They run from January to April 2010 and I wrote them for EMPLOYEES POSITIVE VOICES but they were spot on with some predictions and show it's not the unions fault but our leaders elected and appointed. In this one I urge citizens for the sake of public safety to vote for the City tax increase while acknowledging how state and local elected officials helped create this mess. This is condensed for your reading pleasure.
Why I’m voting yes on GR income tax Increase
Our city is unsafe and there are no
APRIL 2010 EPV by Rick Tormala
The City of Grand Rapids is no longer safe. Because of devastating budget cuts implemented over the past several years, police officer and fire fighter positions have been eliminated and we no longer have staffing levels to adequately protect our city. In a nutshell, it is the reason I’m compelled to support and work for the passage of the May 4th ballot proposal modestly increasing the income tax rate for Grand Rapids
residents and individuals working in our City.
It isn’t because public safety employees aren’t doing their jobs. Our outstanding and dedicated police officers and fire fighters are second to none and the quality of their performance in the face of an unmanageable work load is the only reason tragedy has been avoided and we don’t recognize the dire situation we are currently facing. Check the numbers. A police force of 408 in 1996 has been drastically reduced by 27% leaving us 296 today. Daily staffing levels of 57 fire fighters, the minimum number required to safely protect our city, have been replaced by woefully inadequate daily levels of 50 and much lower, because of the eradication of far too many fire fighter positions. Do the math and you’ll see it doesn’t add up to a safe city.
Tax increases in the middle of a crippling recession are a hard sell. Citizens are having trouble trusting elected officials at every level of government, for good reasons. Truth is a rare commodity. Responsibilities are avoided. Facts obscured, or out right hidden. Tough decisions are kicked down the road. Bad judgment and poor stewardship have placed us in a horrible position and people resent it. Any kind of tax increase anywhere is met with skepticism and anger, regarded as another government bail out. Well I resent it too, but anger is never productive when it interferes with sound reasoning. Examine this ballot on its merits.
Taxes are the prices we pay for the efficient delivery of government services and to maintain our quality of life. There are such things as just taxes and necessary ones. Common sense tells us nothing is free.
Public safety is the most basic need we have and without it little else matters. Call 911 and you want action. Faced with crime you need police officers fast. Persons undergoing a life threatening illness or accident demand a quick response from our fire fighters. Numbers and staffing levels impact response times. People won’t live, work, or raise their families in neighborhoods where they don’t feel safe. Businesses won’t locate in unsafe areas. Stores close, for sale signs go up, and people flee to the suburbs igniting a downward spiral of decay and despair. Grand Rapids has too many great neighborhoods and a fantastic population of wonderful people. We can’t let that happen here! I have enough confidence in the citizens of Grand Rapids to believe they will support a critically needed tax proposal if they have a chance to carefully examine the facts and make an informed decision.
This is not a property tax millage. Those tend to be regressive and unfairly target property owners, some on fixed incomes already struggling to make ends meet.
Instead what’s proposed is a small, temporary income tax increase with the burden shared by workers and businesses. It is by law targeted to public safety and expires in five years. Our income tax rate would rise from 1.3% to 1.5% for residents and from 0.65% to 0.75% for non-residents. Someone earning $50,000 a year would see their tax bill increase by $100, less than two dollars a week. Match that against future sky rocketing insurance premiums for businesses and home owners when insurance companies rightfully decide Grand Rapids doesn’t meet industry standards for safety. From a logical point of view this modest increase is the better choice. Additionally, the temporary increase is expected to raise $7 million dollars annually and will be used to rehire our vitally needed police officers and fire fighters once again making Grand Rapids safe!
We can and should have an open and frank discussion as to how we reached the situation we are in and who should be held responsible. That is a conversation we can have this year during the budget process as the City Commission outlines their priorities and next year when elected officials can be held accountable at the polls. But that is a battle for the future, right now we have a city to save.
If you’ve stuck with me to the end I hope your interest has at least been stirred enough to seriously consider this urgent proposal on its merits rather than emotion.
EDITOR NOTE (Will the public hold the elected officials accountable at the polls this year? Or are they voting with their feet?)