A necessary response …

First, I want you to click on this link and read the letter to the editor from a local Tea Party leader –>

Then read my response below. And please, review the links I offer that back up my response –>

According to several sources, including the New York Times and the Washington Post, the Affordable Care Act appears to be doing what it is supposed to do. and It is working because California (the 8th largest economy on Earth) took the Medicaid expansion dollars promised from the ACA. The state also created their own health exchange marketplace and website.

The mention of “mandatory coverage” must speak to the individual mandate, an idea brought forward from the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation back in the 1990s. At the time they argued that the need for health insurance for everyone was tantamount to personal responsibility. I’m not exactly sure what has changed between then and now, but I’ll let your imagination answer that. As for “hefty” $95 dollar fines for those who don’t purchase insurance, this only affects those who can in fact afford to purchase insurance but choose not to take personal responsibility. And no, you won’t go to jail either.

When President Obama said that if you like your health insurance, you can keep it, he wasn’t kidding . I am curious to know where this idea comes from that Obama’s words have become a “comic” line. I have insurance through my employer, no less than all of Congress, their staff, and pretty much any American who has insurance through theirs. Taking the talking point of the right wing here, we are exempt from Obamacare BECAUSE we already have insurance. As for premium percentages paid, I would ask the reader to ask their employer what percentage they paid in premiums before the ACA and now. Further, if anyone makes less than a certain threshold in income, they are undoubtedly eligible for a federal tax subsidy.

No businesses with less than 50 employees are affected by the ACA and any business of any size that is cutting employee hours or firing them altogether on the assumption the ACA is “forcing them” is actually making the heartless decision to do so. These despicable choices have nothing to do with Obamacare. Last year the owner of Papa John’s complained about the ACA, and it turned out an increase of between five and fourteen cents per pizza would be all that was needed to cover all his current employees with health insurance. I don’t know about you, but that seems like a fair deal if ever there was one.

As for the government shutdown, I’m not sure how an unelected nor Senate confirmed senior advisor to the president is responsible for it, but it sure would be interesting to know where that theory comes from.

I wish everyone would take the time to investigate the ACA by going to www.healthcare.gov to see what they are eligible for, before they complain about the law. Like the moral of the green eggs and ham story, you have to try something first before you decide you don’t like it.

Demanding changes to an existing law during budget negotiations is foolish.

It seems the GOP Tea Party is willing to play a game of chicken with the whole economy just to get their way. Over the last five years President Obama has gone above and beyond to placate the GOP and it’s time for playing Mr. Nice Guy to come to an end. If president Obama is the first to blink in stopping this current government shutdown that will set a horrible precedent for future budget negotiations where any law the opposing side hates can be used as a bargaining chip. 

The government shutdown seventeen years ago was a difference of opinion on how best to create that years federal budget, thus both sides were too blame for that shutdown. But this particular government shutdown falls squarely upon the shoulders of the GOP. How can that be you might ask? Well, in over 230 years of American governing history, never has a LAW of the land been used as a hostage by the opposing party to get its way as it pertains to creating a federal budget. 

That the GOP is demanding the Democrats make changes to the ACA in any small way as part of federal budget negotiations is NOT how things are supposed to be done at any legislative level of governing. And anyone who says otherwise either does not know what they’re talking about or is nothing more than a political hack burying their heads in the sands of political partisanship.  

What the GOP Tea Party is doing is what one would expect of spoiled rotten children. Kicking their feet like Eddie Munster screaming “I won’t, I won’t, I won’t” or threatening to hold their breath until they turn blue. These people are NOT acting as the adults they claim to be and does not exactly give me confidence in these elected officials capabilities! 

As I see it, the moment the Democrats bend even in the slightest way would be one of the worst precedents allowed to stand. Like that old saying goes … give a mouse a cookie, and he’ll want a glass of milk. No, the Democrats NEED to remain strong on this, despite the economic hurt currently happening as a result. I’m tired of the Democrats bending over backwards to make the GOP happy and giving in now would open the floodgates for even more government shutdowns over a hated law. 

