School Board votes to offer Balderas the job of Edmonds School District superintendent

Dr. Gustavo Balderos

The Edmonds School District Board of Directors Tuesday voted to extend an offer to the Eugene School District’s Dr. Gustavo Balderas to become the district’s next superintendent. Pending completion of contract negations, Dr. Balderas will start with the district on July 1, 2020.

He will replace current superintendent Dr. Kris McDuffy, who is retiring at the end of this school year.

“We appreciate the community’s commitment to this hiring process by spending time and effort to provide input every step of the way,” said School Board President Dr. Deborah Kilgore. “As a result, we feel confident Dr. Balderas will make an immediate positive impact on our community.”

Balderas was one of two superintendent finalists who appeared at a public forum at Meadowdale High School Monday night. The other was Dr. Deborah Rumbaugh, an administrator with Burien’s Highline School District. According to a district announcement, the school board took written feedback from those attending the meeting into account in making its decision.

During Monday night’s meeting, Balderas noted that he was born in Mount Vernon, Wash., the son of migrant workers from Northern Mexico who were in the area picking strawberries. His family then settled in Eastern Oregon, and he attended Oregon public schools.

“I was an English language learner as a youth,” he said.

Balderas is in his ninth year as a school superintendent, having worked at two California school districts — Madera Unified School District in Madera, and Ocean View School District in Huntington Beach, before returning to Oregon in 2015 to become superintendent of Eugene School District 4J.

He got his professional start in the Hillsboro (Oregon) School District, where he served as a high school teacher and counselor, an elementary and middle school administrator, an executive director and an assistant superintendent. He served as the superintendent of two California school districts, Madera Unified School District in Madera, California, and Ocean View School District in Huntington Beach, California, before returning to Oregon to assume the superintendency of Eugene School District 4J.

“The one thing that I’m really proud of is the work that we’ve done in Eugene the last few years,” Balderas said. “We been able to close the opportunity gap. Our graduation rates have increased by 14 percentage points because of the systems we’ve put in.”

In addition, Balderas said that during his tenure the school district has been able to close the opportunity gaps for Eugene children. Graduation rates have increased 19% both for children in poverty and Latino students, and by 23% for students in special programs.

Balderas was named both Oregon and U.S. Superintendent of the Year, an honor he credited to his 2,700 staff members “who work hard every day for our 17,000 kids.”

33 Replies to “School Board votes to offer Balderas the job of Edmonds School District superintendent”

  1. Could someone who attended the public School Board meeting today send a report of anything enlightening the Board said about making their decision? I thought Dr Balderas did a nice job at Monday’s public forum and I believe he’ll be a good Supt for ESD. But my opinion was that Dr Rumbaugh gave more thorough and thoughtful responses, and did a better job of thinking through the questions and providing genuine non-rehearsed answers. She came across to me as a very strong candidate and I was a little surprised to hear the ESD’s first choice wasn’t her. Either way, I’m looking forward to the post-McDuffy era, as I just don’t feel like she ever got started, never took any initiative to try to improve the ESD.

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    1. We weren’t at the meeting where the vote was taken — we didn’t even know they were voting today — but imagine that the discussion about offering him a contract was done in executive session as it’s a personnel matter.

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      1. I thought so too but the email they sent to district families said “The board voted on their decision in a public meeting at the district office this afternoon.” Not that it really matters; I was just curious.

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    2. Hi, Steve. The process of hiring a new superintendent included many steps along the way, including a number of meetings with internal stakeholder groups, two in-depth interviews with the Board, and the community forum. Taking into account hundreds of feedback forms from attendees at the forum and other meetings, as well as our own extended experiences with the candidates, we came to a confident and unanimous conclusion. Both of these candidates are excellent, but we believe Dr. Balderas is the best suited to take our great District forward, together. Hope this helps! – Deborah Kilgore, ESD School Board President

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  2. The Monday night public forum was the first and only opportunity for the general public to participate in the process. Both candidates were impressive. Both candidates mentioned they had already answered during the day several of the questions raised in the evening session. The moderator before and during the session mentioned that all questions would be considered and during the q and a stated that the unasked questions were very similar to the ones already asked. I offered my question to the moderator long before the start of the session and it looked like it was very near the top of the pile. My question was not asked and as far as I could tell no other question covered the same topic. Here was the question: “Tax payers support ESD but many have reached “tax sticker shock”. With 295 separate districts in WA what can be done to work on “sharing” among the districts?”

