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Guest Series: Council President Stephen Joost

Metro Jacksonville consistently offers the opportunity for our readers to absorb the editorials, personal accounts, and vocal opinions of some of the key players in the decision making process of our community. This week, City Council President Stephen Joost.

Published November 17, 2011 in News      15 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


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One of the most interesting things I find about being a councilman is that the local politics can be very different from the national politics on similar issues.  Take for example, the issue of taxes and fees; During the Peyton administration, then-Governor Crist and the Legislature cut local property taxes, forcing the mayor to cut the budget and raise certain fees and taxes to help fund parks, early literacy programs, river clean up,etc.  For many people in our community, these are “vital” programs.  For others, it’s just viewed as more unnecessary government.  

Normally, on the national level, the Democrats would support what is viewed as keeping “vital” programs and the Republicans would oppose unnecessary programs and be against the fees and taxes that supported those particular programs.  However, because much of Jacksonville’s tax base comes from property taxes, the dynamic of the debate was totally different on the local level vs. the national level.  Home ownership across all spectrums, races, creeds,etc. was at record levels in 2007 when the vote took place.  Therefore, unlike on the national scene where almost half the people pay no federal income tax, everybody has “skin” in the game when it comes to the issue of local taxes and fees.  During the debates, there was no coalition of Republicans vs. Democrats.  Many of the Democrats opposed the fees and taxes and many of the Republicans ended up supporting them.  The debate was more focused on the cost vs. benefits for our community.  The debate was totally different than what you would find on the national level.

In this world of Poor vs. Rich, it’s heresy to say that everybody should pay taxes.  However, that is what I believe.  First and foremost, Joe Biden had it right when he said it is patriotic to pay taxes.  The Republicans jumped all over him when he made that statement.  He should have held his ground.  He didn’t say it was patriotic to waste money.  To think that almost half the people in this country pay no federal income tax and enjoy the privilege of living in the freest, most successful country in the world, and then have no responsibility to help pay for the freedoms we as a nation enjoy, is simply wrong.  Yes, freedom is not free.  Everybody can pay something and everybody has the responsibility to carry on the American dream for the next generation - even if it is only a dollar.  Once everybody has “skin” in the game, the nature of the debate at the national level will totally change.  That is why I believe a flat tax and/or national sales tax is the way to go.  For sure there would have to be adjustments made for low-income families, but the point is, you would have to put something in to get something out.

The country is too fractured because at the national level, the political parties are too concerned about who is paying for what.  We need to come together as a nation and everybody needs has to have the responsibility to help pay for our country’s freedom.  At the local level, we have not once in my five years on council ever been in a debate on who is paying for what because we all know we are in it together.  I believe this is one of the reasons it is much easier to find consensus and compromise at the local level than at the national level.  I also believe this is one of the reasons our local politicians in general are more conservative with the city budget than the national politicians are.  Almost all income spectrums of the population contribute to the Jacksonville budget.

Therefore, in order to move the country forward, we need to go to a new tax system.  The current system is too fractured, too cumbersome and turns too many Americans against one another.  When everybody has some “skin” in the game, the country will be better able to focus on the benefits vs. cost of national programs instead of arguing over who is paying for what.
   

Editorial by Stephen Joost.







15 Comments

dougskiles

November 17, 2011, 05:43:52 AM
Councilman Joost, thank you for sharing that with us today.  My wife and I had this very discussion last night.  I returned home from a meeting listening to residents across the street from a local riverfront park complain about how the fisherman have no respect for their private property and the public property.  I asked her 'what has a our society become where people act like animals?'. Her response was that most likely none of them have made any investment in this park financially.  They see it as an entitlement.

I too have long been a proponent of a system where everyone pays something if for no other reason than to create an understanding for the investment we all must make to live in this great country.

Another reason why I have more respect for our local politicians than those in Washington is that you live by the rules you make.  If you pass a new fee or tax, you get to share in the patriotism!  That we have allowed a system to continue where a ruling class gets to live above the standards they set for the rest of us, is nothing short of outrageous.

