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RHEE-diculous education reform blood money leaves many local politicians in TN with fat pockets

In Uncategorized on October 31, 2013 at 7:22 AM

RHEE-diculous education reform blood money leaves many local politicians in TN with fat pockets

It’s time for the parents, teachers and school administrators to stand up to the bullies in our government and take back our schools. 

They, people like Rhee and Huffman, are not interested in making sure that our children are getting a good education in our public schools or even creating education reform that will truly make a difference. 

They are all about the money and what it will do for them and their political careers. 

We need to kick them out of Tennessee, too, and they can take Haslam with them. He is no friend to the public school system and needs to be replaced! Submitted as a comment by By: kellyfretz on 1/16/13 at 10:23, Nashville City Paper.

Letter to the editor submission by Karen Bracken,
http://www.tnacc.net/

Many months ago I researched the campaign contributions from Students First received by TN legislators (all of them).  

What I found convinced me that we have special interest groups influencing the decisions made in Nashville.   

At the time I had no idea that SF had targeted TN to push their progressive agenda.  This explains why the push to increase Charters in TN.   

Kevin Huffman (xhubby to Rhee-both from Teach For America) Chris Barbic – Director Achievement School District  (Broad Academy graduate and Teach For America) is a dangerous combination in Tennessee that must be ended.   

I have only shared my information with a few activists in TN.  I had also found and shared the information about Student’s First and their 990’s.  I was waiting for the appropriate time to share my research with everyone.
 
Well an article was just released and it exposes some of our legislators (my spreadsheet reveals many more than the article) and the fact they cannot and will not ever support our efforts to repeal Common Core.  WE MUST GET THEM OUT OF OFFICE. 

 Dolores Gresham and Sen. Dickerson need to be at the top of the list. Dickerson is a doctor. First term in office he gets a prime committee appointment and is given the position of 2nd Vice Chair????   It is time for committee reform. 

We have people making decisions about our children’s education that know nothing about education. Even to this day most remain clueless about Common Core.  

We need to ensure that people assigned to committees have experience in the field and they are not taking contributions from people or companies that can influence the decisions of the committee. Anyone that would like to see my spreadsheet can do so upon request.
 
PLEASE read the article below and share it with everyone.  It is time to pay the piper.  Read all the way through.  The end is the shocker and this author is NOT from Tennessee.

So why so much included in her article about Tennessee?  Could it be corruption abounds in Tennessee legislature?
 
 Karen
 
—–Original Message—–
From: 
Sent: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 1:10am
To: karen.bracken@reagan.com
Subject: [New post] How About Some Rhee-lated Information from Tax Documents?

How About Some Rhee-lated Information from Tax Documents?
by deustch29

I have been reading tax forms. 990s– the form of the nonprofit organization (no 1040s for them).
It might sound boring, but I guess that all depends upon whose tax forms they are.

Two 990s are the subject of this post. The first is the 2011 (August 2011 to July 2012) 990 for Michelle Rhee’s reform lobbying organization, StudentsFirst (SF). The second is the 2011 990 from the lesser-known SF sister organization, StudentsFirst Institute (SFI).  Both forms were signed by Michelle Rhee on June 13, 2013 and filed with the IRS in Ogden UT on June 18, 2013.

The Best of Both Worlds: 501(c)3 and 501(c)4
Both SF and SFI are nonprofits. However, SF is a 501(c)4, and SFI, a 501(c)3. A 501(c)3 is limited in the percent of its budget that it can devote to lobbying. (Violation of this restriction is the reason that Common Cause filed its whistleblower complaint with the IRS against the American Legislative Exchange Council [ALEC] in April 2012.) However, a 501(c)4 does not have such a restriction. Therefore, SFI needs SF in order to unleash as much lobbying as it likes in statehouses around the country. 

Here is the 501(c)4 freedom that causes reformer faces to light up:
501(c)(4) organizations can engage in unlimited lobbying so long as it pertains to the organization’s mission. 

501(c)(3) organizations are not permitted to engage in political activity, endorse or oppose political candidates, or donate money or time to political campaigns, but 501(c)(4) organizations can do all of the above. [Emphasis added.]

One might wonder why Rhee is operating both 501(c)3 and 501(c)4 organizations. After all, why not just operate SF, the 501(c)4, if the goal is unregulated lobbying?