If the GOP continues down this path of economic terrorism they can kiss the White House goodbye for the foreseeable future. They can potentially even see their majority in the House disappear as well in 2014, regardless of all the gerrymandering. Because if the GOP thinks this tactic of shutting down the government over a health care law they don’t like is going to hurt the Democrats, they are fooling only themselves. By the way, the ACA is completely and totally unaffected by this shutdown.  

It’s time for Speaker Boehner to bring up and allow a clean budget to be voted upon that funds the entire federal government and ends this stupid tactic. After which they can start working with the Democrats on fixing what they believe to be wrong with the ACA. 

Of course there is the looming “debt ceiling” issue that is coming up next week. The “debt ceiling”, at least until a couple years ago when the Tea Party gained power in the Congress was a minor side issue hardly worthy of mention. The debt ceiling is nothing more than an authorization for the Treasury to pay the governments bills. But now its used as a political hot potato. Obama was foolish to bend on that one a couple years ago and so far it seems he’s learned his lesson in not giving in to these lunatics.

So now the use of standing laws as a bargaining chip is another tactic the GOP is hoping they can use in future negotiations, and all the more reason why president Obama and the Democrats in Congress need to stand firm and not let these economic terrorists rule the day. As I mentioned already, if Obama so much as blinks, the GOP Tea Party will kick that tiny little crack wide open and pour through like water in a broken dam. 

This could get uglier before its over. And if you think this shutdown is bad right now, hope Obama doesn’t give in, otherwise this shutdown will only be the first of many to come. And rest assured, the GOP Tea Party will continue down this path as long as they know they can keep getting away with it. 

We have to wait until November 2014 before we have a shot at washing our hands of this insanity. Perhaps there will be brave and willing souls in the districts of these Tea Party members of the Congress to run up against them. At this point I think the mere showing of a Democrat or Independent on a ballot, regardless of how much money is spent by the GOP incumbent could potentially win even in fairly strong Republican gerrymandered districts. We’ll see …

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!!

Growing own food illegal?

As I was reading up on some of the various articles that pop up from time to time on my Facebook “notifications” one popped up with the headline “Michigan Law Forbids Vegetable Gardens” –> http://www.myhealthwire.com/news/food/180 

To say the least this seemed rather intriguing to me and so I read the entire article. It turns out this lady has a vegetable garden in her front lawn. She has eight children and is not financially well off, in that she is on Section-8 housing.

That she is taking it upon herself to grow her own food should be commended by everybody. But the overzealous city planner apparently doesn’t like the idea of people being independent. A poor family doing what it can to be as little burden to the system as possible. Growing some of her own food allows her the ability to feed her children a few healthy vegetables per day.

Makes you wonder why this bureaucratic troll is acting like a spoiled child? As the article I linked to above says, we used to encourage people to grow their own gardens on their property during WWII. They called them “Victory Gardens”, but today its seen as a crime potentially worthy of up to 93 days in jail if this city planner has his way.

My personal response would be to start my own garden, assuming I had the land to make it so. Sounds like a good idea for those of you who can? In the mean time, his lame excuse for being uptight about this garden is that this ladies front yard does not look like everyone else’s. You read that right. Essential her garden is the garden for rebels or radicals it seems. 

Such a stance reminds me of that episode of MASH when Major Burns blurts out “individuality is fine, so long as we all do it together.” …

So here we have a lady just trying to survive as best she can. And instead of asking for more help from the state, she has taken it upon herself to deal with an immediate problem. Only now it seems that state wants her to be even more dependent.

My humble opinion is this is NOT a reflection of bad government in and of itself, but of bad people in government doing what they can to make it bad. 

No need for restrictive voter ID laws

I am a voter registrar here in Winnebago County, and it worries me that many people are being given false information about voter registration and supposed armies of people trying to vote multiple times across America. I hope to clarify a few things as it pertains to voter registration, voting and a supposed conspiracy of massive voter fraud.

