Letter to the editor: Why you should vote yes on school bond and capital/technology levy

Editor:

I have done quite a bit of research into both issues on this ballot and as a proponent for this bond and levy I wanted to clarify some of the confusion voters have expressed regarding the effects it will have.

First and foremost — the tax issue: The school board has explained that the local school district tax rate for voters would remain the same. What this means is, if this bond and levy pass, your school district levy tax rate will not increase. How is that possible you ask? The levy on your ballot is replacing a previous school district levy that will expire at the end of this year. The district is paying off old bonds and therefore can add new bonds without asking taxpayers for more money. Combined, the bond and levy would maintain the current tax rate of $3.71 per $1,000 of assessed home value, which is what we will pay in 2020. In fact, the district predicts we will actually pay $3.69 per $1,000 of assessed home value in 2021.

In response to those who take offense to the $696 million dollar amount ($600 million for the bond, $96 million dollars for the levy) the district is requesting:  The Edmonds School District houses 20 elementary schools, two K-8 schools, four middle schools, five high schools and covers an area of 36 square miles. It also houses a preschool program and an online learning program. In total, this district is responsible for educating over 20,000 students. The Edmonds School District is not just the schools within the city of Edmonds. It includes the schools in Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace, Brier, Woodway and parts of unincorporated Snohomish County.

This bond will allow the district to build two new schools, replace three others and cover the cost of other district-wide building improvements. This includes a new middle school on the former Alderwood Middle School campus, a new elementary school near Lynnwood High School, the completion of the new construction at Spruce Elementary School and the replacement of College Place Middle School, Oak Heights Elementary and Beverly Elementary schools. Each of the schools to be replaced are over 50 years old and have far exceeded their student capacity.

Some recent editorials have quoted a student growth rate of 1% or less within the last two years. While that may be the case for a few of the schools in the district, the growth rate at others is far higher. And, that statistic does not incorporate the growth rate over the years since the schools were built. For example, Spruce Elementary School’s student population of 566 students has grown by 11% over five school years. Oak Heights Elementary is 52 years old. With 620 students, it’s the biggest elementary school in the district, and approximately 150 students over capacity. By 2027, enrollment at Oak Heights alone is projected to be 806 students in a school built for an estimated 450.  Currently, the district’s elementary schools are at 107% of capacity. The new school buildings would help reduce overcrowding in classrooms, as well as accommodate future growth. Families are continuing to move to the Edmonds School District. This overcrowding problem will only get worse, not better.

For those of us who have children or grandchildren enrolled in the school district, it is easy for us to observe first-hand the positive impact this bond and levy will have on their learning environment and quality of education.

For those of you who don’t have a direct connection to the school district, I ask you to consider this: these kids are our future and it is in everyone’s best interest to invest in their success. One of them might be the oncologist that cures your cancer, or the structural engineer that designs a beach overpass Edmonds agrees on, or an environmental scientist that finds a way to save our planet. Education for our youth is an investment. It does not come cheap because it is valuable. Please vote yes and make this community as good for our kids as it has been for us. Given the opportunity, I guarantee they will do the same.

Molly Reeves
Edmonds

 

36 Replies to “Letter to the editor: Why you should vote yes on school bond and capital/technology levy”

  1. This would seem to be in conflict with Larry Vogel’s letter and chart. Maybe the amount for schools will stay the same, but other taxes for Edmonds home owners will be markedly rising.

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  2. Molly,
    Thank you for your research and explanation regarding the bond and levy. I appreciate your understanding and explanation. I have always been pro schools and feel confident that voting to pass the bond and levy will be in the best interest of our community.

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  3. Although everyone has probably decided how they will vote, those paying property taxes should go out to the Snohomish County Assessors website and lookup their 2020 property taxes. The voting, unfortunately takes place before statements are mailed.

    Google Snohomish County Tax Assessor to find the site. Search by your parcel ID or address.

    This is something the Edmonds School Board, Administration and Superintendent Kristine Duffy probably do not wish you to do.