Tax deductions.  As a 501(c)3, SFI allows for deductions not allowed to the SF 501(c)4:

In regards to supporting these organizations, donations made to 501(c)(3) organizations are deductible to the full extent of the law as charitable contributions. Donations made to 501(c)(4) organizations are not deductible, though some businesses who make these contributions often write them off as advertising or business expenses. …

If you want the best of both worlds, you can have two separate but affiliated organizations – one a charitable 501(c)(3) and the other a 501(c)(4) lobbying arm. 

Many trade organizations lobby extensively on behalf of their members, but have an affiliated 501(c)(3) foundation for charitable giving and educational purposes. [Emphasis added.]
Rhee wants “the best of both worlds.”

(Rhee has a second 501(c)4, the Hartford, CT-based Great New England Public Schools Alliance (GNEPSA). GNEPSA portrays itself as “grass roots.” However, it contributors include NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the self-proclaimed “most trusted educator” Steve Perry, and, of course, SF.)

Rhee Is on a Mission
Each of Rhee’s two tax forms requires the respective organization to state its mission. Here’s the SF mission as stated on its 2011 990:
Our mission is to build a movement  to defend the interests of children in public education and pursue transformative reform so that America has the best education system in the world.

And the SFI mission, as noted on its 2011 990:
Our mission is to research and develop model policies that defend the interest of children in public education and pursue transformative reform, so that America has the best education system in the world.

One should realize that StudentsFirst was founded by the same Michelle Rhee who made children’s mouths bleed (taping her students mouths in class) and spoke casually (and fondly) of the incident years later to an audience of new teachers. 

This is the same Michelle Rhee seriously implicated in cheating during her time as DC chancellor and who was never thoroughly and competently investigated.  

I note as much in my post on the highly-questionable DC IMPACT study. (Whistleblower and former DC principal Adell Cotherne discusses the shoddy nature of DC teacher evaluation in this interview.)

In order to gain a better sense of the SF “mission,” consider this excerpt from Reuters reporter Stephanie Simon:
Schools don’t need more money, Rhee says; they need to be held accountable for how they spend it.
Rhee wants all teachers to be evaluated in large measure by how much they can boost their students’ scores on standardized tests. 

Scores are fed into a formula that rates how much “value” a teacher has added to each student over the year. 

Rhee says teachers who consistently don’t add value “SHOULD BE FIRED;” those who do well should be rewarded with six-figure salaries.

She has also successfully pushed legislation in several states, including Florida, Michigan, Nevada and Tennessee, to abolish seniority systems that protect veteran teachers and put rookies first in line for layoffs without regard to job performance.

Also high on Rhee’s agenda: giving parents more choices. She calls for expanding charter schools, which are publicly funded but often run by private companies. 

She wants to let parents seize control of failing public schools and push out most of the staff. (Parent trigger?, added for emphasis)

She also supports tax-funded vouchers, which can be used to pay private and parochial school tuition, for families living in neighborhoods with poor public schools. [Emphasis added.]

In short, Rhee is full speed ahead for “reforms” that in no way touch her life. She has millions. She has not been held accountable for cheating in DC. 

Via her TFA experience, Rhee exited the classroom before she faced any evaluation– and she was never held accountable for taping her students’ mouths. 

She has been politically elevated by philanthropic reform money– no seniority issues for her. 

And she is for charters, vouchers, and “parent trigger”– the consequences of which do not touch her privileged children.

Rhee is also connected to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which SF endorses.

And now for those 990s.
The 990s: Overall Revenue and Top Three Program Services

In 2010, SF reported $4.6 million in revenue. The amount rose to $15.6 million in 2011.

In 2010, SFI reported $3 million in revenue, which rose to $13 million in 2011.

In 2012, SF reported the following as its first of its “three largest program services”:

StudentsFirst has an active presence in state legislatures where they work to address legislative policies that promote transformative reform concerning teacher quality, parental empowerment, and fiscal responsibility. 

The team works to ensure proposed legislation meets the goal of transformative education reform. 

StudentsFirst conducts research, prepares policy briefings, hosts forums for the public and meets with legislators and members of their staff to discuss specific education strategies.  Expenses: $4,116,572 [Emphasis added.]

In the second “program service,” SF dares to write that its goal is to “empower teachers,” among others, to “create awareness about education issues and policies.” The expense: $3,300,635.

Finally, its third “service” is “to engage in electoral activity through direct support… and paid media campaigns including independent expenditures in support of candidates to further education reform.” [Emphasis added.]  The expense: $3,289,994.