    For 46 years I have been a member of the “tax payers” stakeholders group. For the last 20 years I have volunteered as a math tutor, class room helper, public representative on a hiring team, presenter to a para educators conference, public member of a math book evaluation team, the enrollment forecast team, and a public member of recent bond and levy work. This is not tooting of the horn but rather so suggest in those 20 years I have gained a pretty good understanding of school finances and education taxes. It would have been interesting to hear the candidates comment on ways to “share” with other districts in order to save money.

    The ESD Board President mentioned “the hundreds of feedback forms” that were reviewed. How can the public get access to the analysis of those forms with all the questions and comments?

    Both candidates commented about working with the public to develop trust and understanding of public viewpoints. The public process used by the Board did little to show the public that their input was important and truly part of the process. The Board developed the process and little was done to encourage and use public input once the public could see and hear the candidates. There was almost no time to even email the Board with comments. This is a very important decision that the Board could have taken a bit slower to help develop the public trust that both candidates so clearly mentioned was necessary to move ESD forward.

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    1. Hi, Darrol. First, I want to say that I acknowledge and appreciate everything that you have done for our schools and our community. I still remember your wise contributions to the discussion about enrollment projections (adding more specialized programs in schools, for instance, which is in the works as we go forward). I’m sorry you didn’t get your question asked on Monday night.

      I would like to add to my comments earlier about the process we employed to bring these candidates to the ESD community. At the beginning of our process, we ran a survey in mid-November, and conducted focus groups with a number of internal and external stakeholder groups. One-on-one interviews also were conducted with various leaders. The board was presented with the data that emerged from these focus groups, interviews and the online survey, and this information shaped the process — from recruiting, to deciding which candidates to bring in, to developing interview questions grounded in the priorities of our community. I feel very confident that throughout the process, we kept our community’s priorities and feedback in mind, as you elected us to do.

      The board was confident and unanimous in our decision. Earlier in the process, I expressed the desire to recruit and hire the best superintendent in the country for ESD, and I believe we have. If I’m wrong, well, you know what to do!

      Please feel free to contact the board with any of your additional questions and concerns at schoolboard@edmonds.wednet.edu or me personally at kilgored952@edmonds.wednet.edu.

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      1. Hi Deborah, Thank you for the kind words. I appreciate the offer to ask questions of you or any other Board member. You mentioned the Board work session dealing with enrollment and members of that team were allowed to comment to the Board on the work the enrollment team had done. You have noted my comments and even called them “wise”. Thank you but they we just observations from and old guy wanting to help.

        When we finished the work on the bond and levy work the Board held a working session to discuss the recommendations. Unfortunately that Board work session was closed to any public comments. It was also closed to any comments from members of the Bond team. The Board controls the agenda and the process and that is what it was.

        I have written to Dr. Kris and to all the Board members about some observations on the election and what to do next. These observations were based on talking to folks who indicated they would vote no on the bonds. I sent the remarks on Feb 22. and to date no one has responded. I know it is not yet 2 weeks since those comments but I am guessing the Board will be doing some active work to determine what’s next for resubmitting a bond issue to the voters. Hopefully you will do at least some of the things this “old volunteer” suggested.

        Dr. B will do a great job for ESD and his answers at the forum suggest he understands the need to develop trust with the voters. Depending on what the timing for the next will be and the amount you will be asking for, Dr. B may not have time to work his magic for this next election.

        Thanks again for all you and the Board do for our 21,000 and growing kids. With the passage of the tech levy the kids will have the tools to succeed they just wont have a place to sit without the passage of the bond.

