Monday, April 24, 2006

April 24, 2006 Death and Taxes


Consider This for April 24, 2006-Taxes

Colorado's is one of the lowest tax rates in the nation. Those of us who moved here from somewhere else can attest to this fact. Our property tax, sales tax and income tax are virtually nothing compared to the rest of the world. Yet people protest too much. A State Representative has been talking about temporarily reducing the Highway Users Tax Fund levy on the price of gas. It might reduce the price as much as 24 cents a gallon. I think it is a terrible idea. I would rather try to figure out a way to reduce the wholesale price of crude oil and make a permanent price reduction.The problem with the idea is that it is temporary. Imagine seeing the price of gas drop 24 cents a gallon. Drivers would welcome the savings. Then imagine putting the 24 cents back on the price of a gallon of gas a few months later. I can smell the boiling tar and chicken feathers now.Remember Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown? She always assured him she would not move it out of the way and would let him kick it. And then she would always move the football at the last minute causing Charlie to fall on his butt. Sounds like the temporary tax reduction on gasoline to me.A week ago today was the deadline for filing your income tax with the federal and state governments. We all got a couple of extra days because April 15 fell on Saturday this year. Whoopee. Two more days. Be still my heart.I filed my taxes a long time ago. Well, maybe not a long time ago, but several days before the deadline. I am way too anal and would wake up in the middle of the night thinking about deductions and hidden income and such. Not good for those long winter nights.I was telling a friend the other day about when I worked construction in Colorado and Wyoming in the 1970s and 1980s. Many of my coworkers would claim 20 deductions on their W-4s so that virtually nothing would be withheld from their paychecks during the year. Then they would never file a return. They would take the money and run. No taxes. Nada.My friend then went into a long discussion about how the employer has to report the income to the Internal Revenue Service and these employees would be caught eventually. I never heard of any of them being caught. Most of them lived like gypsies moving from community to community with no known address. They rented post office boxes and listed fictitious addresses on the box applications.During the most recent tax season, I read that most of the taxpayers who are audited make more than $100,000 a year. I guess their tax bills are large enough to warrant the time and effort to do the audit while persons making less pay fewer taxes.I am sure there are many exceptions.I also remember that the way they finally got rid of Al Capone was for tax evasion. He was a mass murderer and the head of all organized crime yet the only way they could convict him was to charge him with tax evasion. It was actually a death sentence. "Scarface" died of syphilis in federal prison serving his sentence.When I first went into law enforcement it was illegal to possess a fully automatic gun such as a Thompson submachine gun without a tax stamp. Of course they very seldom issued any tax stamps for machine guns.Another strange law was the requirement you needed then to grow marijuana. You needed a tax permit to grow marijuana.The Alcohol, Tax and Firearms (ATF) was charged with enforcement.I might be old fashioned, but I think taxes, even those on gasoline, are the price we pay for freedom. It is the price we pay to live in the best country in the world, and in the best state in the nation and in the best county in Colorado. We should all be smiling each time we have to pay our taxes. It is nothing to lose sleep over. Now if I say that often enough maybe it might put me to sleep. Something like counting sheep. State Rep. Gary Lindstrom of Lakeview Meadows represents Summit, Eagle and Lake counties. He writes a Monday column. He can be reached at gary@garylindstrom.com

Monday, April 17, 2006

April 17, 2006 Dissent: It is what we are made of


Consider This for April 17, 2006--Dissent: It Is What We Are Made Of


It was the Revolutionary War, not the War of “Let’s All Get Along.” We were born of very angry people. People were angry about all those “foreigners.” You remember. All those people who spoke English with a strong British accent and came here to take all our jobs and use the free benefits of living in America.

The demonstrations and dissent all over the nation about immigration are just another part of the birthing process of freedom. Regardless of which side of the argument you are on, you have to accept that this has caused everyone to step back and think about immigration.

I teach students in my political science class that to bring groups together you have to find a common enemy, not a common purpose. Try to get together a large group to talk about the child-care crisis in the county and you might get 10 people to show up. Announce that you are going to have a nuclear storage facility next to the Dillon Reservoir and you will have 300 people show up. They will also show up with a strong opinion about the issue and be ready to talk or fight.

Hot buttons are not intellectual. Come up with volumes of justification for an action and you will put everyone to sleep. Come up with an issue that elicits an emotional response and you will see the same response that came when we were becoming a free country 231 years ago.