When you register to vote through a person like me, I will ask you to show me whatever ID necessary to prove you are who you say you are. I will fill out the form based on the information on your ID, and once the form is completed, I have you sign it. It is at that moment that your signature becomes your ID when you go vote. In other words, once you are registered to vote, you have already shown ID!

It is redundant to make it so that you must show ID at your polling place on Election Day. With certain exceptions: like here in Winnebago County if a person prints an application to vote online, fills it out, signs and sends it in, that person must show their ID at the polling place the first time they go to vote. This application is flagged by the county clerk’s office so the election judges know to ask for an ID the first time you vote.

When you sign in at the polling place, those election judges compare that signature to the one from a copy of your registration form on file. If they match, you are good to go. Otherwise, the election judge has discretion to ask for your ID at that time. But usually that’s only when your signature doesn’t match the one on file. I suspect this is not something that happens too often, even in a nation as large as ours.

Yet, for reasons that defy logic, many states are passing voter ID laws allegedly to curb a massive outbreak of voter fraud. There are already safeguards in place that keep people from being able to vote more than once. I have heard of a few clever folks managing to get around these safeguards, but not one of the many new voter ID laws passed across America would have stopped these people from skirting the law had they been in place.

In the end, these laws will only succeed in one thing: restricting millions of people’s ability to express their Constitutional right to vote! All on this crazy notion there are roaming armies committing the crime of voting multiple times across America. So the idea that there is a mass of people going out of their way each year to commit voter fraud is ludicrous on its face.

So now lets break down just what would it take to commit an act of voter fraud:

1) You would need to know the person you are looking to “vote” for is registered to vote in the first place. It would be best of course that this person is already dead, otherwise 2-4 below come into play. Of course everyone knows voter registration fraud is the gateway drug to voter fraud, so I suppose if you really wanted to be Will Smith for a day, you can try it. But don’t be surprised if the paparazzi is there waiting for you. 

2) You would have to know that they haven’t already voted by the time you get there, so the earlier the better I suppose. Otherwise, if they have voted by the time you show up, you’re caught and going to jail. Consider this; what if the person you are hoping to impersonate sent in an absentee ballot? If that person had, their name is not going to be in the election judges log book and you are going to look kind of foolish.

3) You have to hope this person you are impersonating doesn’t vote later in the day. If they do, they will know someone voted fraudulently earlier and probably start looking for you, at least for a little while. Chances are they won’t get you the first time, but since you’ve done it once and got away with it, perhaps you’ll try it again the next election cycle at two polling places?  Of course there are cameras everywhere, so there is that to consider.

4) You have to hope that nobody in the polling place knows the person you are looking to impersonate, or even yourself. And considering how local most polling places are, it’s very possible. “What? You’re not Jim. He lives down the street from me!”, or “Jim died last week and I was just at his funeral yesterday. Sit tight you’re going to jail.” … Remember, a polling place is lucky to have thousand people all day. Presidential elections only about 65% of Americans vote, midterms its about 35-40%, and local elections between 10-12%, so good luck trying to get away with it more than once. 

5) You have to be able to imitate the person’s signature. Perhaps you have this covered with this person signature from an earlier time. But seriously, how many people are going to practice signing someone else’s signature just so they can vote more than once?

Well, there you have it. Still convinced voter fraud is a big serious problem?

Voting is a right

Voting is a right

Voting is a Constitutional right that every single American has (accept those currently serving time in prison) and it worries me the many of the new rules being put into place across America are intended to keep as many law abiding citizens from being able to vote. Excuses range from voter registration fraud to small armies of illegal aliens looking to influence local elections, and yes the now defunct ACORN, the infamous James O’Keefe notwithstanding is still mentioned.

I am a voter registrar here in Winnebago County and I have nothing but praise for the current setup in place. Sure, all systems need tweaks every now and then, but what we have here in Winnebago county, we should consider ourselves lucky.

I haven’t registered many, but when I do register someone to vote I ask them to show me whatever ID they have with them at that time. Almost always it’s a driver’s license, sometimes a student ID or a state issued ID. As a registrar you are not allowed to take political sides, you cannot even speak on political issues during the process of registering someone to vote. I may be a Democrat, but that does not matter when it comes to registering people to vote. I ask everybody, regardless for the very same identification and I verify with due diligence.

