Joseph Avenue Christmas is the story of one man's journey to the true meaning of Christmas. Not just the birth of the babe, but the salvation of the soul. Set on the wintry streets of Rochester, NY it is a visit to the heart of that city and the hearts of some of its best and bravest people. From their good example, and the simple lessons of their own lives and faith, a troubled man finds on a dark Christmas Eve an escape from an increasingly failed life.
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Stephanie Miner has a problem.
She’s the mayor of a once-prominent city on the high road to whatever economic hellhole it is Detroit has slipped into.
That doesn’t make her unique.
There are little Stephanie Miners all across America and, more particularly, all across that rusted and woeful part of America cursed by generations of soul-destroying “progressive” policies.
Big unions, lots of government employees, business-choking regulations and taxes, a property-tax burden that makes home ownership difficult if not impossible.
Welcome to Syracuse, New York, one of those places you walk through and say, “Gosh, I wish I could have been here when this place was someplace.” Astounding history and architecture, an evident and glorious heritage, all wrapped up in graffiti, crime-scene tape and the smell of urine.
A place that once was and could possibly be again but which, right now, is between a rock and a hard place.
And up at City Hall, Stephanie Miner sits there with charts and graphs and numbers and the mathematical certainty that her city is headed at warp speed into a financial brick wall.
The income doesn’t meet the out go and after a while the math on that doesn’t work anymore.
So she and others like her have been singing the song of we need help. Not another bailout from the cesspool of the state capital, not some state-appointed board of overseers exercising “financial control,” but some fundamental changing of the rules. A lightening of state obligations and mandates, and perhaps a changing of the rules on taxation.
Property tax won’t pay the cops when your businesses are gone and your houses are Section 8.
At least not when large chunks of the most prosperous parts of your city are exempt.
And that gets to the point.
In an op-ed piece earlier this week, Stephanie Miner hinted that maybe the non-profits that have grown like a do-gooder cancer in her city and in other cities might want to consider chipping in.
Her approach has been some sort of negotiated assessment.
My approach is cruder but clearer.
Eliminate property-tax exemptions for non-profits. It’s land, we tax land. You own land, you pay taxes. End of story. Send your check to city hall.
This isn’t about increasing taxes, it’s about evening taxes. It’s about reminding the self-appointed elites that they’re no better than the machine shop on the corner or the family home down the block. We tax land. You own land, you pay taxes.
The problem in Syracuse and elsewhere is that hospitals, churches, government properties, rec centers, colleges and any number of non-profits and “public-service agencies” have popped up.
Many of these institutions are positive and make great contributions to the public good.
But either way, they take property off the tax rolls and that shifts the burden onto fewer and fewer property owners. In time, it shifts a city’s budget deeper and deeper into the red.
In Syracuse, for example, something approaching half of the city property is tax-exempt. That includes assets and facilities with values in the stratosphere.
As any mayor can tell you, those tax-exempt properties can use vast amounts of city services. The police and fire departments respond to non-profits, and the streets department plows out front. They benefit, but they don’t contribute.
And that is as true in the smallest villages as it is in the largest cities.
The group homes, the parsonages, the dog shelters, the day cares, all of these non-profit and church-run operations – waving their holy 501(c)3 papers – are tax freeloaders.
And they should pay.
Just like the young family in its home and the businessman in his store.
If we live in a country where we have equal standing as citizens, then we should have an equal burden of citizenship. That means land is land is land, and whatever you put on it, or whatever use you put it to, or whatever you choose to call yourself, you should pay your share of land tax.
My church and your gay-rights agency should both pony up and pay their fair share.
That’s what Stephanie Miner is hinting at.
And if she isn’t, she should be.
Because it’s a good point.
The economic world has changed. When private-sector, for-profit entities – aka families and businesses – predominated, there was sufficient bounty to give the do-gooders a pass. But as industry has declined, and the do-gooders have become big business, we have to change the arrangement.
And Stephanie Miner is right.
Everyone should pay.
We tax land. You own land, you pay tax.
End of story.