Thanks for the recent article on property tax assessments ("Taxation Without Equalization?" 2/7/02). It's a very gray area, and your research helps public understanding of issues we are affected by, but do not typically have time to delve into.
In 1998, we bought a 1955 rancher in Cheney -- nothing special, no remodels -- and paid $119,000. The previous owner had owned it since 1960, and the last assessment had been in the high 80s. The owner's heirs were selling, and the real estate agent had it listed for $119,900. Interestingly enough, ever since the sale, the assessed value has been $119,900. Did the assessor drive by, pick up a sale sheet and use that figure? Apparently so. That is an amazing assessment technique.
No one questions the immensity of the task, but a realistic shot at fairness would be appreciated by all. We would like to feel, and possibly know, that we are paying our fair share and no more.
Please continue researching and publishing articles of this nature, related to government budgets, taxes and procedures. The more we know, the better decisions we can make with our voices and pocketbooks. You are a key to that knowledge for people like me, juggling family, a job and a business. Thanks!
Messages from the Middle East -- Following The Inlander's interview with Hassan Mallah (12/27/01), several letters appeared in these pages. A U. S. citizen and prominent member of Spokane's Islamic community, Mallah is Palestinian by birth and upbringing. In spite of Mallah's weariness and bitterness, the interview contained real elements of hope. Not only did Mallah seek a break in the endless cycles of attack and reprisal, but he also recognized the reality of Israel's existence as a state.
The first reply to Mallah was from Joseph Harari, who put forward five points for discussion and negotiation as elements of a peace plan. I was looking forward to further discussion that would inform us and perhaps influence U. S. policy to bring peace to the Middle East.
Instead, subsequent letters sank into the mire of finger-pointing and blame-setting, and possibly were intended to fan the flames of the dispute.
Here is the first message for Spokane. Our problems, such as River Park Square and the condition of our streets, have solutions. We can solve these problems if all the parties commit themselves to do so. We all have to understand this means negotiation and compromise. The alternative is no solution. Then we all lose.
Another message is that we must struggle to be objective. We willingly accept as fact statements consistent with our biases and deny facts that contradict them. Too often statements become truths merely through repetition, even if they have no basis in fact.
The final message is to beware. There are people who take advantage of popular sentiments for personal or political gain. Think of Iran, where the Shah was replaced by the Ayatollah, or Afghanistan, where the struggle to throw off the Soviets enabled the Taliban to come to power. People who are well-intentioned but misinformed may easily become tools of those who have special agendas.
Wal-Mart Hurts by Hiring -- Just read your article on Wal-Mart ("Welcoming Wal-Mart," 2/21/02) and could not tell if you were for or against them. I, for one, am against. You say they have X number of full-time positions, but you do not say they consider 28 hours a week as full-time, and that it is a cardinal sin to go over 37.5 hours in a week. That is a write-up offense. Too many write-ups, and you are gone.
They come into a town with the idea of dominating the marketplace and will do whatever is needed to accomplish that goal. Sam Walton used to brag about selling blue jeans for one penny -- yes, one penny -- to eliminate the guy across the street. The district manager in the Denver area had the only district in the entire company that was operating at a loss, but he got the lion's share of the market and was promoted to the front office for his efforts.
A company as big as Wal-Mart can afford to operate areas at a loss until they dominate the market, and then they can raise the price to recoup their losses.
Wal-Mart will go into a new area and try to hire the best employees the competition has and give them 40 hours a week for the first eight weeks. When the store opens, it's back to 28 to 37 hours for them, if they don't get laid off first (stores usually open overstaffed). Some of the competitors are hurt even before Wal-Mart opens, due to the loss of some key employees who think they are going to make more at Wal-Mart. I could go on, but I think you get the picture.
Fred Martin former Wal-Mart manager
No to the Street Bond -- Fix the potholes in Spokane? Yes. But vote "NO" on the property-tax-only bond issue on March 12. To place all fiscal responsibility for maintaining roads on the property tax is wrong. There are other taxes that could be utilized to fix the roads. One such tax is the $15 per vehicle tax. Another tax is the B & amp;O tax that 37 other Washington cities utilize. That could raise an estimated $16 to $18 million a year for Spokane. In 10 years, that could add up to $180 million.
Latest figures for some of the larger Washington cities that use a tax on business have approximate revenues as follows: Bellevue, $17 million; Everett, $18 million; and Tacoma, $19 million.
Spokane has a huge hole in its budget. One of the reasons for the deficit, in the past, has been opposition to the B & amp;O tax. It is time to put all funding options, approved by the legislature, on the table for open discussion and action.
An alternative road tax structure might include: 1. The user pays. 2. A gasoline pump tax (the more you drive, the more you pay). 3. A gross weight vehicle tax (heavier vehicles pay more). 4. A studded snow tire tax (due to more road damage caused by these tires).