In other words, SF is purchasing its will in public education.

SF is a lobbying machine.

As for SFI, its top three program expenses do not include the language of lobbying; however, SFI does report on “public policy development methods and analyses”; “oped articles,” and “meetings, events, and workshops.” The total top three expense: $6,987,719.

Let’s talk about “the” board.
SF and SFI: 

Two Organizations; One Board

Both SF and SFI share the same 23-member board. 

Listed below are the paid board members, including their titles and combined compensation. 

The combined SF and SFI hours for all listed below total 40 per week.

Michelle Rhee, Founder, CEO, and Director   $306,063

Dmitri Mehlhorn, Chief Operating Officer   $230,019

Enoch Woodhouse, VP of Operations   $89,027

Talya Stein, VP of Development   $187,221

Eric Lerum, VP of National Policy  $120,566

Maynappan Sevugan, VP of Communications   $115,893

Timothy Melton, VP of Legislative Affairs  $59,829

Ximena Hartsock, Director of Outreach   $163,249

Kathleen Delaski, Senior Advisor  $166,906

Katherine Gottfredson, National Policy/Legislation Manager   $134,476

Dana Peterson, State Director,   $126,295

Mafara Hobson, Manager, National Marketing   $123,835

Bridget Davis, State and Issue Manager   $119,178.

Do not confuse “nonprofit” with “volunteer.” There is money to be made as a compensated nonprofit board member.

Amid public questioning regarding Rhee’s “Democrat” status, in 2013, three Democrat board members– Stein, Sevugan, and Hartsock– resigned from SF.

Some additional noteworthy information on SF/SFI compensated board members: 

Melhorn is the chief operating officer of Bloomberg Law; 

Woodhouse is a former DC Public Schools Office of Data and Accountability employee.

Eric Lerum, author of the SF position article on CCSS, is VP of National Policy for the Fordham Institute.

As for the non-compensated SF/SFI board members, a number are celebrities: Connie Chung, Bill Cosby, Jennifer Johnson, Jalen Rose. 

Blair Taylor is chief community officer for Starbuck’s Coffee and a member of the National Assessment Governing Board (as in the Nation’s Report Card). 

Joel Klein, the Bloomberg-appointed, former NY schools chancellor, is on the SF/FI board. It is only fitting since Klein influenced former DC Mayor Adrien Fenty to hire Rhee as chancellor.

Three non-compensated SF/SFI board members remain:  David Coleman, Jason Zimba, and Ann-Margaret Michael.

Both the SF and SFI FY2011 990s allude to three board members “sharing a common employer” and that such “did not impact the organization’s decision to choose them as members of the board of directors.”
I’ll bet.

The “common employer” is not named in either tax document.
Student Achievement Partners.

For a detailed account of the highly nondemocratic choreography that is CCSS, see the post in which I examine the CCSS Memorandum of Understanding.

Student Achievement Partners is at the center of CCSS. They even refer to themselves as “lead architects” of CCSS on their website.

All three Student Achievement Partners “employees” left the SF/SFI boards effective June 30, 2012.

I think they were there in the first place in order to lobby for their product– CCSS.
Mission accomplished.

SF 2011 Campaign Contributions;
SF inserts itself in local political races by sending cash to reform-friendly candidates. As such, SF is doing its best to purchase democracy.

Below is a partial list of individuals/ organizations receiving SF campaign contributions and the amounts given. 

I have restricted my list to the first 15 SF campaign contributions on the list. 

However, the full list includes of 170 contributions ranging from $300 to $2 million. (See pages 41 thru 53 of the SF 2011 990 for the full list.)

Parents and Teachers for Putting Students First (San Rafael, CA)   $2 million

Better Education for NJ Kids, Inc.  (New Brunswick, NJ)  $200,000

MI Republican Admin Account (Lansing, MI)  $40,000

Ferrell Haile for Senate (Gallatin, TN)   $10,000

House Republican Caucus (Nashville, TN)   $10,000

Senate Republican Caucus (Nashville, TN)   $10,000

State Representative Kevin Brooks, (Cleveland TN), $5,000 dollars. (added for emphasis)

Steve Dickerson for State Senate (Nashville, TN)   $10,000

Friends of Dolores Gresham (Somerville, TN)   $8500

Friends of Joey Hensely (Hohenwald, TN)   $8500

Aspire Michigan (China, MI)   $7500

Principle Centered Leadership Committee (Miami, FL)   $7000

Citizens to Elect Jamilah Nasheed (St. Louis, MO)   $6700

Barry Doss for State Representative (Covington, TN)  $6500

Bill Spivey for State Representative (Lewisburg, TN)   $6500

Committee to Elect Richard Montgomery (Sevierville, TN)   $6500

A quick read of the full list shows that SF focused its 2011 contributions to political races in Tennessee, Florida, Missouri, and Georgia.

