Jail committee name change?
To the editor:
It has been suggested that the Marion County Public Safety and Law Enforcement Center Committee get a new, streamlined name for the New Year.
I suggest “The Marion County Large Landowners and Car Dealers Tax Avoidance Committee.” The majority of the committee’s work so far has been to develop and promote a new “fee based” tax that would level all taxpayers in the county to a common amount for a set number of years to pay for the jail project. The new tax/fee system would relieve those who own the largest amount and most valuable property from paying more than those who own little or no property.
The car dealers would benefit from the new tax/fee system because it would remove the possibility of a sales tax increase to fund the jail. All of this would be fine except the plan had been declared unconstitutional by the office of the Kansas Attorney General.
The father of the plan, committee member Don Kraus, was a passionate advocate and reminded committee members many times that he rents 6,000 acres of grass and property tax increases are unacceptable. I believe it was at a May 7, 2009, meeting that committee member JoAnn Knak asked the question of the difficulty that folks on fixed incomes might have paying a set fee that would amount to more than the property tax increase under the current system.
I understood her point. There are people living in Marion
County for whom a $120-a-year increase (the amount of the fee Mr. Kraus provided) might mean deciding to pay taxes in lieu of prescription medicine or food.
Last fall, I was railroaded off the jail committee for not lining up behind the new tax/fee plan. At the last jail committee meeting I attended, July 14, 2009, I questioned the legality of the tax/fee proposal, knowing that a ruling by Michael Smith of the Kansas State Attorney General Office was coming against the proposal. The Chairman of the Committee, Danny Flynn, said there were no problems and he had assurances from the Marion County Commission.
I was charged and convicted in an illegal executive session of some bogus charge of trying to solicit a real estate sale. In reality, I was trying to think outside the box and come up with an affordable alternative to constructing a new jail on raw land.
The real problem was that the dominant members of the committee had an agenda of tax avoidance coming into the first meeting and no opposition would be allowed. So, as bullies usually operate in secret and behind a shield of corrupt elected officials, my fate in this endeavor was decided in an illegal executive session that was recognized and honored by a compliant board of commissioners.
Harry E. Bennett