Friday, August 31, 2007

President Poshard Defends Himself

In a front page article in today's Southern Illinoisan, President Poshard defended himself against the charges of plagiarism, saying that while it was true he had not indicated the cited passages with quotation marks, all of the material had been referenced with footnotes. Furthermore, his dissertation committee signed off on the paper without question.

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Blatant Fundraising Plug

We've received a few geodesic dome toys at the store from the folks at Bucky's Dome that we're selling for them to help raise money for the Dome rehab. All the money from them goes to the Dome (except for the sales tax). So if you're looking for a $10 gift, consider a dome.

BTW, the Dymaxion Sundaes sold a couple of weeks ago at the Dome as fund raisers were Fuller's favorite dessert and consisted of orange sherbet topped with chocolate syrup. He ordered it often enough at Colletti's Restaurant, located where Key West is now, or so I've been told, that the management added it to the menu. If anyone reading this still has a Colletti's menu with the Dymaxion Sundae on it, the Bucky's Dome folks would sure like a copy for their collection.


Not a Real Suprise

The Board of Trustees supports President Poshard in the dispute surround the plagiarism accusations. From the article, the BOT knew it several months ago but apparently didn't think the accusation in and of itself was particularly important.

I did like this quote from Trustee Samuel Goldman:

I am convinced - as I was before it even began - the issue we face I think is the difference between intent and error," Goldman said. "And to be a plagiarist, you have to show intent.

How do you take from 30 sources without intent? I'll be interested in seeing how this shakes out

BTW, here's the Merriam Webster definition of plagiarism.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

President Poshard Plagiarism Charges

6 page story (well 5 pages and an editorial) in the DE today. Wow. First ex-Chancellor Wendler, now this. Two things I figure from the stories:

1. Someone pointed the paper at it. No one goes back and looks at a 24 year old dissertation on a whim.

2. The DE is getting help from someone. The DE reporters did a good job, but no-one who's not trained in the area could dig out 30+ examples of plagiarism in the week the DE says it's worked on the story.

From what I've heard, the Chronicle of Higher Education is preparing a story on it as well, much as the magazine did with the controversy over Wendler here and Dussold up at SIUE.

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Councilman Fritzler is a Bad Guy

As are Councilwoman Pohlman and Councilman Weismann, at least according to this week's RAVWS column in the sports section of the Carbondale Times.

One of the things that has struck me about the whole sales tax debate was the focus on the proposal and the process. There weren't a lot of "I'm right, you're wrong" or attacks on the supporters of the opposing position. People took a position, sometime strongly, defended that position, sometimes strongly, and attacked the opponent's position, also sometimes strongly. That's something I was happy, and given a lot of what happens at the national political level, surprised to see.

Maybe I missed them, but aside from the Saluki Talk discussion boards, I didn't see a lot of direct attacks on opponents. That's why this reference in the RAVWS column struck me so strongly.

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More Financial Aid for Students

I saw an article about this in the Economist a couple of weeks ago and have been meaning to post about it. Luckily Congressman Costello saves me the trouble of writing it up: From an email the congressman just sent out:

The average student loan debt for a college graduate is currently around $18,000, and with consistently rising tuition rates, this number is sure to climb, burdening our college graduates with significant debt before they have the opportunity to establish themselves professionally. Such debt greatly affects purchasing power, making a house, a car, a family, and other key ingredients of the American Dream difficult to afford.

In a concerted effort to reduce this burden on our nation’s college graduates, the House of Representatives recently passed the College Cost Reduction Act, H.R. 2669. The bill cuts roughly $19 billion from federal lender subsidies and invests that money in financial aid programs for students, colleges, and universities.
The increases to student aid are quite significant. The bill increases the maximum Pell Grant award $500 over five years to $5,200, and raises the automatic qualification minimum income level to $30,000, thereby making it easier for students to qualify for such grants. An estimated 229,900 Illinois students would receive a Pell Grant increase of $500, while the average Illinois student would save $4,510 over the life of a four-year loan.
The bill also authorizes $500 million for the Perkins Loan Federal Contribution program over the next four fiscal years, and cuts interest rates in half for students with subsidized student loans.
Further, H.R. 2669 provides up to $16,000 in TEACH grants to students who commit to teaching a high-need subject in a high-need school for four years. Complete loan forgiveness is also available for public-sector employees after 10 years of service, and $5,000 in loan forgiveness is available for individuals who serve in critical areas such as law enforcement officers, firefighters, nurses, public defenders, early childhood educators and other public-sector employees.
The College Cost Reduction Act will help reduce the financial burden placed on college students and their families, which in turn will encourage more students to seek higher education. A final version of this bill is being crafted with the Senate and a final vote is expected this fall.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Stage Company Fundraising

