Daily Archives: February 22, 2008

Friday Mailbag — Creative Readers

An envelope arrived on my desk this morning from Kathy Hendricksmeyer of Cedar Rapids. Inside was a clever, funny song she wrote about our never-ending winter:

Lament for the Winter of 2007-2008
(Sung to the tune of “Jingle Bells”)

Chorus
Winter snow, winter snow, time you went away!
We loved you in December but don’t need you here in May. Hey!
Wintertime, wintertime, give us all a break!
I don’t know how much more of winter’s bounty we can take

Verse 1
I struggle to my car, in snow up to my knees.
But roads are little better — I’d be better off on skis.
I’m shoveling overtime, to keep my sidewalks clear,
But at the rate it’s going, I won’t finish ’til next year!
Chorus

Verse 2
In driving through downtown, you’re taking quite a risk.
There’s lots of hidden traffic looming right behind snowdrifts.
The plows do all they can, but it’s never quite enough.
With ruts and potholes everywhere, the roads are washboard rough.
Chorus

Verse 3
The pack ice on my drive, gets thicker every day.
The stores are out of salt so nothing left to do but pray.
I’m doing all I can, but it seems it’s here to stay.
I knew I was in trouble when Rough Riders came to play!
Chorus

Verse 4
I dream of summer sun, I long to see green grass.
I’m tired of being inside tucked away from winter’s blast!
So where’s a spring time breeze, to thaw my frozen soul?
In body, mind and spirit this year’s taken quite a toll!

Good stuff. Thanks, Kathy, for sending that in. I also received an e-mail from Mary Klotzbach, who sent in five ways to know we’ve had too much snow:

l. You shout, “Up periscope!” when approaching the white mountains at street intersections.

2. Your neighbors are building a geothermal igloo.

3. The vaguely familiar faces that show up three times a day for meals are your children.

4. RAGBRAI has been postponed until August for extra melt time.

5. Senator Grassley is outstanding in his field because his tractor is under a ten foot drift.

I also received several messages agreeing with my skepticism about making the temporary local option sales tax for school buildings into a statwide, permanent penny sales tax. I noted that lawmakers approved the local tax in 1998 by promising it would never be permanent.

John Faurote, who loves punctuation,  says it’s not the first broken promise:

“What about the last two “Temporary” increases in our sales tax rates??? I can remember over the years when the sales tax was 3%… Then there was a budget shortfall so we needed to “temporarily” put in just another 1%…. A few years later… repeat…. now this one… When are the last two “temporary” increases going to expire??? It seems that when our legislature went from meeting every two years to meeting every year we now seem to need twice as much government???

Thanks for the notes and keep them coming.

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Yesterday’s Column — The SILO Bunch

A bunch of state lawmakers wants to curtail your control over your pennies. Don’t fret. They mean well.

They want to take the 10-year local-option sales tax for school buildings — the one some of you around here voted for just last year — and make it a permanent statewide tax. All 99 counties have the local tax, so surely no one’s going to mind.

The kids will get shiny new schools. And pennies not spent on those shiny new schools will be used to cut property taxes, the well-meaning bunch promises. Rural schools will get more dough. Urban schools will get more dough. Even the roads will get more dough through a higher use tax.

Can you imagine a rosier scenario? This is Frank Capra stuff.

Never mind that 10 years ago, the first year I covered our grand General Assembly, backers of a local-option school tax shoved it through by promising that local voters would always have the final say. It would never be a permanent tax, they pledged. They had to make those promises, or else there would be no penny tax for shiny new schools.

Things have changed. Local control is out. A new crowd is in.

So what’s changed?

You might think local voters aren’t stepping up to build shiny new schools, except that all 99 counties approved a penny tax for school buildings. Twenty-five counties approved it twice. And according to the State Department of Education’s last report, 20 of 25 bond issue referendums held in 2005-2006 passed. Three of the plans that failed still got more than 50 percent of the vote. You need 60 percent for passage, thanks to another great legislative idea.

But if the well-meaning bunch gets its way, all those voters who thought they were approving a temporary local tax will get a news flash. It’s no longer local and it’s no longer temporary. And you no longer have the power to turn off the spigot. Surprised?

Now hold on, the well-meaning bunch insists. Citizens could still call for a vote if they don’t like the way their local school board is spending pennies. They can demand changes.

Voters are still in control, they argue.

Sure they are, as long as the Legislature doesn’t change its mind down the line and decide to spend your pennies on something else really, really important. The well-meaning bunch insists it would take an insurmountable two-thirds majority of the House and Senate to switch uses or scoop pennies. No chance.

But they forget that powerful phrase “not withstanding.” Put those words in a bill, and magic happens.
Things get surmountable in a hurry. Solid promises get slushy. Surprise again.

You’d think smart folks at the Statehouse could figure out a way to help rural schools and cut property taxes without taking power from voters. Surely there are other solutions.

Maybe, instead of voters, they’re thinking of their special-interest allies or builders who see a permanent penny as good for business. If Democrats are going to pass a statewide smoking ban to help casinos and hand tax breaks to Microsoft, why not?

That’s cynical and unfair, the bunch insists. But, hey, I mean well.

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Clinton Spends $95,000 at Hy-Vee

And there wasn’t even a snowstorm in the forecast. From the New York Post:

“AUSTIN, Texas – Hillary Rodham Clinton‘s free-spending campaign blew a whopping $95,000 at a low-end supermarket-deli chain last month in Iowa – a telling sign of why she can no longer cut the mustard financially against Barack Obama in critical states.

“Clinton’s latest campaign filings reveal how a sprawling, top-heavy campaign organization splurged on posh hotels and pricey consultants but still struggles to define its message against Obama, a charismatic opponent whom Clinton’s camp now calls the front-runner.

“The $95,000 charge came at the Hy-Vee store in West Des Moines, a grocery and deli chain that is a fixture in the state, on Jan. 1, just two days before Obama stunned Clinton by beating her in the Iowa caucuses.

“The campaign didn’t confirm what the charges were for, but it bragged just a few days before the new year about a plan to provide deli sandwich platters at caucus sites across the state in order to get Clinton’s supporters to come early.”

Low-end? What about all the helpful smiles in every aisle?

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