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  3. Agree 100% that trust is important for the new supt to start building ASAP. I commented to the supt search consultant during the search that I feel the ESD is really failing in communication these days; it just doesn’t seem like a priority to the ESD administration. IMO these two things go hand in hand. Also agree the ESD process wasn’t as accessible as I wish it could’ve been, but I think they spelled out some reasons for that on their supt search website (as I recall, it had to do with privacy and respect for the candidates’ current positions). And in fairness to them, ESD did offer public involvement at the front end of the search last fall, with open houses on a few consecutive days and a (very limited) online survey asking for input on traits of a good supt. I attempted to attend two of the open houses: one I arrived about 8 minutes late due to a parking fiasco because of another event at the same campus at the same time; the consultant was sent home 5 minutes after the start time because “nobody came.” The second one, the doors to the building were locked and the consultant apparently was on the premises, but not in the designated location, so I didn’t see him. Fortunately I was later able to have a long phone discussion with him and offer some input. Yeah, it wasn’t the most transparent process. Hopefully Dr Balderas can help make the ESD function a little better for us all.

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    1. I asked that question of the school district and they said they did not have the ages of candidates available as they don’t ask the question. He did say in his interview that he had about 10 more years left in his career.

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  4. Yes, legally you cannot ask a candidate’s age. People skilled at interviewing know how to ask other legal questions that will allow them to determine the candidate’s age. I hope that the 10 year number turns out to be accurate.

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  5. I am happy to report that Deborah emailed me directly last night and has agreed to read today the email I sent to the Board on February 22.

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    1. Update from ESD Board President. After reading my email mentioned above, Deborah reported the board will be discussing, the next steps to sort out the potential for a new bond issue; timing and amount. Projects will be assessed and some may be delayed. Stay tuned.

      My comment not hers: Lower the total bond by delaying some projects to a future election. Pick the projects that will deal with the projected growth best. The implementation of the middle school model will give us the biggest bang for the buck and will align ESD with the state curriculum model and will save us money in the central staff. This can all be done in a way that will lower the local property taxes we pay for bonds.

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  6. I now vote no on all things that will in anyway raise my property taxes even more. (Up again this year about 4%). I don’t do this because I don’t like kids, or the schools or spending money needlessly on never ending searches for qualified people to fill all the over paid administrative posts we have concocted for whatever reason. I simply vote no to try to avoid being taxed out of my home. It’s called self preservation.

    When I start seeing big corporations and fat cats like Mr. Gates and Mr. Buffet start paying at least 15% or more for the public good (our public, not other countries thru tax avoiding foundations) I will go back to voting yes on local projects that better our local existence. Even the fat cats, like Mr. Buffet, acknowledge they don’t pay their fair share after getting tax breaks they don’t even ask for. There’s a swamp alright, but I guarantee you the man claiming to drain it, isn’t!

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  7. Clinton,
    Your comments are reasonable and I believe many citizens share your view on this. Unfortunately, there is a perception the City of Edmonds is the cause of much of the tax load. However, that’s not the case. In fact, Council voted the past two years to keep our city property tax rates flat, even though we have a clear need for additional investment in street and sidewalk improvement, building maintenance, enhanced public safety, etc. I think ST3 has increased the tax burden to the point where citizens are saying no more. Unfortunately, our kids are now paying the price, since taxpayers are increasingly saying they understand new schools are needed but we just can’t afford to foot a half billion dollar bond proposal to build them. The concern now is the ESD is preparing to come back to the voters with a scaled back bond proposal. Even if the next proposal is reduced by as much as $200m, it seems it will be a hard sell. I sincerely hope the ESD board can make a compelling case, as many of our schools are no longer healthy and safe places for our kids.