After yesterday's post, I received a call from Cathy Field of the Stage Company regarding the organization's fund raising efforts. Although she doesn't want the specific amounts published and I'm certainly honoring that request, the Stage Company has raised a significant amount of money for the new building and frankly, I was surprised when I heard how much people have contributed so far. Good going.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Letter to the Mayor

Linz Brown, who spoke against the sales tax proposal at last Tuesday's city council meeting is having the following following letter hand delivered to the Mayor's office today. Posted with Dr. Brown's permission:

August 28, 2007

Mr. Brad Cole, Mayor

City of Carbondale

200 S. Illinois Avenue

Carbondale, Illinois 62901

Dear Mayor Cole:

I am writing to express my concern about one issue involved in the sales tax increase approved by the City Council on Tuesday, August 21, 2007. That concern is the lack of disclosure in the intergovernmental agreement with SIU. Neither the public hearing documents, the proposed ordinance, or the Council resolution authorizing you to execute the agreement disclosed any of the understandings, provisions, safeguards, or other important contents of the twenty-year, twenty million dollar arrangement.

As you will recall, this issue was raised in my prepared statement during the public hearing on Tuesday, August 21, 2007. My comments were as follows: “This proposal does not contain any attached agreements or written provisions that set forth the understandings and conditions for a commitment to SIU. Are you going to vote without knowing what you are committing to or without exploring the financial and legal ramifications of this commitment in writing? That would be totally irresponsible. What about the public? Don’t they have a right to see and react to any proposed agreement as part of the proposal before there is a vote?”

A proposed agreement should have been drafted and included in the proposal packet for the Public Hearing and the Council meeting. This would have been consistent with previous practice by the City. You consistently include contracts, bond documents, and other agreements as part of board meeting packets. Why should this agreement be an exception?

I feel the public has the right to ask for full disclosure on proposed agreements that commit large sums of tax money for non-city purposes for extended periods of time. As a long-time resident, registered voter, and taxpayer in the City of Carbondale, I am requesting that you and/or the City Manager do not sign the intergovernmental agreement until it is available for public comment and returned to the City Council for approval.

Sincerely yours,

Linz C. Brown

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Fusion Now Open

Fusion, an upscale for the 'dale martini bar, is having a soft opening at its location in the old Herald Printing building at 215 East Main, next to the township offices. Look for the multi-colored awning on the south side of the street.

From what I've heard, it's already attracting quite a clientèle, despite no advertising. The martinis apparently are quite good and, at $7, are a bargain compared to the $20 you'd pay for the same thing in Chicago.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Park District Goings On

Whilst the DE and the Southern have focused on the activities of the City Council in the past couple of weeks, the Carbondale Times has run a couple of detailed front page stories on the Park District, Hickory Lodge and the Park District budget. Unfortunately, for those of you who only read the new online, the Times is print only, but you can find it all around town.

One thing that really stuck out in the article that ran in the August 15th issue was the proposal by the Stage Company to build a theater on the Park District acreage catty-corner to the old high school football field. Two proposals were offered. Under one, the Stage Company would take out a mortgage, buy the property outright, make payments on the loan and obtain private funding for the building. Under option two, the Park District would front the money for the building, which the Stage Company would then occupy as a rent paying main tenant.

I don't see either one of these working out. From what I've heard, and feel free to correct me if you have more info, the Stage Company has been looking for funding for a new building ever since they lost their $1 a year lease on the old bank building when it was condemned and no angels have stepped up.

Option two also looks unlikely, given the amount of debt the Park District is carrying from the building of the golf course. Refinancing the loan has helped the Park District with their budget but not to the point where they have the kind of cash flow coming in to fund a major building project like a theater.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

House Prices Down Nationwide

According to this report from the New York Times, this year will see the largest drop in the median price of a home in the US since the federal government started keeping records 50+ years ago. The drop's going to be slight, about 1-2% but it will probably keep going down until 2009. Even here in the Midwest, where prices didn't hit the levels they did on the coasts, you can expect to see the value of your house decline. There is good news from the article:

Unless the real estate downturn is much worse than economists are expecting, the declines will not come close to erasing the increases of the last decade. And for many families who do not plan to move, the year-to-year value of their house matters little. The drop is, of course, good news for home buyers.

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Well, That's Intersting.

Every Friday, the Southern Illinoisan runs a Ups and Downs column on the opinion page. After the positive take on the editorial page Thursday regarding the sales tax vote, I'd expect a thumbs up for the tax passage. No mention of it though.

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Yard Sales

For some stuff non-tax related for a change, the Arbor District is having a slew of yard sales today with three on West Elm and 2 on South Springer and others scattered on various streets. Stop at any one of them and you can pick up a list of addresses for the others. The Bucky Dome at West Elm and West Cherry is having a fund raiser for the dome, with cd's, t-shirts and Dymaxion Sundaes (Fuller's favorite dessert) for sale.