How Much to Buy America?

In reading these tax documents, I cannot help but wonder if our democracy is such a farce that it will crumble beneath the weight of the wallets of the wealthy removed. I wonder what it will take for them to realize that they are foolishly destroying the foundation upon which they themselves stand. In their arrogant fiscal elevation they forget that even they require the foundational institutions that form our democracy– public education being one such institution.

Handing millions over to the likes of Michelle Rhee is idiocy. Rhee is nothing more than some Frankenstein creation of bored philanthropy.  

Be careful, mainstream America. In promoting Rhee, you are confusing cash flow for substance.

Here’s a hint: When you hear that a candidate in a local election is being outspent by 10- or 20-to-1, vote for that candidate.
 
BCN Note:
We also could benefit from Legislators that are not on the dole with huge special interests and lobbyist. 

We need a return to a system where our teachers are paid to teach, our students are there to learn, parents have a say so, citizens are seeing accountability with their tax dollars and elected officials are not so self serving with palms outstretched taking any “blood” money a vested groups lays out.

I apologize for the length of this blog but details and researching the truth gets lengthy on occasion.

http://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2013/10/23/how-about-some-rhee-lated-information-from-tax-documents/

Local State Representatives receive  pocket money, bribes for radical education reform.

http://nashvillecitypaper.com/content/city-news/michelle-rhee-tn-pac-aids-three-metro-school-board-candidates

http://www.nashvillecitypaper.com/content/city-news/reforms-table-rhees-studentsfirst-gives-generously-legislative-campaigns

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Common Core: Letter to Editor addresses Ringstaffs defense of standards

In Uncategorized on April 24, 2013 at 9:41 AM

BCN Editorial:

Mr Martin Ringstaff you are wrong on so many levels about Common Core. 

You have been delivered perhaps a federal, State, Haslam issued talking points and you are sticking to script.

You have the appearance of being a total puppet or useful idiot of the federally directed program called Common Core that is ultimately nationalizing our states and local school systems.

Your many blunders in the recent article in the banner speaks volumes of your ability to follow marching orders.

We the people, we the legislators, we our representatives did not “vote” for Common Core. 

In 2009,  President Obama, created a stimulus package with taxpayer dollars to “get the economy going”  and from that allocated around 4.3 billion or so for RTTT, Race To The Top.

You, the state and it’s many bureaucrats were asked to bid, jump through hoops to get this money, a sort of competition. Everyone likes competition, right?

The starting pistol sounded and the race to the top or bottom however you choose to look at it has started. 

You put your beat foot forward and several stages later you were awarded a federal grant of 501 million to initiate RTTT.

With only dollar signs in your eyes you forgot to look and see what was was inside this neatly wrapped package.

In fact, very few if any knew Common Core was tucked in it and gulped down by useful idiots only because the taste of money overpowered the urge to see it’s content. 

You accepted Common Core, sight unseen, because at the time of your acceptance, the Common Core standards had not even been completed and signed off when the check was written. Was this purposeful? I’ll let you decide.

Tucked neatly and discreetly inside was only the mention of new standards, very little mention of Common Core or what it entailed.

This was mainly because so many on the board that issues the standards of Common Core would not sign off on them because they were convinced they would not work and get the results desired.

Mr Martin Ringstaff, and Dawn Robinson you are wrong on so many levels.

I received this well written letter to the editor of Bradley County News and have elected print it’s content, unedited.

This encourages me greatly that many within our community are starting to awaken to what our county, city and state leaders are doing to our community and our children.

It is obvious to me and as our thorough research deepens we can clearly see who the puppets and useful idiots are of our federal government.

As the facts are exposed and the dust clears you can begin to see that many of our local city, county and state led representatives have their arms extended through the fog interlocking with the federal government as they attempt to nationalize our education and take over the minds of our children through indoctrination.

Let history be the marker and all involved be held accountable for this federal takeover of our state educational system.

When the chips fall, and they are crumbling fast, let these leftist stand alone with the blood soaked grant money they received for the minds of our children.