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    1. Hi Dave. I realize the city portion of our property tax burden is the least of the problem but it is part of the problem never the less. It all adds up. Schools and county government are the main property tax drivers for sure. My point is that the property owner (primarily homes and vehicles) has become the source of last resort for just about every need in our society as we keep giving tax relief (in the name of creating jobs and stimulating the economy) as the Conservatve solve all approach to every problem we have. In the end someone has to pay and it’s the property owner by default. We are destroying our middle class and it has to stop. So far I vote no. The next step is for us property owners to just stop paying. If Mr. Trump and the conservatives win big in Nov., I’m done paying my taxes period. They can put me in the slammer. We don’t have to put up with this unfair system unless we want to. It’s time to get rebellious.

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  8. Hi Clint, The school board needs to sort out how to handle the growth of kids planned in the next few years. I worked on the enrollment task force and the bond team to help sort our the needs. The elementary schools are already overcrowded so adding more kids in each would force the addition of more portables. Edmonds is one of the last districts to move 6th grade to middle school. Moving the 6th graders helps with the overcrowding of elementary.

    I’m sure you know that when we vote for a bond what the ESD does if use that funding model (tax revenue) to issue bonds that allow money early in the cycle, build a school, and then pay it off over time. The frontend load the payments as well so the taxes collected early are higher than later in the cycle. What that does is allow build now, pay a lower rate later, leaving more ability to raise money in the future for the same tax amount. I am talking absolute taxes paid not a rate on a higher priced home.

    This no vote will not eliminate bond taxes but it will lower taxes and no new moneys can be borrowed to build anything new. Given the model to shift the 6th graders to middle school we simply need more middle school space. This was the primary recommendation of both the enrollment and bond teams.

    Both candidates were pretty firm on their understanding of the benefits of middle school. Given his stated position it is highly likely to be a top goal. Given the enrollment team and bond teams, and now Dr B’s statements the board should find the best way to move forward with a new bond election. This time it could be structured in such a way that your school taxes for bonds actually go down. Not just the rate staying the same but the amount of taxes paid would go down! To do so would require dropping other projects but keeping the middle school projects. Lower real taxes on bonds, more middle school capacity, and reducing the pressure on elementary schools all at the same time! Some older schools that should be replace will just slide further into the future, but we would at least do the right thing for the kids, and lower real taxes!

    Clint would you vote yes of a plan that did the above?

    We are not far away from voting for a progressive state govt that will push hard next year for shifting the tax burden form property to income. I hold little hope they will work to solve local school issue even in the early stages of instituting an income tax.

    I wonder if an idea like this would help with your issues of “tax sticker shock”?

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  9. Darrol – just an observation, but I think the state government will push hard next not to shift from property to income but to continue with property and INCLUDE income.

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    1. Mike, your statement is more correct. Studies show a 10% tax on income would replace all property taxes and if I recall correctly most sales tax revenues. Seattle Times did a piece on this in the past. Given the politics of all this the best way to “sell” it would be to say: “We will lower your property tax by x% and create an income tax on the “most able to pay” and combined the total tax will be higher. High earners would pay more total tax and lower income earners would by less total taxes. Yes more taxes will be paid in total but the tax burden will be shifted toward higher earners.

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      1. What is missing in our current tax system at all levels is a fair and honest tax on extreme wealth. Our tax laws are written by the rich to benefit the rich. In the 1950’s we taxed extreme wealth at 70% to 90%. We paid off WWII, built good schools, built the interstate Hwy. System, and built a strong middle class. We also fought the Cold War to defeat Communism/Socialism and had great free National and State Parks. Our current system just doesn’t work for the greater good. It’s time for protest and change.

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        1. The claim that rich Americans pay a smaller share of their income in taxes than any other households is verifiably false. According to the Congressional Budget Office the top 0.1% of earners, which included 127,586 households in 2017, had an average income of $2,892,434 and paid $1,304,769, or 45.1%, in federal, state and local taxes. The average household in the top 0.1% had more than 31 times as much income as the average bottom quintile, but paid almost 482 times as much in total taxes.

          The marginal federal income tax rate for top earners was 70% until 1981 when Reagan became president. I submit that the money for all those things you mention went away as result of the massive increase in salary and benefits paid to government workers.