Also, there's a big yard sale at the pavilion in the Town Square. Lot of furniture when I was there yesterday.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Two Out of 3 Ain't Bad

After it's all over but the shoutin', Peter Gregory comments about the sales tax brouhaha. He's right about the property tax vs. sales tax and the $20 million donation to SIUC. However, I think he's wrong about the overall need for the sales tax. Mayor Cole did make a good case for raising the tax to pay for the fire and police stations, he didn't make a good case for the donation to Saluki Way. Actually, I guess he did, since it passed.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Another Letter on the Sales Tax

Michael Norrington, a resident of the Arbor District but one not in agreement with Jane Adams and the AD board, writes to the DE.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

City Council Meeting

I only made it in there for about half an hour, catching the tail end of the public comments and the first speeches by Jack, Haynes and McDaniel. To paraphrase Bob Dylan, I didn't need a weatherman to see which way the wind was blowing so left during Haynes' speech.

I did notice the parking lot was packed when I passed by about 9:15 but there were a lot fewer people inside than I would have guessed from the cars. The Southern says around 150 present. The Chamber of Commerce/athletics block occupied a full row and a half of chairs in the back and broke into applause during both Haynes and and Mcdaniels' speeches.

Anything else go on I missed? One commenter says President Poshard appeared downright angry during his presentation.


Sales Tax passes

In case you weren't in attendance last night or didn't catch the news this morning, the sales tax proposal passed on a 4-3 vote. Here's the story from the Southern. The DE has several articles on the story, including pointing out in a roundabout way that only $1 million has been raised for Saluki Way besides the city's donation and student fees. This story looks at the council meeting in general, while this one focuses on the critics, though only Linz C. Brown and Councilwoman Pohlman are mentioned. According to the Southern, about 150 people showed up for the meeting and 24 or 27, depending on whether you read the DE or the Southern, spoke.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Jane Adams Responds to the DE

Jane Adams, an Arbor District board member, saw the coverage of the tax proposal in today's Daily Egyptian and sent out this email:

Today's Daily Egyptian has extensive coverage of the proposed city sales tax increase and the donation to SIU for Saluki Way. I am astounded at some of the claims being made:

Coach Jerry Kill is quoted as saying, "Jerry Kill's future is on that vote. I'll be fired."

Another story states [Saluki quarterback Nick] Hill joined many top university officials, including SIU President Glenn Poshard and Chancellor Fernando Trevino, in celebrating the recent proposal for Carbondale to help fund the first phase of Saluki Way."

The DE editorial writes, "There is no turning back -- curtailing Saluki Way is no longer an option. The request for this tax is tantamount to its demand." [emphasis added]

Meanwhile, SIU alumnus Kyle Englert wrote a letter suggesting repairs to the Stadium and the Arena that have long been discussed, and that the new student fees are adequate to pay for.

I don't understand who created the proposal that the City of Carbondale pay for a state institutions' capital project, but the rhetoric in the DE is extreme. The last I heard, we are a democracy and the elected representatives of the voters, or the voters through a referendum, decide on whether or not they will tax themselves.

Jerry Kill has a Carterville address.
Glenn Poshard has a Carterville address.
Fernando Trevino's address is not yet in the directory, but I doubt he lives in Carbondale.
Rebel Pinkston, who wrote in the Southern supporting the gift to SIU, and who is quoted in the DE, lives outside Carbondale at 29 Easthaven Drive (1/2 mi. east of Reed Station Rd., .4 mi. north of Ill 13, almost on the Williamson County line)

None of these people were able to vote for our City Council, including our mayor.

Further, Brad Cole ran on a platform of "keep[ing] costs down and slow[ing] the expansion of government." Nowhere in his detailed plan does he even hint that he might ask the City to pay for a major capital project at the University.

There may be good arguments for the City paying for a new facility for a state institution. However, the case -- put forward primarily by people who do not vote in Carbondale -- has clearly not been made.

As several people have written, the new tax and its allocation to SIU should be subject to a referendum, so all its pros and cons can be hashed out.

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Daily Egyptian All Over the Tax Proposal

Two letters, three articles and an editorial. They've been busy. See also here, here, and here.

SalukiTalk Discussion on Sales Tax

The SalukiTalk discussion boards have a nine page thread discussing the sales tax. Almost all is pro-tax and point out the benefits Carbondale gets from having a thriving SIUC located here.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Yet Another Letter

This letter was sent from Kevin Graham with He makes a good point that sales taxes should remain at a generally steady level, however, they are prone to fluctuation, esp. over a 20 year time period.

Here's my take on this issue...

I believe this proposal has a distinct possibility of putting Carbondale in the unenviable position of being the "tax capital of Southern Illinois" within a five to ten year time frame. Not just sales tax mind you, but also the highest property taxes.

Assuming that our sales tax base will keep pace with city expenses is just that, an assumption. Here are a few local and national trends that should be considered.

