Three Immediate Measures

Title: Three Immediate Measures the City can Implement to Raise Revenue, Improve Infrastructure, Protect the Environment, and Improve Public Safety

Author: Jeffrey Hank

I propose three simple and effective ways the city can raise revenue without placing undue burdens on existing taxpayers and that will collectively be cost effective for the City while improving the environment and public safety. The council should act immediately to institute these measures.

1) INSTITUTE A PLASTIC BAG TAX: A simple tax of say, 10 cents a bag, with no exemptions, on all merchants. Enforcement costs should be kept to a minimum by having PACE officers (on foot) randomly check to see which merchants are not reporting and paying upon probable cause/reasonable suspicion that a merchant is not complying. The merchants would submit a separate payment to the City solely based upon bags distributed. This tax would hopefully have the effect of reducing waste (protecting the environment) and reliance on petroleum products, encouraging reusable/sustainable shopping practices, and raising revenue. The money should be specifically earmarked so council members or the DDA cannot thieve it and use it for subsidies for crony developers, etc. The money should be divided to pay for a few key obligations of government. I propose, after administrative costs, 20% to our public schools (keep Red Cedar open, re-open Bailey); 20% to sidewalk infrastructure; 20% to sewer/storm drain infrastructure; 20% to parks and landscape management; and 20% to a fund to subsidize the installation of solar/geothermal, or other "alternative" or "green" home power or waste reduction systems directly for homeowners in the city. This would improve property values and make the city overall more "green". See this article from the New York Times discussing various efforts to do so: NYTIMES ARTICLE. While I don't support Nanny Bloomberg (he'd be right at home with the nanny-staters in EL gov't), this is a reasonable solution to fund government and protect the environment.

2) ELIMINATE PACE TRUCKS- SELL THEM ALL: Sell all or most PACE trucks. Those young shaved-head military-type tax collectors who appear to be in good shape should be out walking when they hand out tickets to everyone. Why do we waste all this money on vehicles so they can drive around and be lazy all day? Why don't they set a healthy example of a walkable community, get to know the residents and neighborhoods, improve community relations, and cut down on carbon emissions from all the gas they burn? We could save money on the fleet of vehicles by selling and not replacing/maintaining them. Exceptions for motorized transport for the tax collectors should be made only if they are actually disabled. Keep one or two trucks for when PACE goes out into the hinterlands of East Lansing....although they appear to be spending most of their time collecting taxes in the downtown/student areas. They could also ride bikes and help make EL a more bike-able community. Having the tax agents actually interact with civilians could help lead to improved community relations through mediation and relationship building.

3) TAX MARIJUANA SALES: The city has already lost an estimated couple million dollars in tax revenue in the last few years it could have raised to fund 1) education 2) public safety 3) sidewalks 4) parks 5) storm water/sewer infrastructure 6) build and/or make up for monies lost on the project formerly known as city center 2. In this time, drug cartels, drug dealers, corrupt police-politicians and gangsters and money laundering banks/businesses have been the main beneficiaries of a black market. The marijuana is already being sold and consumed in large quantities. I suppose we could pretend to ignore it even though many of the politicians in town (and some city attorneys) are reportedly weed smokers themselves. Nathan Triplett, the supposed civil-libertarian, should be talking about "Legalize and tax marijuana! Protect the elderly by using the funds to fix sidewalks and provide handicapped parking! Save the children by keeping them from being serfs to the prison-industrial complex and fund public education! Chase the black market gangsters and the crooked politicians profiting from prohibition out of town!" Colorado is looking at two taxes, a sales and excise tax of 10-15% each.Marijuana Sales and Tax Article. Remember, no one has ever died from cannabis use (unlike alcohol and other deaths we've seen in this town). You are more likely to die from a botched drug raid at the hands of militarized police than you are from use or sale of cannabis. We need to improve public safety. Save the children!!!

Let's examine a hypothetical ripe for PR readers. Say "city attorney" Dennis McGinty is suffering from arthritis. He heads down to the local dispensary in city center 2.5 and purchases some medical marijuana to relieve his condition from civil libertarian Triplett and a local ACLU that actually does something. Today, since Dennis smokes the good stuff, purple haze skunk crossed with blends of AK47 and white widow, Dennis contributes $45 to the city coffers through the marijuana tax. He likes plastic bags, and since he has consumer freedom to still choose to use them, he elects to take three bags, contributing another 30 cents to city coffers. Dennis, on his way home, passes by Eliot Singer, out for a walk. Because the city now has money to fix sidewalks, Eliot doesn't trip and sprain his ankle by the newly re-opened Bailey school, and doesn't sue the city as a result. But for these taxes, Bailey wouldn't be a school. The neighborhood has less trash due to the tax, and families have moved in because a school is open. The property values have gone up due to this, and the fact that half of the homeowners have used the city's program to install geothermal and solar panels on their homes. The PACE officer walks by and takes a fresh breath of air, clean from the lack of exhaust from all the PACE trucks. Not so focused on collecting taxes anymore, he makes sure it's safe for the kids to cross the street. All is quiet in the neighborhood, pleasing Erik Altmann and many others. The sewer systems have been upgraded, ending the flooding of Bailey basements, and all are pleased about that as well. We make sure the new green energy meters don't give off increased radiation. The police can focus on real crime, like the sexual assaults on Charles street, or the questionable 1031 deals Bellfy has uncovered. All is well in the utopian village of East Lansing as Weckesser and Hank quaff some craft beers with Dave Thorin at a pub on Division street talking about how it used to be.....

Back to reality, collectively, these initiatives would 1) save the city money, 2) protect the environment, 3) raise revenue to invest in neglected infrastructure, 4) improve public safety, 5) improve education. All of these are laudable goals widely supported by most of our neighbors, and these solutions aren't particularly harmful to anyone other than plastic bag manufacturers, bloated government bureaucracy, and black market gangsters. Less carbon emissions, less plastic trash ending up in ocean gyres, more green energy in the city. More money for schools and infrastructure. Higher property values. Safer streets due to improved sidewalks and an end to much of the drug "war"....Jesus said blessed be the peacemakers. Who is offering solutions to end the war against the Constitution?

I am. Please join me. Let's save the kids, invest in education, and improve our community. Let's protect our local environment. Let's lead the way to a green economy as much as practical. Let's fund our public schools and create neighborhood schools and valuable properties that attract the families and jobs we need to improve our neighborhoods and quality of life. These are holistic solutions. I hope the council acts upon them immediately.

Jeffrey A. Hank, Attorney
Mailing Address: PO Box 1358
East Lansing, MI 48826
Telephone: (888) 490-8550 ext. 107
Facsimile: (888) 490-7750

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