    Everyone should be an informed voter.

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    1. You can also visit that website and click on a link that you can see an estimated tax breakdown by year, for YOUR INDIVIDUAL property. (Keep in mind, that if you are getting a reduction in property taxes due to senior or disability qualifications, that may not be reflected-in other words- you are probably not paying at the rate posted). The County stats include ALL cities in Snohomish County, so it is really important to look at your own city, and your own property! For instance, certain locations in “downtown Edmonds” pay a “Port tax”, and NO, that does not entitle us to a higher position on the boat slip list, or a free party st thd Edmonds Yaht Club! We are just paying more so that the rest of the world can enjoy our beautiful waterfront. Bonds and levies passed in other cities DON’T affect you! As far as I’m concerned, schools and education are critical! This is the future of our country, and it looks like they are going to have quite the challenge ahead of them!!! My children are adults now and my grandchildren are our future! College Place Middle needs renovations, along with many other schools in our district! Anyone educated, whether they have children, or not, knows the importance of a well educated “next generation”!

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      1. Thank you for all your information. How much would property taxes be reduced if people vote for negative on both school issues?

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        1. Carl, I posted a more detailed discussion elsewhere but you question of what if we vote no on the Bonds is a good one to illustrate how we fund school buildings. We set a number, in this case $600m and we plan to borrow that money and build $600m of schools in the next 6 years. But we pay for that $600m over time, sometimes as long as 20 years. So the money we borrowed for the last bond issue has been spent to build stuff, we are still paying for those bonds and will for the next several years. You can see that in the bar grafts presented by ESD. So in theory the taxes will go down if we vote no but they will not go away until we pay off the existing bonds.

          In reality, what happens with a bond failure is districts analyze election results and decide how much and when to hold another election. Around the state districts have delayed a project or two, reduced the amount of the bond accordingly and them go for a second vote which usually passes. In our case that could mean cutting a project or two and reducing the bond request from $600m to say $550m, or $500m. This would all be done before the 2021 tax bill arrives and as a result while the tax bill may go down a little it will not go away. The bonding models are complicated but it is a good time to use bonds to borrow money.

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  4. I don’t think you will find many arguments for not providing our youth a quality education. However, the cumulative impact on a taxpayer’s budget from all taxation and rising costs for utilities, etc., is something seldom considered by taxing authorities. For example, although the Edmonds School levy will remain at the same rate as last year, the state school tax will increase .30 cents per thousand. There is a cumulative breaking point at which taxpayer’s are forced to make a very difficult decision.

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    1. Forest H. For some we have already hit the cumulative breaking point of taxes. The public often has little or no input on how we spend our tax dollars so the only “protest” we can make is voting no. Some in politics have a plan to change of taxing methods in include an income tax. The sales pitch will be “fairness” “tax the rich”, “property tax relief” and other “we will make the other guy pay so you don’t have too!”

      It is unfortunate that the “cumulative breaking point” is playing a role in our school bonds. In other districts that do not pass their bonds, they assess this vote and either hold another election in a few months. Some districts have asked for the same and some have reduced the next bond and get enough yes votes that way. Sadly that may happen here.

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  5. This detailed explanation is very helpful. One factor it does not mention is earthquake and fire safety for the kids and teachers that should improve as a result of new construction and renovations.

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    1. Thank you Darrel Haug, I am a senior citizen, my wife will be in 4 years. We do not get a break in our property taxes. I still am waiting to pay for my $30. car license tabs which were due a month ago, they are still $451.25
      In 4 years when my wife retires, and I continue working we certainly may need to move away from Edmonds. My wife went to school in Edmonds. We paid for schools for so many years, and then senior citizens are forced to move because they are no longer important for what they did for schools all those years.

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      1. Carl, you may want to weigh in on the housing survey that has just been released. There are questions that clearly are intended to allow folks like you and me to tell government about our financial issues and housing. There will also be a public open house at Edmonds Woodway HS next week. Both will give citizens and opportunity to share the issues.