1) Our reigning status as the premier Southern Illinois shopping destination is being challenged by our neighbors to the East in a big way. Some would consider it naive to think that the town with the highest rate of economic growth (Marion) will not eventually become the premier shopping destination for our region.

2) On a smaller scale, the new Wal-Mart is opening up in Murphysboro. Does anyone hear a sucking sound?

3) The company I work for (, offers an insight into a different and more unpredictable threat to brick and mortar merchants generating sales tax for their local communities. Every day, all across the nation, we capture sales that traditionally would have gone to these brick and mortar businesses. The ever growing web-based economy does not bode well for local sales tax coffers in our region.

So what happens, if, sales tax receipts don't measure up to predictions? The current third rail of Carbondale politics will then emerge. The dreaded (but perfectly normal for almost every community in America) property tax!

If the above scenario plays out, future city council members will be under great pressure to reach the conclusion that re-enacting the property tax is a must. At that moment we will become the "tax capital of Southern Illinois" with one of the highest sales tax rates and most likely, the highest overall combined property taxes.

Based on the above thinking, I agree with putting this to a referendum.

Your friend and neighbor,

Kevin Graham

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Top Ten Reasons for Not Supporting the Sales TAx

Here's a more organized presentation of the comments Dr. Linz C. Brown will make to the City council tomorrow night:

Top Ten Reasons

For Not Supporting the Proposed Sales Tax Increase

10. This proposal places small business owners in a no-win situation. In order to show support for SIU-- which many want to do--, the small business owners stand to lose some business. How much they will lose remains to be seen. One very prominent, local business owner who is a consistent supporter of SIUC and the community told me that he probably would support the proposal, but his business would take a “hit.” Already, a few residents have told me that they plan to buy out-of-town as a protest if this proposal is adopted by the Council.

9. The decision-making process on this highly unique and potentially divisive proposal does not provide sufficient opportunity for input from the 25,597 residents of Carbondale. Although four of you have the right to make a majority decision, I would think, under the circumstances, you would want broad support from the community.

8. The long-term impact of this proposal burdens and constrains future Councils; and, as a result, threatens future operations and services.

7. This proposal endangers the financial security of the City with too many obligations and too much dependency on sales and service taxes, especially in the event of an economic downturn. In the FY ’08 budget, sales and service taxes are projected to be approximately 72% of total revenue in the General Fund. You know what happens when you put all of your eggs in one basket.
6. This proposal burdens lower-income citizens of Carbondale with a regressive tax. The proposed sales tax increase will be on top of the gasoline tax and the telecommunication tax passed by the Council within the past four years. Is anyone on the Council concerned about the cumulative impact on low-income families? They are the ones I see most often in the retail stores and malls of Carbondale.
5. This proposal does not contain any attached agreements or written provisions that set forth the understandings and conditions for a commitment to SIU. Are you going to vote without knowing what you are committing to or without exploring the financial and legal ramifications of this commitment in writing? That would be totally irresponsible. What about the public? Don’t they have a right to see and react to any proposed agreement as part of the proposal before there is a vote?
What happens if there is an economic downturn and there are not sufficient funds to support the General Fund and SIU? What happens if SIU cannot raise sufficient monies to fund the Saluki Way project? Will they return the City’s investment? Will there be any provisions in an agreement for future Councils to cancel the agreement due to a financial crisis?
4. Approval of this proposal will burden the citizens of Carbondale with too many taxes and too much long-term debt. In the past four years, you have increased gasoline taxes and added a ten-year bond debt of $7.69 million to resurface and reconstruct streets. You also have increased taxes on phone calls with the Simplified Telecommunications Tax. And, last year SIU students received a 1% municipal sales tax increase on campus purchases. On top of this, there is the $800,000 annual expense for twenty years in support of Carbondale public schools. That is a total of $16,000,000. With this proposal, you want to add another $20 million of debt by giving $1 million a year for 20 years to a State-supported institution.
Mayor Cole, you stated in your 2007 Platform document that “The community has fared-well under the leadership of Brad Cole, someone who knows when a deal is worth making and also when the costs are just too high or the benefits are just too low to work out in the best interests of the community.” My question is how many taxes, how much spending, and how many millions of dollars of debt is just too high or the benefits too low for the best interests of the community.
3. This proposal is a cover for questionable revenue source changes, excessive spending and unprecedented deficits the past three years by the Mayor and Council. It is the first time in recent history that the Council is on track to complete three consecutive annual deficits. Council members and interested citizens should read the City Manager’s financial analysis and comments on pp. 1-3 of the proposal. The FY ’08 budget projects that the City next year will be within $10,522 of its minimum fund balance and that there will be an unfavorable balance of ($621,170) the following year (FY 2010). By policy, the minimum fund balance serves as a contingency fund for emergencies. This financial situation jeopardizes the City’s bond rating making it more expensive to borrow money. In short, the city is in a financial bind.
Mayor Cole, you stated in your ”Annual State of the City Address” on November 8, 2005 that “Our financial picture is perhaps the best it has ever been.” You went on to say that “Our General Fund balance today sits at a very healthy $7 million . . . .” It’s too bad that you and some members of the Council don’t read and take the advise of the City Manager. He has repeatedly pointed out in various documents, including proposed budgets, the fact that you are overspending and jeopardizing the city’s financial status.

