Letters to the Editor

Winging it, carrying a half-full glass

Using council members' clever quotations, the canary in the coal mine should not worry us because the glass it is carrying out of the disaster-prone area is half-full of water (or optimism).

Instead of adopting Mayor Suzette Cooke's original inclusive plan to shore up the city's shaky infrastructure, the business owners (and those inordinately influenced by the Chamber of Commerce) on the council effectively used the chamber's clout to ram through a pathetic business & occupation (B&O) tax with Swiss-cheese loopholes, exemptions and escape clauses.

License fees of a mere $82 were even rejected. Those funds would have been used toward the implementation and execution of the B&O tax assessment and collection – over and above the $300,000 out of the $5 million estimate of revenues that was allotted for implementation. Now the city may be stuck with paying some of those costs if the "half-glass-full" strategy doesn't work.

Even the study paid for by the city to get creative ideas on revenue, which recommended pushing for higher B&O tax assessment, was brushed aside. So that was a waste of money because the business-prone council members didn't like what the report concluded. No more studies, please.

The council members have adopted a "wait and see" posture about all this, so we won't know the final fallout results until 2014. Even if the $5 million revenue estimate is reached, that won't fully cover the amount needed for upkeep and refurbishment of Kent's streets and roads. Note: Kent homeowners are already paying taxes for infrastructure, and refused to pay more when businesses were paying zero B&O. Now that they will be paying next to zero, we're still not impressed.

As for the parks, I think Kent homeowners would be more amenable to a tax strictly related to park improvements. There's no doubt that Kent parks need funds to restore, maintain and enhance parks and trails. So, a "save our parks" initiative might well pass. The big hitch in the last ballot proposition was the "streets and roads" issue. The business community's callous refusal to take responsibility for road damage (a stand it continues to take) raised the ire of homeowners and created a backlash over the entire proposition.

With the council bench being occupied by so many intransigent business advocates, it will be difficult to get B&O taxes elevated to the average paid by other cities. If business is to pay its rightful share to repair heavy-truck-caused damage, the council will need to have members less bound to business special-interest groups.

So I think that should be an important campaign issue as existing and potential council members come up for election/re-election. As we realized after the onset of the recession, too much power in the hands of business (and its influence on legislators) is not a good thing.

The adopted (revised) resolutions for the B&O did nothing to increase revenues from this B&O tax. It only exempted license/registration fees and solidified its minimal-contribution fine print. The business community thinks it has created a suitable facade of participation.

The canary is no reason for alarm if you believe that denial fixes things. Just close your eyes and think good thoughts.

– Sandra Gill

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