        The tax system needs and overhaul to be a little less regressive. Our legislature already has the capability to craft an income tax that is less regressive then the property tax we have today. They just will not consider a change that can help.

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  6. Thanks Molly, good information. In 2017 a team was put together to look at future enrollment projections. We release our report in April 2018. As a private citizen on that team it was interesting to see just how many elementary schools had portable buildings. The 10 year projections by school showed a net increase of less than 10%. That seems low but even at that rate we may need room for 1500 kids or more in 10 years. Typical elementary schools are 500 kids. Putting more portables seemed a poor use of funds and did little to chart a course that would work in the long run. The team carefully looked at the impact of going to the K-5. vs K-6 model. That would mean adding middle school capacity and reducing the growth pressure on elementary schools. In 2018 that was the recommendation of the enrollment team.

    The Bond team started with these enrollment projections and visited most of the schools in the district to see first hand some of the issues. The k-5,6 issue was carefully reviewed with subject matter experts and the conclusion was to recommend the K-5 model not only for space issues but for education issues. There will be savings on how we teach the kids when the 6-8 middle school is fully implemented.

    Cliff mentions fire and earthquake safety, all true. In addition just kid security is also dramatically improved with new school design. One principal shared his standard practice of going outside when hearing a emergency vehicle to see if it is police or fire. If fire he goes back to work, but if police he must assess if any police actions may cause security issues triggering a lockdown with so many external doors. Newer buildings are just safer.

    Bottom line is this Bond program will add to the middle school capacity and relieve some of the growth pressures on elementary. These kinds of issues cannot be solved with a new roof or changing the heating systems. These are needed improvements on how we educate our kids. Let’s give them a great education so they can find high paying jobs, and pay their social security taxes .

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  7. In national school rankings, Washington state schools rank No. 42. Kids aren’t learning the basics, the three “Rs” = reading, writing, artihmetic. I employed several high school grads in the past; I remember one whom I was paying $15/hr. for remodeling a townhome. He had worked six hours that day and came to my house to pick up his check. He couldn’t multiply 6 by 15. How difficult is that? He went to school in Lynnwood. Here is a letter to the editor in the Everett Herald on Jan. 30, 2020, from Bruce Ferguson (Snohomish): “Stop the music. Put down the pom-poms. Start adding the real cost of another yes vote, to approve the … capital bond. …. $470 million, to expire in 20 years. A bond passed in 2008…… $261 million, to expire in 2029. This … does not include a 2018 operation levy nor technology levy passed by voters. ….. That figure will keep growing, making your tax rate higher. Also, the school district will ask for 2-4 levies during the next 20 years. And don’t forget the McCleary decision. Some … were given a double-digit … pay increase. You can’t vote on this one. Reject this … and future levies. That will allow the district to promote a lower amount in … future…. Let’s not take their first “offer.”

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  8. Interesting string. I would like to know why the school bond issues and capital levies are separate from other ballots. Is there some legal requirement? Maybe I am wrong, but the only reason that I can come up with is that this is intended to reduce the number of voters and, as a result make passage more likely. If I am wrong, please correct me. If I am correct, I will likely vote no. In the past I have supported school bond issues and levies, but like most voters, I don’t like to be manipulated even if the result is beneficial.

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  9. In days of old in civics class we were all taught the best form of democracy was for all of us to vote. Groups are working hard to find ways to increase the number of voters with various forms of voter registration. The stated premise is always “lets all vote”. Today’s schools are probably still advancing that idea. Voting consultants are more often paid to “win” and election, not “advance democracy”. When we had polling places it was sometimes hard to get 60% yes and 40% of the last general election to come out and vote. Mail in ballots and now no postage mail in ballots make easier to vote and the number are probably larger than in the past.

    Our district has done a lot of work to get information to all voters. Bottom line is all household get the information and all registered voters get the ballot. The lower vote counts is really not a manipulation but rather neglect on the part of voters. Yes or no, let all vote, it is our civic duty.