2. This proposal ignores the $40,826,276 of unmet needs documented in the FY ‘08 Community Investment Program (CIP). There are no stated provisions or priorities in the proposal for these unmet needs. Who should be taken care of first, the citizens of Carbondale or SIU. I have always heard that charity begins at home.


1. This proposal bypasses the will of the people. The magnitude and length of this unprecedented commitment to spend $1 million a year for 20 years for non-city purposes needs broad support from the tax-paying citizens of this Community. For as few as four people to push the proposal through at this time would be an unwise and irresponsible use of power. Why an unwise use of power? Exhibit #4 in the proposal provides a partial answer. This exhibit lists the sales tax rates for 27 communities in Illinois and 10 local communities in southern Illinois.

I did some research on the reasons for recent increases and the decision-making process followed in other local communities listed in Exhibit #4 of the proposal. My focus was on cities with sales tax rates of 7.75% or higher.

DuQuoin is the first of those examples. It has the highest sales tax rate of the local communities listed. This city recently increased its sales tax rate by 1/2 percent, but the increase was voted upon by the citizens in a referendum, and the increase was used as matching funds to build a new high school. The community, not the council decided on the increase. (Source of Information: Telephone conversation with Bonnie Alvis, Executive Director, DuQuoin Chamber of Commerce, August 13, 2007)

Mt. Vernon and Jefferson County is another example. This is the second highest of local communities listed in Exhibit # 4 of the proposal. The City had only a 1% home rule sales tax as part of an existing 7 1/4% sales tax, but the county recently asked for an additional 1/2 percent for safety expenditures and debt payment in a successful countywide referendum. Again, the community decided, not the city council or the county board. (Source of Information: Telephone conversation with Mary Bechtel, Director of Economic Development, Jefferson County, August 13, 2007)

DuQuoin and Mt. Vernon/Jefferson County are not the only ones to establish precedents by using public referendums for large projects. The Carbondale School District used a public referendum in 1999 to fund the new high school. This is the same project for which the city contributes $800,000 a year. Why does the Carbondale City Council not want to follow these examples? Are we to be less democratic than our neighbors?

The scope of Carbondale’s proposal is beyond anything that voters entrusted to Council members. Why didn’t those proposing and supporting this proposal mention it to the voters in the last election. Proposals of this type do not come out of thin air. It takes time to formulate such ideas and to coordinate with key individuals at the university.

SIU needs to demonstrate that it has the capacity to raise $20 million that would match the proposed offer by the city. Why should the taxpayers of Carbondale be the major financial supporters of a State-supported institution?


SIU is important to this community and it deserves our support, but a financial issue of this magnitude and length of commitment must be carefully considered and must have broad support from the citizens of Carbondale.

I have heard that politics is the art of compromise. It is the extreme of my-way or no- way that bothers me whether it is at the local level, the state level, or the national level. The Governor’s stance on the State budget is a good example. I hope that this Council will do the rational and responsible thing by not voting for the proposal as presented.

I would urge you do one of two things: (1) authorize a public referendum on the current proposal, or (2) reduce the proposed increase to 1/4 percent, set up specific priorities with community input and discussion, stop deficit spending and unwarranted proposals, and lower the SIU commitment to a more modest amount.

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Field of Dreams

SIUC law professor Leonard Gross has a piece in yesterday's southern Illinoisan on the $20 million proposal that's worth a read. He does point out some potentially flawed assumptions as well as thecommunity's past experience with Hickory Ridge Golf course.

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Police Station Falling Apart.

Saturday, it was McAndrew Stadium, today it's the police station needing renovation. Apparently, according to the letter from Don Monty, the PD has been asking for money for some time for repairs, only to be told there wasn't any.

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Sierra Club Weighs In on Sales Tax

Here's the Sierra Club's position on the sales tax. They don't seem to have a position, I think, but global warming is bad:

Carbondale Community Global Warming Committee

899 Rowan Rd.

Makanda, IL 62958

August 15, 2007

Dear Mayor and City Council Members:

Sierra Club and the Carbondale Community Global Warming Committee are not prepared to take a position on the merits of the proposed increase in sales tax. However, on behalf of our members who live in Carbondale, if the City Council approves the tax and the earmarks for Saluki Way and the fire and police stations, we strongly urge you to use the opportunity to help reduce global warming gases and fossil fuel usage with the money that would be generated by the tax increase.