Rather than a quick-fix, ramrod action, we need careful, comprehensive discussion and planning to create short- and long -term solutions.
Edmund L. Lewis
No Break for Old Folks -- Dan Richardson's article, "Taxation Without Equalization?" was excellent, well-researched and written so we paying peasants -- the taxpayers -- can understand what's going down.
Only one important aspect was missing -- the burden shouldered by the elderly on fixed incomes in Spokane County. Having come five years ago from a state that offers ALL persons over the age of 65 property tax relief, I was shocked to find that here, only those with annual incomes below $32,000 were eligible for a (partial) property tax deduction. (Has your family tried living within that arbitrary, fixed budget lately?)
But there's more: By some investigations during the second year of my residency, I discovered my small home was on the tax rolls as having two bathrooms. It actually has one-and-a-half bathrooms. I was fortunate enough to get to the top, and without apology this was instantly changed, resulting in some monetary saving.
The next year, my taxes went up a whopping one-third without changes either internal or external to my home or to market prices.
Again I protested. A young lady revealed that drive-by estimates were the way increases were determined.
If a local legislator or politician would like to boost his or her voter base, I suggest they look into the problem of increased taxation on small homes owned by seniors on fixed incomes.
Wal-Mart is Preying -- Wal-Mart is further evidence of two very negative ethics that have been birthed in our country and spread like a virus to the rest of the world: corrosive capitalism and preying on the marginalized.
Capitalism is by far the best economic system ever instituted by man, but it reaches a point where it becomes corrosive. It has gone far past the point of corrosion and is now destroying cultures and communities.
Wal-Mart is a great example of corrosive capitalism as it leaves inner cores of small towns pockmarked and soulless when it comes into the neighborhood.
Further, when it decides to leave a neighborhood, it leaves a desiccated community like a predator insect sucking all of the life juices out of its prey, sending them back to Bentonville.
That's why communities like Gig Harbor and Port Townsend fight to keep Wal-Mart away. They come to seek and destroy because the corporate owners in Arkansas and the huge pension funds and mutual funds which own huge shares of the stock have no interest in the communities Wal-Mart invades. Sure, they throw a few thousand dollars around the community to charities to appease the politicians and allow them to brag about their "conquest" in bringing a Wal-Mart to the area.
Those politicians are so short-sighted that all they can see is their re-election and more revenues coming into the coffers. They seem to have no other values for the community other than "revenue generation." When businesses owned by families fold up and die, and their children move away because of these myopic politicians and Wal-Mart's predatory corrosive capitalism, they say, "It didn't happen on my watch."
Predatory corrosive capitalism is big business in America, and Wal-Mart is just the biggest preying mantis. Notice the "E" in "preying on the marginalized." The people about whom I write would not be caught dead praying for the marginalized, so I don't want to confuse them.
I was marginally (no pun intended) involved in Wal-Mart's first land acquisition in the region. It was in Moscow, Idaho. Once they bought the land and built that store, I could see their strategy. It was to encircle Spokane by going to Omak and Colville to "cut off the passes" and then eventually come to central Spokane, which it has done. In the tactical implementation of the strategy, it has preyed on the small marginal outlying communities, destroying the local businesses in the process.
This is the ultimate devastation of corrosive capitalism: a culture built on historical lives and blessed with young lives to build on those histories is erased and exported to anonymity.
Enron Execs Deserve Worst -- Robert Herold scores another bulls'-eye with his commentary on Feb. 21 ("Capitalism, Enron-Style"). Indeed all such captains should go down with their respective ships. The Skilling and Lay theft at Enron ranks above all major thefts that came before. That the rank-and-file should go to the mat broken so that Lay can retire on the reported $900,000 a year is sad. Mrs. Lay deserves an Academy Award for the eye-watering display seen recently on the tube. "We lost it all too." Yeah, right!
Herold's explanation of Enron capitalism is the company way for more than we know. In the end, it will be the taxpayers who foot the bill for another cleanup. Expose these guys for the greedy bastards they are, then let the sharks have 'em. Sell off the assets and give it to the employees that otherwise won't get a 401k dime.
Letter Promoted Hate -- Well, I have lost complete faith in my favorite reading material, The Inlander. I simply can't believe that you printed that garbage written by Stravo Lukos, titled "Israel IS the Problem" (2/7/02). Does this Lukos even exist?
His letter is so completely laced with hatred and lies, it was never worthy of printing. I'm not even going to try to enter some sort of debate over his statements. It would be like entering an argument with my five-year-old over why he shouldn't jump into the river. If The Inlander's editorial staff bothered to dig deep into his suggestion to meander over the Internet, you would have easily found, as I did, that several of his recommended Web sites are front covers for hate groups.
Thanks Inlander. Now I won't have to clutter my magazine rack with your rag anymore.
Temple Beth Shalom president