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        2. Clint, I showed you a way to lower you taxes, build some middle school capacity and reduce the pressure on elementary schools and then asked if you would vote that the bond issue that would lower your tax. Then you went off on a total different direction. Will you vote for a bond that lowers your tax and does some of the things the kids need? If we don’t find cost effective solutions these kids will be as old and you and I and still not have a place to sit.

          So who else besides the school board president and I are going to vote for a lower tax and some help for the schools? Steve, Ron, Mike and Mike, Clint, Dave, and Don, lets find some real answer for real problems.

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  10. Those who think that implementation of an income tax will cause property and sales taxes to go down are very naive! California is a grand example…with very high sales taxes and very high income taxes. Is this what we want for Washington state??

    Don’t give the politicians a foot hold with income taxes….there will be no end to raising them!

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    1. DW, I would be happy to so you how a flat income tax can be designed to:
      1. Reduce property taxes
      2. Be designed to be revenue neutral, new income tax equals same reduction in property tax.
      3. Show why 2 will not happen as revenue neutral but will be a revenue increase.
      4. The flat income tax can be designed to share some of the increase with local cities and schools.
      5. All this can be done so that it will reduce property taxes and for lower income folks, their combined property and income tax will be lower while higher earners will pay more.
      The question is will our leaders design it correctly or will they do it in a way to not provide any property tax relief.

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  11. We have so few options in this state for increasing tax revenue: property taxes, sales taxes, vehicle fees (oh, wait, not anymore–thanks Tim E). That’s why I’d support an income tax–it would give a different revenue stream that is more equitable (people who earn little, pay little), as opposed to regressive sales tax and property taxes that punish people who have properties that have grown in value; some get priced out of their homes because of fixed incomes.

    I’d like to see ESD come back with a smaller bond package that will reduce the property tax rate. If that were to happen, isn’t it possible that it would not actually reduce the real property tax dollars we pay much, as property values continue to climb steadily? At the state level, couple this with an income tax so other property taxes can also be lowered, and property tax bills might actually go down. This would need to be offset with other tax revenue, sorry folks. Please, everyone, consider the merits of an income tax.

    ESD marketed the last bond proposal as a flat tax rate to get to the $600M bond; I understood that my tax bill would continue to go up even with a flat tax rate, but I don’t think some people did. I’d also like to see ESD be a bit more upfront in their communication about the bond and provide analysis of real dollars year over year to homeowners in a range of properties with different values. I just always feel like they’re trying to hide their tax proposals behind a curtain that obscures the facts, and I think they could really benefit from cleaning up their messaging and just speaking in clearer language that everyone can understand.

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    1. Steve, you are correct. A lower real taxes paid to bonds is one of the keys. The other is a clear message of why. Lowering the request to 500m for example would accomplish the actual taxes paid part and allocating to middle school construction first is also key. Then we need to tell folks the full details of both and give the folks who voted no last time the ability to assess the new plans and decide. We need to only convince a small portion of the no voters to say yes. Lower real taxes paid and build middle schools.

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  12. My Goodness, where to start here?

    Michael McMurray – Thanks for the tip. I read the review and will make it a point to get and read the book soon.

    Ron Wambolt – You are making a claim that I did not make. There’s a difference between top earners (ordinary income type) and wealth in general. We go out of our way to protect inherited wealth and avoid taxing corporate wealth as much as possible. Something is wrong when our richest corporations end up paying no federal taxes and refer their workers to the government for health care rather than making it a fringe benefit (Walmart – just an example).

    The people you reference in the 0.1% of earners tend to live in one or more lavish estates and own expensive toys like large boats and airplanes so there is no doubt they pay a lot of money in property and sales taxes on those toys. It would be interesting to see a breakout of where the bulk of their 45% taxation goes – state, local or federal. I would submit that the local share of their taxes probably go to already wealthy counties and school districts – just a guess.