Mayor Cole and Mr. Doherty are proposing to earmark half of the sales tax revenue from the half cent sales tax increase to help build the Saluki Way project - an estimated $1 million per year. This is a forward-looking proposal with the goal of a future benefit for both the university and the City of Carbondale. We are urging you to be even more forward-looking by attaching the proviso that SIU-C must sign an agreement to make the new buildings meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards. In addition, we urge you to pass a resolution requiring the new police and fire station buildings to also be built to LEED standards, or to be at least 50 percent more efficient than energy codes now require.

If the city and university are to be truly forward looking, we must plan new buildings that will be energy efficient. We have already felt the "shock and awe" of higher electric bills and higher gas bills. The price of energy will only go higher in the future. Also, we must wean ourselves from fossil fuels in order to avoid the worst effects of global warming. Just this year, we saw the effects of a warmer spring when the trees bloomed early and then were bitten by a week of frosty nights in April. No peaches for us and no acorns for wildlife this year. This is only a hint of the climate changes that scientists predict will be the result of continued global warming.

Mayor Cole has already signed the Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement, which pledges the City of Carbondale to decrease global warming gases by 7% below 1990 levels by 2012. Now is the time for the members of the City Council to get involved and act on this pledge. This is a golden opportunity for the City of Carbondale to take the lead in reducing global warming pollutants and at the same time cutting energy waste and energy bills.

Attached is a copy of the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, which has been signed by Mayor Cole, and also a Courier-Journal article on green arenas and stadiums. Members of our committee would be delighted to talk with you about LEED standards, the Mayors' agreement, and suggestions for further actions that the City of Carbondale can take to help curb global warming, cut energy expenses, cut energy waste, and lessen our oil addiction. We will be testifying at the hearing on the proposed sales tax increase on August 21st.


Barbara McKasson, Chair

Carbondale Community Global Warming Committee

(618) 529-4824

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Letters to the City Council

The city has received at least two letters opposing the sales tax as it is currently presented. To read them, click here and scroll down in the PDF to page 17 for the letter from SIUC Professor Emeritus Donald Detwiler. For additional interesting reading, go to page 19 in the document for a very detailed letter from former Assistant City Manager Don Monty. Be sure to read the list of 125 Unfunded and Future Community Improvement Projects that were considered when the 2008 budget was set that Mr. Monty attached. That's on page 24 of the PDF. These are projects for which funding is not currently available. Quoting Mr. Monty's letter "Some of the projects will ultimately be funded by the Water and Sewer Fund, the Parking System Fund or the Rental Properties Fund, but most are dependent on funding from the General Fund."

That's 125 projects the city has determined are important enough to undertake but is having to put off because there's no extra cash in the General Fund to do them.

Thanks to D. Gorton for directing my attention this way.

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Property Tax vs. Sales Tax

From the proposal to invest in the future of Carbondale, here are the arguments in favor and against the property and sales taxes. Notice that several arguments are advanced against the property tax and none against the sales tax. Amazing, isn't it?

Revenue Options

There are two sources of revenue controlled by the City of Carbondale that can generate the amount of revenue required by the City to continue delivering the quality and diverse services to its citizens and to continue funding community organizations in support of their programs. The two sources of revenue are the property tax and the home rule sales tax.

Property Tax:

Exhibit #2 provides a five year projection for a General Government tax rate that would be required to maintain the General Fund's minimum fund balance. A property tax levy would be required in December 2007 for taxes payable in 2008 and received by the City during its 2009 fiscal year. The property tax levies and corresponding tax rates would increase annually thereafter. The benefit of a property tax levy is that property taxes are a steady, reliable source of revenue.

The property tax rate in Carbondale is high compared to many other communities. There are different reasons for this including a large amount of tax exempt property, multiple units of local governments, demands for services from the citizenry and the lack of an industrial base. In 2007, the property tax rate per $100 Equalized Assessed Valuation (EAV) in Carbondale and within the Carbondale Elementary School District #95 is 8.44352.

The City of Carbondale has been the leader in reducing the property tax rate in Carbondale. Through its economic development initiatives, Carbondale's Equalized Assessed Valuation has increased from $112 million in 1992 to $247 million in 2007. The City maintained a policy for 10 years of not increasing its property tax rate, but rather to absorb the annual increases of the tax levy into the General Fund's general revenues. In 2002, the City eliminated its General Government Property Tax levy of over $1 million completely, thereby reducing the overall Carbondale tax rate by 0.592. In addition, the City adopted a 1/4% home rule sales tax in 1999 to assist in the funding of a new Carbondale Community High School and thereby avoiding an additional property tax levy by the high school district.

The history of the City regarding property taxes during the past 15 years has been first, to maintain its tax rate and later, to eliminate its property tax rate altogether. Increasing the property tax for General Government purposes would be a change in the philosophy of the current City Council and of previous City Councils. It is essential for community growth that efforts to lower the property tax rate be continued.