Most Americans register to vote at the DMV and typically don’t have a need to go through someone like me. I think this is where it becomes easy for so many Americans to fall prey to the rhetoric about this supposed need to show ID when it’s time to vote on Election Day.

I’m guessing most of you reading this are aware that when you sign your voter registration form THAT signature of yours becomes your ID. When you go vote at your polling place, there is, or should be a log book that you are asked to sign. The election judge compares your signature to the one on record. If they match, you’re good to go, if not they reserve the right to ask for an ID at that time.

It is redundant to ask people to show their ID when voting when they have already done so when they registered. I am appalled by the various attempts across America by the GOP to try and restrict what ID’s can be used and the various dirty tricks, like shortening DMV hours of operation or closing them altogether or wheeling in twice as many voter booths in more affluent areas than poorer one.

Yes, the majority of minorities and poorer people typically vote for Democrats. But is this really a tactic the GOP wants to use to win elections? By stopping law abiding citizens to be able to express their Constitutional right to vote?

Not a big fan of “home rule”

The Illinois Constitution gives any city or town with a population of 25,000 what is called home rule. This extraordinary power gives elected officials almost near unlimited powers to tax, to spend, to incur debt, ignore real estate transfer or tax caps, create or increase existing property taxes, or raise sales and gasoline tax with impunity. In other words, under home rule local government can quite literally tax you without representation.

Normally, to fight against any government over-reach there is a tool the people can use called the “voter referendum” but under home rule this important tool could be virtually abolished, allowing the local government to pass any tax it wanted. That is unless enough people rise up and demand a voter referendum be specifically written within a home rule charter. Otherwise the power of the people to have a say in local taxes would be severely diminished once Election Day passes.

I cannot stress enough the importance of a voter referenda under a home rule charter. This provision would be absolutely necessary where home rule to come to in Loves Park. Rest assured, home rule is a very real possibility for Loves Park.

Of course even with a voter referendum as part of the home rule charter, the voters would still be at a disadvantage, as opponents of any measure would be forced to go door to door with petitions as simply showing up at city hall to complain would no longer be enough. It would take dedication from those opposed to a measure and an undetermined number of citizens willing to sign the petitions, while the city council and mayor, armed with business leaders and experts need only a slim majority of the city council to pass whatever they wanted.

What is the most interesting to note is that home rule is not even necessary to get done those listed above. About the only reason I can grasp is those who seek home rule want the power to bypass the people when and where possible. With that in mind, several communities over the years had awoken to that danger where home rule once existed.

There have been several municipalities across Illinois which had for a time and ultimately terminated home rule, but I will stick to the one closest to home, Rockford. In 1983 the citizens of Rockford voted to terminate home rule, unfortunately for the citizens of Rockford the elected officials at the time had issued poorly designed municipal bonds which caused a classic catch-22.

The debts incurred by the bonds continued to shackle taxpayers with a property tax rate in excess of its former non-home-rule statutory limit for many years after. So you can see now the danger of allowing home rule, especially in light of your tax burden skyrocketing.

I implore the citizens of Loves Park to call their alderman and the mayor and express your displeasure about the possibility of home rule coming to our city. Home rule may sound good on paper, but in practice it is too dangerous. I’d also be very wary of any politician, even ones you may like who seeks home rule quietly or openly.

Part one: How to spend the Loves Park utility tax

Question: The city of Loves Park collects approximately $1.5 million every year from the gas and electric utility tax. At present, these funds go directly into the general fund. Short of repealing this tax, if you could, how would you spend these funds?

Answer (paraphrased): I would spend it on repairing all our sidewalks. Have you seen some of our sidewalks? There are a few that make Anna Ave look like a decent road, like the sidewalk along Route 251 just north of the library. Take a walk along some of our streets and you’ll see many areas where a sidewalk just comes to an end between two houses only to be picked up on the next block.

