And so here we are. The economy in Michiana is feeling the self-fulfilling recession a bit harder than many. We’re in the RV capitol of the world and that’s unfortunate for us. These economic problems are affecting the industry due to its nature as an extravagance. Normally, that’s where its susceptibility to the recession would stop. However, this downturn is also based on the high fuel prices we’ve been suffering. The RV, again, by its very nature succumbs to this pressure. The results have been disastrous locally. Elkhart, of course, has lead the state in unemployment with well over 10%. In fact, the Michiana area contributes 4 counties to the top 10 counties in Indiana with the highest unemployment rates. I could go on, but everyone here knows and feels the economic pressures that occur day to day.
St. Joe county, being intertwined with Elkhart county in nearly all aspects, can certainly empathize due to its nearly 8% unemployment and exemption from the property tax cap amendment made to the Indiana Constitution; a very dubious distinction, indeed. Many local businesses are struggling to stay alive and outlast the economic turmoil. Sadly, many have not survived such as the Mishawaka Brew Co.
Even the city and county themselves are feeling the pinch. They, however, have an option that the business owners do not. Steve Luecke has pulled it out as nearly the very first option…raising income taxes; the so-called Local Option Income Tax, as though any of it was “optional.” In a night owl session last night, the mayor was able to push a 3/4 percent increase through the city council despite the fact that of the community members who showed up, 200 were against it and 5 supported it.
Mayor Luecke, throughout the debate, has shown his colors. Last week, he made clear in his comments where the burden should lie when he advised that the tax increases he was seeking would be “…about a million dollars short of replacing all the revenue the city will lose to the imposition of property tax caps.” He reiterated these suppositions during the hearing yesterday when he made comments like:
“These are not new additional dollars for us, these are replacement dollars to replace what was lost with the property tax cap.”
“…even with a local tax, local government will still have to do some streamlining.”
Mayor Luecke even went so far as saying that it was time for us to “start paying back” for the tax breaks. “Paying back” intimates that the money is the government’s and loaned to us. Mr. Mayor, this is the wrong country and wrong century for that type of backward, early 1900s thinking. Never has it been so clear that a local elected leader has no grasp of responsibility. The underlying assumption is that the government’s ease should come before the people’s. The very basic, first tenet of Socialism.
Mr. Luecke, apparently the entire situation has eluded your iron-clad grasp. The money is not inherently the government’s, nor is the decision on where it is best used. This right and responsibility is solely the people’s. The tax breaks are the government paying the people back for the sacrifices they have made while the city has made none.
This tax relief was not meant to redirected from one title to the other. The point was to lessen the burden that you and others with your superior attitude put upon us. It is the people’s money and they decide what they can afford to give to government. The government is then charged with making the best decisions to make the most with what it is given. When the money runs out, you tighten your collective belts and stop spending until the people opt to pay you more.
Mr. Luecke’s first move should have been to cut his and the rest of City Hall’s salaries. He’s making over $100,00 a year as South Bend’s mayor. I would like to see what percentage of citizens feel they’re getting $100,000 worth of effort from him.
Next, the city should stop paying for city workers’ personal use of city vehicles. City employees, with few exceptions, should leave their work vehicles at work and use their own vehicles or public transportation to get back and forth to work like everyone else.
Next, let’s eliminate all the “businesses” that our city is trying to run like Blackthorn golf course. The last 2 years, Blackthorn has lost over $80,000. The College Football Hall of Fame is a mediocre city attraction at best, yet it loses over a million dollars annually. Many have expressed in buying it. Allow one to do so.
It’s obvious that the solutions are there and there is plenty of city fat that can be trimmed. Mr. Mayor, it is your obligation to make sure that this is done. It is dishonest and contemptuous to attempt make the citizens of St. Joe county, many who do not even live in South Bend nor benefit from their services, pay for your mistakes.