Home Rule Sales Tax:

Carbondale has consistently been the leader in the region for retail sales. The FY 2008 budget projects sales in Carbondale to approach $640,000,000. The City receives sales tax revenues from the regular 1.0% tax provided by the State of Illinois (from the 6.25% standard state sales tax) and the home rule 1.0% tax levied by the City. The total tax rate in Carbondale is currently 7.25% on general merchandise. The home rule 1.0% sales tax is not applied to items licensed by the State (cars, trucks, boats, etc.) or on groceries and medicine. Together, these sales taxes are projected to provide the City with $10.9 million in revenues in FY 2008.

Sales tax revenues in Carbondale have shown steady growth. Revenue from the regular 1.0% sales tax has increased from $5.35 million in FY 2004 to $6.1 million in FY 2007, a 14% increase in three years. The home rule 1.0% sales tax increased from $3.86 million in FY 2004 to $4.37 million in FY 2007, a 13% increase in the same three year period. The Five Year Budget anticipates continued growth in sales tax revenues as shown in Exhibit #3.

The home rule sales tax has been a popular source of revenue for home rule communities for many years. Carbondale adopted a 3/4% home rule sales tax in 1992 and increased the rate to 1.0% in 1999 to help fund construction of the new high school. In 2006, the State of Illinois extended the ability to adopt a local sales tax to non-home rule communities. Exhibit #4 lists current sales tax rates in selected Illinois communities.

Illinois law allows the home rule sales tax rate to be increased in one-quarter of one-percent (1/4%) increments. The State, which serves as collector of all retail sales taxes, adjusts its collection rates twice a year, in January and July. Further, it requires municipalities to notify the Department of Revenue three months prior to those months in order for the retailers to be properly notified of increased rates. Any ordinance increasing the home rule sales tax must be approved by September and March, respectively.

The adoption of an additional one-half of one-percent (1/2%) sales tax in Carbondale would begin generating approximately $2.3 million annually as shown in Exhibit #3 and would provide the City with the additional revenue required to continue delivering the quality and diverse services to its citizens and to continue funding community organizations in support of their programs.

The revenue from the additional 1/2% sales tax would also provide the City with the resources to address four major community capital projects. First is a new Public Safety Center for the City of Carbondale Police and Fire Departments and Emergency Management Services to be located on the site of the former Lincoln Middle School (now owned by the City) in the event that federal funds are not secured to construct this facility. The second is a new Fire Station on the west side of Carbondale to replace the existing station on South Oakland Avenue. The third project is open space development involving the construction of bikeways, sidewalks and greenways in the community. Finally, the fourth project is the Southern Illinois University Carbondale initiative to replace McAndrew Stadium and upgrade the SIU Arena through the Saluki Way project.

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Is Local Food Better?

Lately, there's been some discussion and research on the impact on the climate and environment of local foods vs. trucked in edibles. Is it better for the environment to buy a pound of locally grown tomatoes from the Murdale Farmer's Market as opposed to ones trucked in from California and sold at Kroger? From This Week magazine for 8/17/07, apparently it depends on how suitable the product is for where it is grown. For example, a study looked at lamb sold in Britain, comparing the food miles and environmental impact of lamb grown in Britain to that of lamb grown in New Zealand and shipped to Britain.

Surprisingly, despite shipping 11,000 miles to Britain, the New Zealand lamb produced fewer carbon emissions per ton (1520) than did the British lamb (6280). Since the New Zealand land grazes on sunnier grassier hills tan do the British ones, they require less care and therefore less carbon emissions.

Oh, and do you feel virtuous because you walk everywhere instead of drive? Not so fast, walking burns calories, which you have to replenish through eating food, driving doesn't. And producing food is much more carbon intensive than burning gasoline.

You can read more about effects of local food here and here. Me, I'm going to have another locally grown tomato and finish reading my magazine.

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McAndrew Stadium Falling Apart

From today's Southern Illinoisan, McAndrew Stadium looks in pretty bad shape. It does make one wonder why no upkeep has been done on the place. Broken concrete, dangling light fixtures, little to no ventilation, busted showers, it sounds like an apartment I lived in 10 years ago.

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Councilman Fritzler's Positon Paper

Courtesy of the Arbor District mailing list, here's Councilman Fritzler's official position on the proposed sales tax.