Noone

November 17, 2011, 06:07:25 AM
I support a flat tax and then everyone has skin in the game.

So how about skin in the game on the local level as it relates to our St. Johns River our American Heritage River a Federal Initiative. Todays Times Union front page headline on Thomas Creek 2011-692. Good deal? Bad deal?

Shipyards/Landmar the Promised 680' Downtown Public Pier 2010-604. No skin in the game as it related to access from the Waterways.

McCoys Creek and the total wipeout at the street end of habitat at Stonewall and Chelsea. Check it out. Just happened. Who gets the design award for that?

A total takeover by an Independant Authority over Downtown and the access from the Waterways within the boundries. Skin in the game?

I appreciate councilman Joost sharing a concern on an issue. In 7 hours is the Board meeting of the St. Johns River Alliance in Paisley, Florida. Jacksonville has paid there $20,000 dues. Who is the Duval county representative? I've been asking councilman Redman for weeks as he is the Chair of the Jacksonville Waterways Commission. Is anyone going to the meeting? Skin in the game?

We also have a new commissioner of FIND. Aaron Bowman replacing Mike Messiano. It has been 3 years when I first addressed the commissioners of FIND about a sponsor for a Pocket Pier, floating dock at a waterfront public access street end. Still do not have a sponsor (city council member).  What a joke.

Skin in the game as it relates to a Public/Private Partnership. Just what does that mean?


vicupstate

November 17, 2011, 08:09:21 AM
As far back as I can remember, I have heard the saying "the only certainties in life are death and taxes'.  I guess the later is not true anymore. 

I mean we all know that low income folks are exempt from payroll (SS,Medicare) taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, alcohol and cigarette taxes, hospitality taxes, gas taxes, and all the various fees (including the three new ones in Jax) and fines that support the government.     

Just ONCE, I want to hear a Teapublican say it a damn shame that half the country earns so little that they have no INCOME taxes due.   What can we do to RAISE income levels so that they will then pay income taxes. 

That can start by rebuilding our manufacturing sector, and cease with the notion that only with a four year degree will someone earn a decent living in this country.       

dougskiles

November 17, 2011, 09:06:20 AM
Just ONCE, I want to hear a Teapublican say it a damn shame that half the country earns so little that they have no INCOME taxes due.   What can we do to RAISE income levels so that they will then pay income taxes. 

My opinion that everyone should contribute does not come from the thought that the small amount they pay will make any difference in government finances.  It has to do with the sense of investment that would hopefully arise within those individuals.  If they make $1, they should have to fork over a few pennies.

When people get things for free, they tend to put lower value on those things and treat them with less (or no) respect.  Our city parks are a perfect example.

Just like the councilman explained, I don't see this as a republican vs democrat issue.  It is about raising the sense of pride in our country.

vicupstate

November 17, 2011, 09:43:50 AM
Is one's pride in their country is proportional to the amount of taxes they pay or the type of taxes they pay?

No one is living and breathing, and NOT paying taxes. They ARE already paying!

If I died right now, my estate wouldn't owe any taxes, does that mean I don't have any 'skin' in the game? 

The lower 50% are not paying any income taxes because they have become progressively poorer for the last 30 years.  If  we can reverse that trend, the income tax issue will take care of itself. 


JeffreyS

November 17, 2011, 11:05:41 AM
+1 Vic
I do agree individual investment breeds individual pride.  That however won't trump the fact that for thirty years the common man has seen that in the name of good business ninety percent of government decisions have favored the well to do or corporate interests over middle and lower class.