Why not just fill them in from one end to the other? Why not place a sidewalk along the south side of Maple Ave between Alpine and Orion St? I mean they have one on the north end. Speaking of which, why not sidewalks on all sides of every single street?

******

I looked into the average cost of fixing existing and placing new sideways. To place or repair existing sidewalk costs approximately $9 per sq foot. A slab of sidewalk, between the indented lines is 5 feet long x 3 feet wide or 15 sq feet per slab, there are about 10 slabs in front of every house on a street, and an average of 25 houses on every street.

So that’s 15 * 10 * 25 * $9 per sq foot or between $65,000 and $75,000 per sidewalk on both sides of every street.  So we could see a complete overhaul of every sidewalk in need of repair or complete in Loves Park, starting from the older section of town in about a ten year span.

Universal background checks versus the NRA

I cannot help but wonder if the reason so many Red states and the NRA are fighting against the universal check is because they know many states like Florida, Texas, and Arizona have really weak background checking systems in place? And they’re afraid a universal background system will expose these flaws for the useless crap systems they may be? 

When you put it in perspective Seung-Hui Cho, Jared Loughner, and James Holmes all passed STATE level background checks and NOT a universal one! If there had been a universal system in place (and none of us will ever know for sure) perhaps none of those acts of unnecessary gun violence would have occurred? Regardless, that it might not have mattered would certainly not be a good enough reason to argue against a universal background system, which seems to be an argument made by the NRA against a universal background check system. 

Of course a universal background cannot and will not ever be able to assume a persons personal life after the fact. Sudden economic or marital distress can make very sane and decent people simply snap in a moments notice. A gun being close by merely makes it easier for that person to maybe do something more horrible than if a gun was not there in the first place. 

The reality is sometimes good people go bad, if only for a short period. In that short period they can do awful things, especially if a gun is nearby. But as I said, that cannot be used against the idea of a universal background check, as no system is perfect. 

A background check would be used to make sure a person who commits a gun crime in Maine cannot move to California and pass a background check there. If this person simply never brings it up, how would California know to look? A universal system eliminates that potential loophole. 

Sadly, nothing we do as a community can ever remove all gun violence from our society. About the only thing we can hope to do is find a way to have a strong vibrant economy, a good strong educational system, and start to all realize that we really are all in this together.

Reflections on the Loves Park utility tax

During my many walks going door to door, many people gave me some very interesting ideas on what to do with the funds from the utility tax, and it is on this premise that I will write a short article on each one of those ideas, and some I came up with myself. Even ways on how the city can save money without hurting those services already provided.

The first idea is what to do with Alpine Rd.

Any citizen of Loves Park who paid even the slightest amount of attention to this years consolidated election now knows, if they didn’t already know it from the details of their monthly bill that they have been paying a five percent utility tax on both their gas and electric bill each month for the last three years.

I made it a campaign issue in that if the money was to remain collected and simply placed in the general funds that I would demand its outright repeal. The city collects approximately $1.5 million a year.

A few weeks ago the current budget showed the city has a surplus of nearly $3.4 million. I know many of us have been told for years that “tax and spend” liberals are a problem and that conservatives are the fiscally responsible ones, but I do not want to make this a battle of political ideologies.

I do however want to point out that the entire purpose of government, any government beyond protecting its citizens rights is to tax all its citizens and then spend those taxes to further that protection not merely limited to a strong military, but a strong infrastructure and educational system.That has always been the case since the creation of government.

To come back to Loves Park I’m not calling for spending the entire surplus on hand, or even half of it. But it is hard to ignore the crumbling roads around us and the flooding streets every time it rains.

Mayor Lindberg said during the campaign trail at one point that completely rebuilding Alpine Rd between Riverside and Harlem Rd’s would be approximately a $2 million dollar investment on our part with the rest coming from other sources.

Well? What exactly are we waiting for? Okay, perhaps I’m being a bit overzealous there, because the stretch of road in question is owned by the state, so the city can’t exactly rebuild the road on its own. But now that we have the extra funds the utility tax has given us, to the tune of a $3.4 million surplus, perhaps its time to involve the state and make Alpine Rd look like Harlem Rd?