Allow me to finish with this thought in mind. Ponder these few questions, please.

Who is responsible for bringing this to Bradley County and our state?

What vote is Mr Ringstaff and Mrs Robinson talking about? Clearly, they assume that state legislators or an elected representative did vote on it, that did not happen. It was a bidding war for stimulus money. NO VOTE was cast that I am aware of by my State  Representative!

Who is vested in this endeavor? Clearly, adjusting the curriculum to the needs of big business makes me wander and guess to the extent of the Chamber of Commerces, a lap dog for the UN, involvement in this endeavor.

Is getting rid of reading literature and adjusting to reading of “technical manuals” going to keep the interest of our children and optimize their learning?

Will reducing our learning standards from the current  “135 to less than 50” Common Core Standards really going to heighten our learning experience?

Why are we not addressing parents in this issue? In the Banner article that started this conversation, Mr Ringstaff did not mention one time the parents and if I recall correctly he did not mention the students as it pertained to their well being. Something is rotten here and it does smell good.

Why are our concerns, many emails and phone calls not being returned when we are inquiring about Common Core.

I have seen one email  from Mr Ringstaff where he dismissed the revealed research as “propaganda” and an article to the Banner about his visit to the Rotary, a UN representative, an NGO or Non Governmental Organization of the United Nations.

I will complete my editorial here and ask you to read the words below very carefully and see the concern of this citizen, taxpayer who is very concerned about the direction that Mr Ringstaff and Mrs Robinson are taking our children in exchange for federal grant money.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR:

Dear Martin Ringstaff and Dawn Robinson,

I read the article recently published in the Banner in which you addressed the Rotary Club on the subject of Common Core.

You paint a very positive picture for the future of education in Cleveland and all of Tennessee because of this new set of standards and the curriculum that will be brought in to align itself with these new standards. 

I have read many things on Common Core as well as other education systems that are being implemented around the country.

I am sure you would disagree with a lot of that analysis that I have studied and would just dismiss it off hand so I promise I won’t bother to argue my points using these sources. 

I find local officials are quick to be dismissive and not engage in debate because they don’t like the sources of information rather than deal with the substance of the information presented. I know this from experience. However my most typical response in none at all. This being the case, I will argue my points strictly from your own words as presented in this article.

The very first thing I noticed in this article is that the word “parent” is nowhere to be found; not even the slightest hint of a reference is ever brought into consideration.

It is very clear from my research (sorry I said I wasn’t going to do that) and from this article that parents are completely left out of this process and their consent was never sought in any of this. 

Who is in control and driving this? I can certainly refer to my research and rattle off the names of government agencies, think tanks, foundations and major corporations but that would violate the promise I made to you at the very beginning of this e-mail. To answer that question let’s refer to your article to provide the answer:

1. State Leadership Council. Who are they? Apparently there are 22 of you arguing details. Did we elect these people as our representatives? No we did not.         

According to this article, this group is charged with the task of “working through the transition” to Common Core so they are certainly not objective and independent.

2. K-12 Educators, College Educators. Again, a generic name to given to create the illusion of approval. 

I challenge you to have one of your teachers go to the Banner and make their own personal, stirring, passionate case for the need of Common Core from their own heart. 

On the other hand, I know several teachers who are at minimum shaking their heads and at maximum making plans to exit the profession because of what this represents. Concerning college “educators”; Are you really trying to tell me that literature professors are begging you to make students read  menus, technical manuals and speeches instead of Homer, Gibbon, Dickens, Longfellow, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, and Shakespeare? 

Are you telling me that math and science professors are begging you to strip away the already bare minimum content of Euclidean geometry and physical science classes to allow for more writing and critical thinking skills to be taught during that class time? 

3. Here is the best one that really gets me; Business leaders. This may be just me, but I do not care less about the opinions of business leaders as to what they think my child needs to learn in kindergarten. They have no right to dictate that we change our historic liberal arts education system into their own personnel workforce development racket. This is just another example of corporations transferring their costs (in this case it is employee training and development) to the taxpayer.

Don’t you see how the local school systems have been cheated out of money and made to go beg to the state and federal government for funding just for their very existence?

 Do you not understand that all the PILOT agreements/tax abatements to corporations and now the new tool of tax increment financing pose an ever increasing threat to our tax base and ultimately school funding? 

In this state, the school board has no voice on these decisions on whether to enter into these agreements.In some states you do. 