Raise User Fees or State Sales Tax for
Saluki Way
The mayor has proposed raising the city’s portion of the sales tax a quarter percent to give $20 million towards a new state-owned football stadium, a remodeled state-owned basketball arena, and other state-owned facilities, and a quarter percent to pay for discretionary city and non-city projects like new police & fire stations, and maintenance for Carbondale Park District which, like SIU, is a separate governing body from the city.
I have heard that this tax increase would be similar to the City of Marion raising their sales tax to help fund the Southern Illinois Miner’s baseball park to boost their economy. The economic impact of the Miners’ 51 home games is more obvious that five Salukis home football games. I have heard that we should support the increase because Carbondale needs SIU. I agree thatCarbondale needs SIU but, SIU provides jobs and drives the economy for the entire region not just Carbondale. In my first position at SIU, I was the only Carbondale resident out of 9 full-time employees. In my current SIU position, only 2 of 11 full-time employees are Carbondale residents. My SIU co-workers come from towns in Franklin, Union, Johnson, Jackson, Alexander, and PerryCounties, but mainly in Williamson County. If the best idea to fund Saluki Way is by raising the sales tax then the state portion of the tax should be raised region wide. However, since SIU students are receiving a fee increase of 14.2% and are responsible for at least 30% of the sales tax collected in Carbondale and received a 1% municipal sales tax increase on campus purchases last year and will not be around to enjoy a new football stadium, the “users” of the facilities should pay for the new facilities via increased ticket, merchandise, and concession prices.
Prior to the recent bridge collapse, the governor of Minnesota vetoed a bill to increase spending on infrastructure maintenance but supported funding a new baseball stadium for the Twins. With this in mind and also thinking about how we memorialize our fallen police officers and fire fighters rather than provide for their immediate needs, the Carbondale City Council needs to focus on providing a police station to replace the “temporary” facilities (abandoned student apartments deemed unfit for human habitation) that have housed the police department for over 30 years.
Having missed only a handful of Saluki football and basketball games during the last few years, I would love to see a new football stadium and a remodeled basketball arena. However, until the State of Illinois decides to pay for new city water/sewer lines, a city swimming pool, city building inspectors, or a new Carbondale Police Station, I feel that city facilities should come from city funds and the state should pay for state facilities.
The council will be voting on this issue at the Aug. 21 council meeting after residents have an opportunity for input.
Joel Fritzler, Councilman
Carbondale City Council

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Here's the Chamber of Commerce's position paper on the proposed sales tax. The Chamber is also mailing out copies to all members.

Carbondale Chamber of Commerce

Board of Directors

August 15, 2007

Official Statement in Favor of the “Proposal to Invest in the Future of Carbondale:”

The Carbondale Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors would like to officially express their support of the proposal submitted by the City of Carbondale for a 0.5% increase in the Carbondale home rule sales tax. After sufficient research and discussion, it is the opinion of the Board that this proposal is a direct investment in the future prosperity of Carbondale and its businesses.

The proposal estimates that a 0.5% increase in Carbondale’s sales tax will generate approximately $2.3 million annually. Due to increases in various operating expenses, the City of Carbondale must find another source of revenue. A portion of this revenue will be used to continue providing its citizens with quality services and to fund many of Carbondale’s diverse community organizations.

Carbondale is in urgent need of a new Public Safely Center, which will house the Carbondale Police Department, Carbondale Fire Department Administration, and Carbondale Emergency Management Services. The Westside Fire Station located on south Oakland Avenue will also be replaced. The current facilities for these departments are inadequate and must be replaced in the near future. The extra revenue generated by the Proposal will also go to fund open space projects such as greenways, bikeways, and sidewalks, which will improve Carbondale both functionally and aesthetically. Additionally, a one-time grant of $35,000 will be given to the Carbondale Park District for necessary infrastructure improvements.

Another portion of the subsequent revenue will go towards funding Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s “Saluki Way” project. This will be in the form of a $20 million donation over the next 20 years, and will primarily support the renovation of the SIU Arena, and the replacement of McAndrew stadium. These two facilities host events year-round, which are attended by thousands of people from across the country. Improvements to these venues will make them more accommodating, and therefore more attractive to prospective event coordinators and entertainers. Increased traffic to the SIU Arena and Mc Andrew Stadium will bring thousands of new consumers to Carbondale businesses. This large investment in SIUC, one of our community’s greatest resources, will likely bring millions of sales dollars into Carbondale, strengthening our economy.

The Chamber Board of Directors considers this proposal to be a clear, specific plan which will directly benefit Carbondale, its businesses and its citizens. As shown in Exhibit 5 of the Proposal, there are defined financial targets that will have to be met to fund the projects in a financially responsible way. It is the opinion of the Chamber that the City of Carbondale has consistently produced accurate forecasts in their budgeting processes over the past several years, and this plan is expected to follow suit. Therefore, we support the Proposal to Invest in the Future of Carbondale, and feel that it will have a positive impact on the members of the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce.

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CoC in Favor of Tax

The Carbondale Chamber of Commerce survey its membership a couple of weeks ago asking for feedback on the position the Chamber should take on the proposed sales tax increase. I heard on WSIU this morning that, based on the survey results, the CoC board has come out in favor to the tax increase. There's nothing about it on the Chamber website yet. I did hear secondhand that, while the members did support the tax increase to fund improved public services, a number did question the wisdom of the $20 million donation for the Arena and stadium projects.

Hopefully, the Chamber will get a position paper out soon.

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