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  10. I agree that everyone should get informed and vote. Unfortunately that is not the real world. In the real world many eligible voters don’t get informed and don’t vote. It is particularly difficult to get informed if only one side provides information. Voters pamphlets provide some balance. In the case of the school bond issue and capital levy, I have not received a voter pamphlet discussing the pros and cons of bond and levy. I have only received two voicemails and two flyers in support nothing against. Maybe I am incorrect, but I suspect that voter response is higher when their are multiple offices and other issues, including bond and levy issues, on a ballot compared to a ballot that only contains school bond and levy issues. As I said before this leads me to conclude that the latter is intended to manipulate me. As a result even though I support a good public school system, I will vote no.

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  11. I’m totally empathetic with Mr. Brecht’s comment of Feb. 2nd. above. While I totally love and support young people and grieve for the world we are giving them from our period of management (like turning the predatory bank system loose on them for education funding at high interest rates and non renegotiable loans), I think it is time for property owners to unite and rebel against the current system of taxation. During our time on earth we have largely quit taxing corporations because they create jobs, we tax unearned income at a much lower rate than earned income to appease the rich and their self centered life styles, we encourage consumption rather than saving with our tax law to keep the economy rolling with artificially low interest rates and government printing money. We practice socialism for the rich (low business taxes, bank bailouts after mismanagement and rescuing private companies from bad management with public funds, i.e. socialism). Meanwhile we demand and practice capitalism for the poor and shrinking middle class (low wages and the proliferation of job stealing A.I. because it is good for the business bottom line). Since we tend to tax exempt everything else, the only game in town left is to tax property (real estate and transportation). As a protest; from now on I vote NO on anything that might raise my property and/or vehicle taxes (and no, that doesn’t mean I like Tim Eyman in any way shape or form). I suggest others do the same.

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  12. Clinton Wright, you are the man! I have time and as long as our stock market doesn’t collapse, I have the funds. Let’s not kid around, there will be lawyers and overhead. Yes, there is power in numbers, and we need to form some non- profit to proceed. Call it something like “Stop the Abuse!” Or maybe something more pungent. I will allow MEN to give you, and only you, my email address. I would also propose that voters who don’t own real estate should not be sent ballots to vote on levies and bonds.

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    1. Do you think that people who don’t own real estate are not affected by property tax increases? The people who own rental property are certainly affected by tax increases that ultimately get paid by those doing the renting.

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        1. Property taxes are regressive in that respect just like sales taxes. We are down to a system of taxing only the “least” able to pay. It won’t change until the “least” who have a choice (owners) just don’t pay and/or don’t vote for more taxes on themselves. The renters have no choice but to pay or go homeless.

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        2. There are a lot more renters than owners. From what I know, more renters than owners vote yes on levies/bonds, as they tend to think only in terms of instant gratification and that their landlords will pay the increased property taxes. I’ve had tenants who actually said this, otherwise I wouldn’t believe it. In years past , I used to give my better tenants 2-3 years without any rent hikes, in 2008-2010, during the Great Recession. Those days are over for good. Now I H a v e to increase rents every year and before too long every 6-8 months. Any more questions? Do you read news media daily? A lot of older landlords who own what’s called “affordable housing” are selling. They are sick of all the harassment. The younger investors are offering less affordable units, and 200 out of 262 offer NO PARKING.

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  13. So what do you suggest, Clint? That property owners “just don’t pay?” The problem with that approach would be (1) late reminder from the county assessor (2) threat of foreclosure from the bank (if owner has a mortgage) (3) late fees. etc. etc. In the end, owners will pay even more. The “system” is not set up to allow us a choice; it dictates, we acquiesce. I see only two ways out of this chain around my neck: death or a revolution.