Do not believe the lie that the school portion of taxes is protected in these agreements. The city of Cleveland as well as the county have run up massive amounts of debt over the last 20 years. Ask these mayors, city council members, county commissioners and members of the local industrial development board why these agreements with corporations haven’t produced budget surpluses? I have asked them. They won’t answer me. Maybe they will answer you. (Warning: broken promise ahead!!) 

If you would like a copy of an NEA study on the effects of tax abatements on school funding, I would be happy to give that to you. 
Sorry, I got off topic. 

In summary, these corporations have taken our money to build their plants, buy their equipment, pay portions of their employees wages through tax credits and now they want to use our money and our K-12 and our universities to be their own personnel training grounds for equipment operators, quality technicians, and other general plant workers and supervisors? 

I say train your own workers with your own money and stay out of education which should belong and be accountable to parents and students alone.

You say “it is not a mandatory, nationally driven, “you have to do it or else” kind of situation”. Really? 

You would have me to believe that the federal government just handed Tennessee $501,000,000 with no strings attached??? 

There was nothing in the Race to the Top application process in which you agreed to implement these standards sight unseen? 

There was nothing that Lamar Alexander had to agree to in order to get us out of the consequences of not being able to meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind? I need help to believe that but I am certainly willing to listen.

In closing I never really made the case for what is wrong with Common Core in and of itself? I will do that now.

– What you described is outcome based education principles. How will that help translate into the real world?

How would you like to be on the operating table and have an outcome based surgeon? Will you give them credit for 85% of the operation being done right? 

Would you get on a plane with an outcome based pilot? Would you give him a passing grade for missing the runway by only 200 yards?

How about outcome based dentistry? 

Outcome based accounting? 

I can go on but I hope you get my point: You are directing children toward mediocrity. 

When your aim is mediocrity you end up a total failure. We don’t accept this anywhere else, why do so in education?

– You are robbing the youngest student of the joy of learning at a time that they are the most teachable just for the sake of utilitarianism. They are not being taught anymore; They will now be trained and assessed. You will direct them toward a predetermined career path by an extremely early age when I personally would council a person to not ever worry about what you want to be before the end of your second year of college. Obviously we differ on that point.

– The removal of great books for “relevant” non-fiction. What is wrong with that? I am not a very smart person but let someone who is answer this question. 

In The Closing of the American Mind, By Dr. Allan Bloom he says these things that I pulled out that text:

“It is not merely the tradition that is lost when the voice of civilization elaborated over millennia has been stilled in this way. It is being itself that vanishes beyond the dissolving horizon”.

“As the awareness that we owed almost exclusively to literary genius falters, people become more alike, for want of knowing they can be otherwise”.

“Thus the failure to read good books both enfeebles the vision and strengthens our most fatal tendency – the belief that the here and now is all there is.”

To all on this e-mail. You did not start us down this road. It has been going on a long time but I believe Common Core represents the final death nail in the coffin of our educational journey in our nation. 

Please consider these words and consider the ramifications of this system to future generations.

Thank you,

Rob Bower

Source of conversation: I encourage you to read this paper often as The Cleveland Daily Banner does an excellent job of covering the “happenings” in our community. Go to the stands and buy up multiple copies and give them to friends and families. Please use the Banner as a great source of information, then entertain your self and turn to BCN for the rest of the story.

http://www.clevelandbanner.com/view/full_story/22315165/article-Ringstaff–Common-Core–has-%E2%80%98awesome%E2%80%99-prospects

Please remember, all my posts, future and present, are my opinion based on facts and my research. I am simply using my first amendment rights to redress concerns with my elected reps, those appointed to represent me and my tax dollars they spend.

Bradley County leaders decision to tax and spend, not sitting well with taxpayers

In Uncategorized on February 26, 2013 at 10:52 AM

The Bradley County News room just received an email that I thought would make a very appropriate “Letter to the Editor” type blog to be addressed in this news outlet and shared with our 50,000 plus readers in 106 countries.

The relevance of the letter comes on the heels of a huge regional tax and spend program startup with meetings to be kicked off in the month of March.

The Local Chamber of Commerce and other NGOs will be gambling billions upon billions of your tax dollars on “economic development” for our 3 state, 16 County megaregional “Thrive 2055” growth program.

The enormity of this project will be horrendously expensive and we the taxpayer will get very little benefit and we will see very little oversight by our elected leaders as non governmental organizations run amuck with your hard earned tax dollars.