    Glad you mentioned Reagan. He was the beginning of the end for the middle class. In destroying the Air Traffic Controller’s union, he set the stage for the marginalization of unions in general which kept wages in the whole country up because non union organizations had to compete with unions in obtaining their labor. I worked as an auto tech with Sears at the time before Reagan. We were paid hourly at a wage slightly above the union scale because they didn’t want us to go union. We were treated as highly valued employees until the union was broken and then we were regarded as a necessary evil to create wealth. Our wages were cut and we were put on partial commission and encouraged to sell car repairs that weren’t particularly needed. The honest tech’s among us paid the price while the dishonest guys made more money.

    Your idea that our parks and roads are failing because of over paid government employees is absurd. They are failing because there aren’t enough employees or supplies since all the relevant budgets have been cut by Conservative government. The best example of this is Kansas where they threw out a Republican Governor and legislature because the schools and infrastructure were falling apart due to over zealous tax cuts to create jobs and make government smaller. Kansan’s were finally forced to quit believing what they wanted to believe and see things as they really were.

    Darrol – Short answer. Probably not. My vote and/or going outlaw on taxes are my only real chance to change anything at this point. As for supporting the “kids”, it’s time for the “kid”s to figure out they are the losers in all this Conservative theory nonsense; get off their phones and games and get politically active. They have to figure out they are the ones getting screwed by the system of the ever expanding cost of Education at all levels and fading opportunities for them. I do agree with Ron, somewhat, that we pay way to much for so called expertise. You (Darrol) work for essentially nothing and come up with better ideas than the well paid professionals. It’s all nuts.

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    1. Clint, at least you have moved off a definite no. I am talking with some of the paid professionals and my take is they are listening to not only me but to others. I still have time to work with you to find other avenues for your “protest”. We can do that too! Lets just give the kids a place to sit.

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  13. Steve,
    Your comments are well reasoned. As a senior citizen now on a fixed income, I am acutely aware of the need to revise our system of taxation to help our seniors gracefully age in place. As you point out, the continued upward pressure on property tax rates will continue to push many seniors to the point at which they will be unable to afford to remain in their homes. Something needs to change, and soon. I think we all feel willing to contribute our fair share to the mutual coffers, but the current tax scheme isn’t fair. Property taxes are increasing at a much faster rate than senior citizens’ incomes. Some sort of flat income tax is appealing from the perspective that everyone contributes proportionately. However, a move in this direction gets into the “redistribution of wealth” issue, and those possessing more wealth won’t like it. A change of this magnitude in our tax structure will only be successful if the package can be shown to have a net benefit (or at least, be as close to neutral as possible) by reduction—or complete elimination—of property taxes.

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  14. Dave, great points but it isn’t just the seniors that are hurting here. It’s also the young people, most of whom will never even be able to own real property due to the regressive tax system that prevails in WA. state and elsewhere. Yet they pay huge property taxes passed on to them thru high rents. On top of the unequal tax system the young people seeking higher education are forced to borrow money at artificially high interest rates and then not allowed to renegotiate these rates down by federal banking law. After getting their hard earned degrees these poor young folks discover they are actually indentured servants to the bloated banking system supported by the government. This great Conservative movement has designed a system of tax breaks for the already rich that pushes the national debt into the 3 trillion dollar range and then they say deficits don’t matter because we are creating all these jobs. As our self proclaimed “stable genius” President likes to say, “it is all a hoax.”

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  15. Darrol, I admire your patience and persistence. In fairness to the professionals they have to work within the system of taxation that the politicos give them. To a certain extent they are victims, too, of the regressive tax structure that has developed over time.

    You can bring change from within – your strong suit; or from without – my strong suit (or weakness) depending on how you look at it. I suspect it will take both to make things better in our world. I just hope you will bring a cake and baked in hack saw blade when you visit me in the slammer after I get sent up for tax evasion.

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  16. I hope they give you internet access in the slammer, we would miss you. If you get jailed before the school bond election you will not be able to vote so your tax revolt will help pass the levy. I was thinking of a beer vs cake and hacksaw blade.

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