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  14. We don’t have any choice about death but we do have a choice about revolution. The only things we can legally do is vote no on everything that asks us for more taxes (i.e. school levees) on the things we own and scream bloody murder at our elected officials every time they increase any sort of property taxes on us. The state legislature is doing that to us right now by the way. They are doing that because everyone else (read Starbucks, Amazon, Microsoft, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos get a big pass on taxation). The Gates Foundation is a tax dodge in case you didn’t know.

    The rally against the connector was a great example of peaceful and very effective revolution – no shots fired with really great results. Ghandi broke colonial rule in India with peaceful assembly and non-violent protest. If you got a bunch of rental property owners together to march on Olympia I’d be happy to join you. Similarly we could get up a peaceful crowd of both young and older people to march on the County Admin. building when the Commissioners are meeting. A couple hundred people chanting “No more property tax increases” carrying cross out property tax signs would make a good piece on the local nightly news.

    Not paying our taxes would of course be an individual choice. I would point out that one or two people purposely not paying their property taxes would be of little consequence and not much use, but if hundreds of people did that the courts and legal system would be overwhelmed and unable to cope with the situation. Public safety and school layoffs would have to occur and chaos would reign. It might be helpful to the cause if our pol.s of both stripes knew that’s where it’s headed if they don’t start taxing the truly wealthy and corporations in this society. It starts with Trump like rally’s making it clear we’ve had enough of this B.S.

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  15. So, Elena, you would not send ballots to renters because you dislike how you think that they choose to vote? Wow! And yes, I read four newspapers each day.

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  16. It is always dangerous to make blanket assumptions about other people’s motivations while we all tend to vote for our own best interests. Elena Pope writes “they (renters) tend to think only in terms of instant gratification.” Gosh, some renters may actually feel that we need to build new schools – they have children too. Good education holds the keys to the future.

    The how’s and why’s are debatable, and a tax system that burdens one group such as landlords, needs adjustment. That I agree with. But we in this country tend too easily to assign selfish and short-sighted motivations to each other, which confuses constructive debate by arousing too many emotions at the expense of creative thinking. Let’s debate the ways and means to do the job better.

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  17. What we are told is that the new bond issues will replace the old bonds and we will not see an increase in or property taxes. I believe you. Now if we continue to pay off the old ones there will be a time and our property taxes will go down. If we keep on replacing the old bonds with new one we will never see the end of the bond unless we sell our homes or we die, what ever comes first.

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    1. Perhaps I missed it, but I haven’t seen it said that property taxes will not increase as a result of these new bonds. Hasn’t it only been said that the levy rate will not increase?

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  18. Nathaniel; the point is there is no debate with our current political system in regards to taxes in general. The Trump tax cuts are the perfect example. The Republicans ( now the Trump Party actually) had the power to drastically lower corporate tax rates while doing virtually nothing of any meaning for the shrinking middle class and that’s what they did creating a 3 trillion dollar Fed. tax deficit in the process. There was very little meaningful debate. The Democrats had no real debate power to resist in the end.

    Now the majority Democrats in our state legislature are talking about raising our local property taxes to the tune of about 15 or 20% to meet our various needs for roads, schools and housing, etc. The Trump party has so little power and sway in this state that they will probably get nowhere with the debate to not raise these taxes. On top of that, the Trump party here, as every where else, is opposed to any sort of taxation of corporations and the wealthy because they supposedly create all these wonderful $10 to $15 per hour jobs that Trump is so thrilled about. (Never mind that the record job growth actually started during the Obama administration and Trump was the beneficiary). The truth is probably neither one of them had much to do with this job growth, but that’s another issue.

    Debate and compromise are great ideals when you have centrist, non polarized government. It does not work when you have 40% rabid right wing idealists and 40% rabid left wing idealists. Twenty percent of the electorate can debate until the cows come home but they can’t change the fact that the only tax games in town anymore are property (including vehicles) and sales. Corporations and rich people are essentially off limits for taxation. I hate to be a pessimist but I don’t think anything will change until at least 20% or so of us in the middle take to the streets and or just quit paying our unfair taxes.

