Well, this is what reading the paper has done to me...
...A smidge of insight...
I was until recently NOT a paper reader. The newspaper was never a thing for me. At several different points in my life I've subscribed to the local paper(s). And the result was always the same. I'd end up with a table and/or a recycle bin full of rubber banded newspapers. The paper just never was a must do part of my day. My spouse, in-laws, as well as almost everyone I work with make time everyday to read the news.
Somehow things in the world around me gradually sucked me into the everyday media. Even though Good Day Philadelphia, Good Day "WhateverCityI'mIn", Fox & Friends, & CBS Sunday Morning were always favorites of mine none of them were part of my regularly scheduled life.
That is until I became a city council groupie--I one day hope to evolve (at the least) into a city council pundit.
Oh Yeah... What happened...
For some reason or another I sat through a meeting in the fall of 2003. And at that meeting council discussed an idea that I thought was honestly very good. They discussed and discarded the proposal of an AMUSEMENT TAX.
The idea was so good that I couldn't shake it. Any time I talked to anyone and the topic turned to city money (taxes, fees, salaries, maintenance, etc). I'd mention the AMUSEMENT TAX. Two years have since passed and this very good idea is now feasible.
On the eve of what looks to be the successful passage of the City of Easton's Amusement Tax & Mechanical Devices ordinances there is still work to be done. The Amusement Tax (which I will also refer to from time to time as "a very good idea") along with the Mechanical Devices Tax will be up for council's vote on Wednesday, October 26, 2005.
And even though it seems that this very good idea has been accepted by council, there is a very good chance that a very good idea could be whittled into just a pretty good gesture.
The nickel - dime tour.
The amusement tax is a proposal to add a 5-10% charge to admissions and cover charges at Easton's attractions. The Mechanical Devices ordnance will set a licensing and fee schedule for coin operated devices within the city limits.
5-10%. I wrote 5-10 because the original good idea was to re-initiate the city's former amusement tax of 10%. The old tax was abolished during the Panto administration, because the city lacked tourism at the time. Two years ago, in an effort to offer a balanced budget that would not stress the city's already stressed tax base, Councilman Michael Fleck offered up the tax at 10 %. This summer Mr Fleck reincarnated the tax measure at 5% with a $5 cap and a $50 annual permit fee. The attractions that stand to contribute the most to the city are the State Theatre, Two Rivers Landing, Fisher Field, Kirby Sports Center and Cottingham Stadium.
By Fleck's estimates the amusement tax alone will increase the city's income by $500,000.00 a year (based on low estimate notes he prepared this summer). The estimated gains could be as high as one million dollars a year. I have the notes.
I don't have any estimates for the mechanical devices.
OK how about a half nickel tour?
Very good is starting to look kinda good. UPON FURTHER REVIEW AND COMPROMISE THE TAX DOES NOT STAND AS PROPOSED. It looks like council may be voting on the tax as follows:
5% with a $2.50 cap for everyone, and the State Theater for City Policy... STRIKE THAT... State Theater for Suburban Patronage... STRIKE THAT TOO... The State Theater for the Arts will be allowed to forgo paying the balance left on the one million dollar loan it took from the city. The balance is in excess of $100,000.00.
Representation gets preferred taxation.
What happened. I'll tell you what happened. When the tax first resurfaced the 3 major player venues (Crayola, Lafayette College, & the State) all sent reps to the Economic & Finance Committee meeting where the tax was introduced. Crayola pleaded poverty. The State screamed repression. And "The College" pronounced it's eminence.
That was round one (of the rematch).
At the last meeting (Oct 12); There was only one... The State. The college used up it's allotment of city time for the year. And Crayola... Well the B&S Exec was so concerned with the taxes potential economic destruction of her company that she decided to totally ignore city council business for over a month. This led to her being an hour late for the public meeting on the topic, thus failing to participate in the meeting.
Sadly, the last meeting was just another show for the state. Even after having their flourishing finances laid bare masterfully (embarrassingly for them) on the council floor; The theater prevailed... Well, predominately prevailed. Somewhere out of sight of the city's beleaguered tax payers (my guess is The Pomfret Club) Fleck was lobbied. Or was I out lobbied? The best I could do was get him eggs and bacon on the Hill.
Some pigs are more equal than others.
Everyone saving more than $100,000 on their next tax say "AYE". Crayola "nay", Lafayette "nay", Mr. Citizen Taxpayer "nay", State Theater "AYE!"
Who stands to benefit the most from a $2.50 cap on the tax. THE STATE. Crayola has an average ticket price of $7. Tax = 35 cents. College average $6. Tax = 30 cents. High School football $5 for 25 cents. Weller Center $10 for 50 cents. Bar covers are estimated to be $5 or less. The State's average price of $35 will draw $1.75 in tax. Well at $50 they've reached the cap. The fact is the State offers MANY shows in excess of $50. I will have those numbers in the future.
The original proposal of the tax was disappeared with NO fanfare. It never stood a chance. It was a great idea promoted by an upstart councilman, and it attacked the city's cultural pet project--The welfare child of the rich and famous. This time around a good number of people have taken notice. The usual suspects are no longer the only ones offering public comment on the positive value of the tax. Councilwoman Carole Heffley very eloquently explained the economics of older Eastonians, and the unequal burden that rising taxes and fees become to citizens on fixed incomes.
But our voices are still few. And as pragmatic as we may be, the opposition is influential. And influence can be intoxicating to the aspiring and comforting to the struggling.
Yeah so, Here I sit. Trying to be clever while at the same time informative. Trying to be media. TRYING TO GAIN THE SUPPORT AND INTEREST OF FELLOW TAXPAYERS.
Let's see what happens.
Only 10 more days until they vote. I hope the State Theater has to pay its FAIR SHARE.