When taxpayers were asked a few years ago to support a local option tax for community betterment, I thought it was a good idea and voted for it. I have always supported anything that has helped my town and county grow. I have lived here for over 50 years and dearly love this place, I have privately donated to the library, hospital, RWC, animal shelter, nature center, and Ft. Defiance trails and was proud to do so. I have supported every school bond issue. This is my town.
Early expenditures of local option taxes for a shelter house, concession stand, ball park, restrooms, flowers, trails, tennis courts, and skateboard parks were exactly what I voted for and I was very supportive. I started to get concerned when tax funds were given to businesses for awnings along South 6th Street. Why do we need to spend public tax money for private businesses I wondered? Isn't that the responsibility of the owners? But they looked nice and so I said nothing. I had some doubts about the $10,000 given to Rosewood Manor for their sun porch too. This nursing home is owned by a multi-million dollar corporation and 10 K is chump change to them. Why do they need public money to do this? But it was something we could do for the seniors, so I said nothing. When the Estherville meteorite shrine was erected to showcase a piece of art I had some further doubts. Wasn't this "piece of art" only a working model or prototype shown to the city by an artist who was never commissioned to do the finished statue? Why are we glamorizing a cheap imitation, I wondered, but I said nothing.
When $500,000 was appropriated for the restoration of the "historic" JC Penney building, I started to get angry. Why do we need to put tax money into a money pit for a downtown coffee shop? Are we going to use public money to renovate other vacant buildings as well? Is this the best use of my tax money? Now I hear the original winner of the coffee house sweepstakes has backed out and the project is way over budget, but again, I said nothing.
Now I read that we are using tax money to give to local businesses to "relocate inventory". Why does it cost $3000 to add the sale of Hawkeye and Cyclone sweat shirts to a clothing store? Are they building an addition to the store? And why does it cost $3500 to add yarn to the inventory of another? And why do we need to spend $3500 to add another FM radio station to a town of 6000? How many stations do we need?
I could go on and on, but my point is this - this is NOT what I voted for when we originally cast ballots for a local option tax. Tax money should not go directly to private businesses but for the public good. Public tax money has become a cash cow for the retail owners and the public should be outraged. Am I the only one who sees that the emperor is not wearing any clothes? Does the public know or care about how their tax money is used?
Local landlords have been told they must upgrade their rental property and new regulations will be forthcoming. Maybe they should ask for local public tax money to replace roofs, wiring plumbing, etc? After all, these rentals bring people to the community who buy groceries, go to restaurants, and buy hardware. Why not give them tax money to do this, just as is being done for the retail community? Do you see where I am going with this? The mayor is right - everyone has his hand out for public money.
If the town has run out of uses for local tax option money, I suggest the demolition of the south end of the old school building on North 6th. That building is an eye-sore, and please spare me the "historic" label. It is just an old building and is too big for an expensive coffee shop. Let's tear it down and plant some trees and flowers instead. That is a good use of public money.
I want to emphasize that I am not just another old guy who spends his time yelling at kids to get off his lawn. I am a very contented old guy who loves his town and is happy to pay taxes for the public good. I just think the public needs to wake up and smell the coffee (pun intended). Your tax money is being abused. It is not being used for what it was intended to be used. What are you going to do about it?