The biggest message I received from this email was our locally elected representatives are not concerned with reducing our debt, only receiving more grants to spur new spending sprees. That is a fantastic summation of where our leaders are directing us with this regional growth plan.

They all “say or preach” the right thing when the press is around or hog the print to fuss about DC when they are doing the same thing only at the local level and on a smaller scale.

It’s time the citizens and ultimately taxpayers speak up and say enough is enough. We do not like the direction our County is going and we want to preserve our children’s future not gamble it away for the next federal grant that may come our way.

I think it’s high time we take responsibility for our city and county. Act responsible and live within our means for a change, cut our debt instead of mounding it on our children’s backs, robbing them of their own ability to be prosperous.

Letter to the Editor:

Gentlemen,
Let me please begin by recalling some of your quotes that are the basis of this e-mail to you all.
 
Gary Davis quote from TFP article by Paul Leach on Jan. 11 2013:

“These are all very good signs that we are slowly but surely growing our way out of this recession and, at least in Southeast Tennessee, doing our part to generate the revenue we need without raising taxes”
 
Jeff Morelock quote from TFP article by Paul Leach on Dec. 5, 2012:

“Are we going to invest in future industry here and have growth so we don’t have to increase taxes, or are we going to tell industry we’re not interested in you coming here?”
 
J. Adam Lowe from a CDB article 2/22/2013 by David Davis:

He “absolutely despises the conversation about reducing the deficit. I want to eliminate the deficit. I want to reduce the debt”.
He said his parents would pay more in taxes if they knew it would go toward paying foreign debt.
“There is not trust it will go to that”. “Their concern is that it will continue to fund programs…”
 
Each of these articles were about different issues but I found a common thread running through each of them in your quotes. All of you rail against Washington. All of you talk about how federal debt is an issue and all you ascribe to the same basic political and economic philosophies as the solution.
 
We have our own ever increasing debt problem in Bradley County and none of you talk about it (at least publicly as I can tell). It’s always about how bad things are in Washington. As a proportion we are at least as bad as Washington in this county. Is it not hypocrisy on your part to attack Washington when our situation is approaching a mirror image? And unlike Washington, you can’t just print more money until it is as worthless as the the currency became during the days of  the Wiemar Republic just preceding Hitler.
 
Instead of remaining within the bounds of what is expected of your job you take on the task of “economic development” based on the principles of sustainable development, public/private partnerships and now regional growth. We have been at this kind of activity for over 20 years now? How has it worked for us? Have all these PILOT programs, incentives and business “attraction” produced a ballooning budget surplus yet that you have so hoped for? No it hasn’t and it never will. Do you know what else? I cannot find one study, one piece of documentation anywhere that tells us this unholy alliance between big business and bigger government works. I have multiple studies from the right wing (The John Birch Society) all the way to the left wing (The NEA) as well as many other legal and academic studies that show what you are engaging in always fails. I defy you to find me one study that shows the success of government directed economic development. Understand: I want to believe it works. I want to believe that I can turn all of life’s problems over to my government and they will create a “livable community” for me. The evidence does not bare that out.
 
“Whirlpool is still here.” “Look at Volkswagen and Amazon”: is not a study. Sorry. There are always silver shovel ceremonies and short term bubbles of economic growth (makes for great headlines and photo ops) but that bubble always bursts. Then it leads to more economic development which means more debt! You promote these deals, we provide infrastructure and services at no cost to these corporations. They take federal, state and local monies in these programs. The result: either they are long gone by the time it is time for them to begin paying their full tax burden or if they are still here, we are hit up for another PILOT agreement. You are all aware of cities that have gone bankrupt such as Stockton, Cal. The big lie in the media is that it was all about out of control public employee benefits, retirements and the SEIU. I know there is some truth in part. However the real issue in these California cities is their net bonded debt that they could not pay. This debt was created by redevelopment schemes and business attraction programs just like what is being unleashed in our area now. What makes you think you will do better this time? Regionalism? Thrive 2055 will take care of it?  
 
As stated earlier; none of you suggest addressing the spending side of the equation to solve our deficit issues and spending “needs”. All of you agree that your activity will generate growth, that will generate jobs, that will generate revenue. Once again, we have been doing this for a long time, where is the budget surplus? Where is the debt reduction? Why do you still despair over a lack of revenue?