    My wife had an aunt in California who simply threw away her federal tax returns after her husband died. She didn’t understand it and didn’t want to mess with it. She had a cash rental business. She lived over 12 more years and never paid a dime in Federal taxes again. She was never contacted by the IRS before she too passed. Her kids paid no back federal taxes when they settled her estate. Trust me I’m thinking seriously about doing the same thing with both federal and county property taxes. Problem is, I’ve now blown my cover so it probably wouldn’t work for me. Tax protests and rally’s – you better believe it!

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    1. It may be “the” point, but it was not my point, which was that making assumptions about other people’s motivations does not make for a legitimate or cogent argument. Nor is Edmonds ruled by Trump – we are a small community which hopefully still can operate within the parameters of mutual respect and constructive debate – neither of which call for taking to the streets, which I’m inclined to think would do little to further discussion of whether we need new schools, or clarify how to pay for them. I’ll leave it to you to deal with the Feds; this is an Edmonds issue.

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  19. Lynnwood High School is the best new building in the district. Look at the “ Graduation “rates and test scores. Teachers got big raises and produced little change. Does a new building or new computers make better students or the teachers and the curriculum. The 3 R’s are not being taught. The test scores and graduation rates speak for themselves. Look at the attendance rate. Education, respect and being responsable for your actions begins at home. More money from the tax payer won’t solve anything towards better results from educators. Remember some of the greatest and smartest people in the world studied in a one room schoolhouse with all grades in building under candlelight!

    Standards Met by students

    Math- 39.1%
    Science -24.9%
    ÉLA-74.2%
    Attendance 75.5%

    Graduation Rate 4 years – 81.2%

    Money will not help!
    To get me to vote yes, I need better results!

    https://tableau.ospi.k12.wa.us/t/Public/views/ReportCard_TopButtons/LeftSide?iframeSizedToWindow=true&:embed=y&:showAppBanner=false&:display_count=no&:showVizHome=no&:format=png&:embed=y&:showVizHome=n&:tabs=n&:toolbar=n&organizationid=102554&:apiID=host0#navType=0&navSrc=Parse

    This is just Lynnwood high school- go look ay Edmonds/Woodway and the other high schools in the district.. Results are similar.

    Fred Gouge

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  20. My apology, Nathaniel, for missing “your” point. I should have just presented my views as my views. That said, I think it’s naive to think reasonable discussion and discourse are going to somehow prevail in good ol’ Edmonds (or more accurately the Edmonds School Dist. 15) when it isn’t working anywhere else in our current political climate. All politics are local as the old saying goes.

    I’m not anti public schools in any way. I’m anti tax the Hell out of you and me, and let all the fat cats skate on legal technicalities. I’m sure Bill Gates’ motivations to help the children in the rest of the world are well intended but the fact is wealthy people form Foundations to see that much of their wealth is distributed as they want rather than being taxed. How ’bout Bill and his other rich pals with Foundations be required to help fund our own schools and health care needs at home; like “charity begins at home.”

    I guarantee all reasonable discussion and discourse are going to bring us is more property and sales taxation locally. Personally I’m tired of talk and ready for a little good honest civil disobedience and protest like we did in the 60’s. The Trump Party in the Senate and House just rewarded performing their own self castration with a standing ovation for their lawless dictator President. “All politics are local”

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  21. I know I got off subject a bunch with my Trump and Trump Party comments but I think it is all interrelated. Taxation decisions being made at the Federal level affect taxation decisions all down the line. Locally, the only place our pol.s have left to increase taxes are property and sales and they will happily do so if unchecked. Talk doesn’t work anymore; protest just might. It starts by protesting the lawlessness of the most powerful person in the World. He/She sets the example for how we treat each other. I understand why lots of people love and rally for Trump. He listens to what they say and then tells them back what they want to hear. If he wasn’t so much of an ego maniac revenge freak he might have made a pretty good President. Lot’s of people think he is a good President. I’m not one of them.

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