News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 25, 2013

READERS’ FORUM: March 25, 2013


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Taxes hiding where you can’t see them

It is no secret. Hoosiers pay a lot of hidden taxes. Now, here down the pipeline come some more.

It is a done deal that Terre Haute will pay to extend a sewer trunk and a water main under Indiana 46 near the eastside Walmart so that favorably owned land outside the city limits can be developed to its maximum profitability.

We are told that this million-dollar project will be paid for through TIF money collected on nearby developments. What we are not supposed to notice is that the additional sewage generated outside city limits by this expansion of services has the potential to quickly overwhelm the capacity of our spanking new sewage treatment plant and related overflow lagoons before they are even constructed.

One wonders if this is part of the master plan the city hammered out with the state and the EPA regarding resolution of our combined sewage and storm drain runoff problem. Ratepayers within the city are already promised to pay double or triple on sewage disposal bills in the coming few years to cover the cost of these needed improvements. Now, they will be privileged to pay for treatment of sewage generated outside the city limits, too? And for fire hydrants as well?

Once the inhabitants of the new developments secure city sewage disposal, water lines and fire protection services, they will be in a position to resist annexation indefinitely. (Free lunch anyone?)

I know, I know. It is only raw sewage so why raise such a stink?

On a separate issue regarding sewage separation, wasn’t it barely half a dozen years ago that the city decided to outsource billing for sewage disposal to the water company? We were told at that time that sure, this would cost each paying customer an extra $10 per year, but the city wouldn’t then have to pay a government employee to do the billing. Big savings were at hand. (No employees were subsequently cut from the payroll plus we picked up a spin doctor for the mayor’s office about the same time. Big savings. Big whoop.)

The neat thing about having the water company handle the sewer bills, we were told, would be that they could leverage collections. Somebody doesn’t pay their sewer bill, the water company shuts off their water (or at least threatens to do so), and presto, the slackers pony up.

So, how many slackers were pressured into paying up? Zero. How many times were water customers faced with service disconnect for failing to pay their sewage bill? None. Threatened? Never happened. Not even once. It was a dull idea. Maybe even a stupid one if not a total misrepresentation. In our hearts if not our heads, we all knew it wouldn’t work. Right? And it didn’t. If it had worked, somebody would have been standing up on a soapbox taking credit for it long ago.

Ask yourself, why would the water company threaten its own customers because they owed somebody else money? It would have been entrepreneurial suicide akin to a sporting goods outlet saying, “Look, mister, we’re not going to sell you these golf clubs until you pay for that veggie burger you ate last week over at Big Joe’s Pork Palace on Meridian.”

So now, since the much-ballyhooed leveraging failed to produce, the city is once again separating the sewage bills from the water bills. The change will cost each paying customer, we are told, only an additional $10 per annum. Again, $10 then and another $10 now. This adds up to only a few hundred thousand dollars per year citywide so it must be a bargain of sorts.

Of course, we also now pay separately for fire-hydrant maintenance.

There is much more to be said about the transparency of hidden taxes but for now, just this. The government can continue to cut your taxes, if you like, but it will continue to cost you double.

— Clay Wilkinson

Terre Haute

Focus on what ‘change’ means

Politically speaking, “change” should mean to make things better, not necessarily to make things different. Today, our political representatives use the word “change” in vague terms to express their hoped-for and well-intended result of legislative policies; without identifying who or what will be affected, how they will be affected and how and when the “change” will be achieved. Deliberate vagueness of expression seems to be the political rule of the day.

Our freedom of speech allows everyone including our representatives to basically say what they want to say. It sounds nice when they say they want “change” because it makes us assume the making of things better for everyone and it always sounds nice. But that niceness is usually a vague, meaningless expression that is being used with little to no informative or enlightening knowledge for anyone.

Man has always had the power to destroy many things and through the course of history man has made ample use of his faculty. When our representatives want to “change” things, many times this means one group is helped at the expense of other groups. They say this way of “change” makes things better.

Remember, all intended “change” through government legislation is paid for by funds taken away from the citizens. So what then is expected and what is required from all our representatives in our cities, states and country? Passing and implementing non-contradictory legislation within the parameters of the government’s authority and thoroughly explaining to everyone that is and will be affected by the legislation why the citizens need it, how much it will cost and who will pay for it. This is a government responsibility to the country and to every citizen.

Our elected public servant political representatives are to be held to a high standard because of where and how they receive the funds, and for the public to remember not all representatives are physically, morally or intellectually up to the task.

By this understanding, we can see today’s White House and Congress are broken.

— Charles Bean

Terre Haute