Your quotes are essentially threats to the people: let us spend this money on economic development or we will raise your taxes. Those are the only options you give. Jeff Morelock, this is especially true of your quote. You clearly give no thought to spending reduction. You want to grow the tax base to match the size of this government that continually increases. How are any of you different than Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama? I can’t tell the difference. These are the ones you probably all criticize and complain about “strings attached” as you continually take money in federal grants and sit back and act appalled at their behavior.
 
Let me make it simple and if you disagree, then at least I said my peace to you.
PILOT programs, TIF and other Tax abatements are wrong for four reasons: 
1. People like free stuff. Whether it is an individual or a corporation. I don’t blame them: they would be stupid for not taking what you are offering because if they don’t, their competition will. Once people or corporations start taking free stuff, they will never stop and demand more free stuff. I asked another county commissioner this  question to his face one time: Where does it end? He shook his head and muttered “I don’t know”. How sad of a response; yet he still votes for all this.

2. Corporations that have tax abatements do not pay for the services they consume. If you want to perform an experiment: let all county residents only pay the school portion of their property taxes for 6 months and see how far you get. And you don’t even have to build us a new fire station or a new road! The NEA study takes my position because they know the safeguards written into the law to protect school taxes does not work.

3. As you start using our tax money as an incentive do you not think other municipalities, regional entities, etc… are doing the same against us? I know in business when someone cuts a price, there is always retaliation against the price cutter. Soon a price war ensues. Gary Davis: I know you understand this: That is why you were caught on a YouTube video at the Walden Club asking our local municipalities to “stop competing with each other, that’s the point”. You said: “We don’t need to compete”. In business, that is a clear violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust act; In government, I guess you can create any sort of Cartel you want. You must be really excited about Thrive 2055. This is a whole new layer of unelected, unaccountable government who make decisions on what businesses will go where and what areas grow. However, this didn’t work in ancient Rome where it was pursued by Emporer Constantine in Constantinople. It did not work in the Soviet Union, and it will not work here. Central planning ALWAYS fails and leaves a trail of debt and poverty. Again, I will share multiple studies if you are interested.

4. NGOs like the Chamber of Commerce and quasi-government organizations like the Industrial Development board shop our tax money to people and corporations. I know these things are not your creation but your quotes and actions show you are more than willing participants. Again, these are unelected organizations and individuals that have no accountability to the people of Bradley County but declare themselves as our “representatives”. There were some very smart people who wrote our various state constitutions who outlawed the very activity the IDB engages in. I know full well these industrial development boards were created to get around state constitutional restraints that forbid municipalites from lending their credit to private comapnies or individuals. Again, many of these things came into being as a result of the New Deal and are not your doing, but they are still wrong. You can choose to not go along with this if you want. 
 
In closing,
We are poor. Let’s start acting like it. Stop complaing about Washington when in truth Washington is your life blood. We rely on federal grant money and you know it as well as I do. Its’ not just funding our local government directly from Washington – you can even look at our local “growth”. For example look at Spring Creek which is being built with HUD 221 backed financing. This is not real, organic economic growth and you know it. These developments are built with non-recourse loans with a lower down payment than any mortgage today. This is a formula for disaster. That’s exactly what caused the housing bubble in the first place! However there is always a recourse – The American taxpayer!!

Show Washington how it’s done. You have your own debt problem to deal with.
J. Adam Lowe: If you are serious about debt, I suggest you offer up a proposal to raise property tax rates in the county with all the proceeds to go to a “lock box” for debt reduction. Think about it – you can be the Ross Perot of Bradley County!! Remember he ran on a platform to tax a gallon of gasoline $.50 that went right to debt reduction? I don’t think you will get that far in your political career by pointing attention to our local debt load but it’s worth a try.

The truth of the matter is that all of you don’t want more revenue for debt reduction: you want more revenue for more spending. My proof is the wheel tax proposal that failed. More money for more borrowing.

Gentlemen, please consider going in a new direction. Consider these words and I am happy to reconsider where I am wrong in my conclusions. Can you say the same about yourselves? I have nothing against any of you personally as I have not met many of you. It’s not any of you as a person that drives me to write this: It is the political and economic philosophies you are following that I find objectionable.
 
P.S.
Let’s start by pulling out of that exit 20 land deal that the city and county paid about $4 millon dollars too much for. I would like a copy of the property assessment for that land by the way. can one of you please scan and send your copy to me?
 
Thank you for your attention,
 
Rob Bower 

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