TheCat

November 17, 2011, 11:08:54 AM
Is having "skin" in the game the difference between a clean park and a dirty one? Am I to believe that if some people pay more taxes they will suddenly feel emboldened and empowered to take care of their country/state/city? The real issue is the lack of power many people feel, poor or not. I don't think taxes are the way to a path of empowerment. I rarely walk through a park and think "this is my park.' Most governments make it clear that community property is not really community property but, instead, it belongs to the government(s). Since, I do feel a general disconnect  from my governing authorities and I don't have the emotional resonance to understand that my taxes make America. I feel like many people, that my taxes are mismanaged and anything positive that comes from taxes is simply a miracle.

.

JeffreyS

November 17, 2011, 11:09:51 AM
One question this article brings to my mind is about the Mobility Fee Moritorium.  Should everyone have skin in the game unless they are an insider GOB developer?

bill

November 17, 2011, 12:10:25 PM
+1 Vic
I do agree individual investment breeds individual pride.  That however won't trump the fact that for thirty years the common man has seen that in the name of good business ninety percent of government decisions have favored the well to do or corporate interests AND UNIONS over middle and lower class.

dougskiles

November 17, 2011, 02:09:57 PM
The real issue is the lack of power many people feel, poor or not. I don't think taxes are the way to a path of empowerment. I rarely walk through a park and think "this is my park.' Most governments make it clear that community property is not really community property but, instead, it belongs to the government(s). Since, I do feel a general disconnect  from my governing authorities and I don't have the emotional resonance to understand that my taxes make America. I feel like many people, that my taxes are mismanaged and anything positive that comes from taxes is simply a miracle.

I understand why you feel that way - and believe it is a widespread opinion in our society.  I also believe that it will lead to nothing but more of the same.  The only way things change is when people take constructive action.

A friend on this forum recently recommended a book to me: America, The Owner's Manual: Making Government Work For You by Senator Bob Graham and Chris Hand (yes - the same one who is Mayor Brown's Chief of Staff).  I started reading it and have found it to be very informative.  It is filled with examples of how people have organized to make change in government policy, and provides clear steps of how to do it.

For anyone who is serious about seeing things change, and are willing to work hard to make it happen, I highly recommend this book.

TheCat

November 17, 2011, 02:36:33 PM
Isn't that part of the problem? In order to make a change you have to create a niche movement.

tufsu1

November 17, 2011, 03:13:29 PM
+1 Vic
I do agree individual investment breeds individual pride.  That however won't trump the fact that for thirty years the common man has seen that in the name of good business ninety percent of government decisions have favored the well to do or corporate interests AND UNIONS over middle and lower class.

sorryn bill....but most folks in unions are the middle class

CityLife

November 17, 2011, 03:43:16 PM
Nicely written and well thought out piece by Mr. Joost. However I'd like to hear the President of the Jacksonville City Council discuss Jacksonville centric issues. I'd rather our City Council leader discuss ways to solve our local tax issues, before he jumps to solving the national tax system. Or maybe he's not the only one in town with eyes on DC?

bill

November 17, 2011, 03:45:58 PM
+1 Vic
I do agree individual investment breeds individual pride.  That however won't trump the fact that for thirty years the common man has seen that in the name of good business ninety percent of government decisions have favored the well to do or corporate interests AND UNIONS over middle and lower class.

sorryn bill....but most folks in unions are the middle class

Sorry, if you are going to try to get people to buy into the big companies(including unions) that use their influence and money to sway policies, you cannot pick and choose who gets to do that. While many union members may be in the middle class the union leaders are certainly not. The bailout(s) went to financial institutions and unions. You cannot differentiate because one gives to one party and one gives to the other.

tayana42

November 21, 2011, 10:41:46 PM
Mr. Joost is correct about a flat tax in that everyone would pay; unfortunately it would mean that the middle and lower income classes would pay more in taxes and the well-to-do would pay less.  Perhaps those "occupy wall street" folks in front of city hall have a point.

And regarding local politics and the implication that everyone pays property taxes and has "skin" in the game; I assume he has overlooked the renters, indigent, and homeless.

As someone else commented, lets focus on Jacksonville's problems.
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