Cause people to feel so strongly about something that they are ready to fight. When visceral responses occur, you have a winner. That is when things really happen in our nation and in our community.

Summit County provides a great example of people working very hard to get along. I moved to the mountains in 1974 when there were no traffic signals and most of the town streets were not even paved.

I tell people about how we had wooden sidewalks in some places and the community was struggling to evolve from a mining community and sometimes a ski resort. I remember when a local prominent attorney challenged the Breckenridge Police Chief to a shoot-out on Main Street. And he was serious.

Around the end of the 1980s a group of us met at Copper Mountain to think of ways to bring the community together. Thus was born the Summit Leadership Forum. From the forum came the Summit Stage transit system. The Summit County Housing Authority. The Summit County Child Care Coalition. And a host of other organizations to make this a better place to live.

The monthly Mayors, Managers, and Commissioners meetings came about because some towns were not getting along with some former commissioners. The towns began meeting alone to make decisions on cooperation, and eventually the County Commissioners were included. That group was a model of collaboration and cooperation.

Summit County has five planning commissions. Each of the six towns has its own planning group. Summit County includes a member from the appropriate town’s commission on the adjacent planning basin commission. This enables the towns to have a vote on planning issues in the areas surrounding their communities. Unfortunately, the towns have not invited county members to sit on their planning commissions. Maybe sometime in the future the same courtesy will be extended to nontown residents to provide some input into the towns that certainly impact the unincorporated areas.

My point is there are many ways to improve communication and to quell the dissent in our communities. When I tell people in the state and at national organizations about what is going on in Summit County, they can’t believe how much cooperation is occurring.

Counties have a hard time talking among communities and most of the time don’t bother. They would rather remain geocentric and blame everyone else for the lack of progress, collaboration, and communications. Take a look at where you are in this whole discussion and then get involved. Go to a meeting and participate. Write letters to the editor and to your elected officials. Let’s have a quiet revolution to make this a better place for our children and grandchildren.

Monday, April 3, 2006

April 3, 2006 I have the right


Consider This for April 3, 2006--I Have the Right?


The number one topic in the more than 4,000 e-mails I get each week is what people think they have a right to do.

People have a right to drive without a seat belt. They have a right to smoke in any public place. They have a right to do anything within their imagination.

I normally ask the person to read the Constitution of the United States or that of Colorado and show me where they can find that particular right. It is not there.

It is the responsibility of the State Legislature and all elected officials to provide for the health, safety, and welfare of all the people. To do this we need to have laws that restrict unhealthy or unsafe behavior. It is easy to understand if you take the time to read the law.

If you do not want to understand, then no explanation is possible.

During the smoking debate, one of my fellow legislators commented that your rights ended at the tip of his nose. In other words, your smoke imposes a health hazard once someone who is not smoking inhales it.

Seat belts should be easier to understand, but it seems to be more difficult for some. When someone is not belted in and his or her car goes out of control, it puts everyone on the road in jeopardy. The driver is bouncing around inside the car and cannot hang on to the steering wheel.

In the past couple of years there have been several accidents in which vehicles have crossed into oncoming traffic because the driver was not belted in.

One person actually sent me data indicating that no one has ever been saved by a seat belt, and in fact people are killed by seat belts. I was a police officer for over forty years and coroner for eight of those years, and I never saw anyone killed by a seat belt but many people saved by wearing them.

There has been a law in Colorado for many years requiring seat belt use. For the past couple of years a bill has moved forward requiring a primary seat belt law. This law would allow police officers to stop you for not wearing your seat belt. Under the current law you have to be stopped for another offense before you can be charged for not wearing your seat belt.

Statistically, states that have a primary seat belt law have had a 10% reduction in the fatal accident rate. In Colorado that would result in 50 fewer deaths each year.

I do not believe that is a number anyone can disagree with. Especially if one of the 50 happens to be your child or other loved one.

There is concern expressed that this law might lead to racial profiling: Police officers could use the primary seat belt law as an excuse to stop black or Hispanic drivers. My retort is that there are thousands of other laws a police officer could rely on to stop a person without a primary seat belt law. This argument reminds me of the “any port in a storm” argument. If you can’t find a good reason, you can always make one up.

I have always lamented the loss of civics classes in our schools. I know that there are some places where civics is taught, but there are many citizens who have never studied government or our legal system. They get most of their information from the Internet and listening to talk radio, neither too reliable (regardless of your political bent).

Life goes on regardless. With this new law, life will go on for more people for much longer than before.