illegal corruption is well informed voters.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Bush Betrayal?

Whatever the merits of an auto bailout might be, using TARP money for that purpose would constitute a betrayal of taxpayers who were assured that TARP money would be used to rescue the financial system, not the manufacturing system.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

A Case for Limited Government

Illinois Governor Rod Blagoyavich, a Democrat, was arrested this morning by the feds after a lengthy corruption probe. Soon he may be joining former Illinois Governor George Ryan, a Republican, in jail.

It amazes me the quantity of people who continue to believe they are on the side of the good guys, when it should be abundantly clear that there is corruption among both Dems and Repubs.

Rather than pretend that your guys are virtuous and the other guys are scoundrels, it seems to me far more sensible to be wary of all people seeking power. Additionally, we should grant the least amount of power possible to our government officials such that there is less power available to abuse.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Question of the Day

Is "pragmatist" just a nicer way to describe a person with no convictions?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Who We Got?

Many have rightly criticized GW for being a poor speaker and many consider BO to be a great speaker. Yes BO can deliver a great speech but he is a bit of a mess when speaking extemporaneously. Lots of long pauses interspersed with uh's and um's. Today I listened to him answer questions and it was painful. And when he wasn't sure who was to ask the next question, he asked "who we got?" Yikes.

Troublemakers Welcome

The city of Racine is apparently considering an ordinance wherein landlords may be fined for the behavior of their tenants. A public hearing on the subject will be held at City Hall on December 16th, 7 pm.

And so continues the trend in Racine to allow miscreants and misdemeanants to carry on while holding others accountable for their behavior.

Why stop with landlords? My understanding is that some of our public schools have enough of a nuisance problem that the police have opened mini stations inside of our schools. Perhaps we should fine the principal when the children act out.

Of course this would be widely seen as unfair, even ridiculous, and rightly so. But when it comes to landlords we seem to have lost our sense of fairness.

What city officials fail or refuse to recognize is that too many losers have chosen Racine as a place to live. Come to think of it, Racine officials are complicit in this choice insofar as they are making Racine a place where troublemakers won't be held accountable for their own behavior. What better place to live if you are a troublemaker?