Friday, May 25, 2007

Judy, Judy, Judy..........What is the Answer?

On 5/10/07 I sent an email to my State Rep, Judy Morrison. When I didn't get a reply by 5/18/07 I sent a follow up. Well, as of this morning still nothing. But then I should have realized that very few elected officials, at any level of government like to talk about raising taxes.. The email is published below and it refers to the 79¢ per pack Kansas state excise tax on cigarettes. Which previously had been 25¢ It does not include the 39¢ per pack federal excise tax, nor does it include info on local sales taxes.

So go ahead, as the goose that lays the golden egg keeps getting thinner, what will be taxed at higher levels to make up the difference in the loss of excise tax monies? Beer? Wine? Hard liquor? Property? Vehicles and other personal property? Income? What about items that do not have individually assessed taxes? Maybe they need to be added to the household supplies, clothing, electronics?

Then of course local governing bodies will need to look at raising sales taxes to make up for lost income. That is a separate calculation. Oh, and please do not confuse this with the 'Master Settlement Agreement" as that is something entirely different.

The email to Ms Morrison is below:


We chatted about this a couple of years back and you had indicated to me that when Kansas raised the excise tax that there was not a mass exodus of smokers to buy cigarettes elsewhere.
Well, I think the figures supplied by KDOR would contradict that. There has been a tremendous reduction in actual cigarette sales (and for the local municipalities the corresponding sales tax)
Here are KDOR's figures, income from the excise tax, with a tremendous increase in 2003 based on the increased excise tax

Fiscal Amount Percent
Year Collected Change
2000 $49,124,538 -4.0%
2001 $48,784,401 -0.7%
2002 $48,040,207 -1.5%
2003 $129,249,741 169.0%
2004 $119,789,045 -7.3%
2005 $118,979,280 -0.7%

Now when those dollars are divided by the excise tax rate, one gets the number of packs actually sold

2000 196,498,152 packs
2001 195,137,604 packs
2002 192,160,828 packs
2003 163,607,267 packs
2004 151,631,702 packs
2005 150,606,683 packs

Now, I'll ask the question that I asked back then....................what will be taxed next to make up the difference?

The above represents a reduction of 46 million packs of cigarettes. At 79¢ per pack state excise tax and 39¢ per pack federal that's a bunch of money to make up. And at approximately $3.50/pack retail at approximately 7.5% sales tax that is also another bunch of money.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Shoulda Been an Artist

I blew it. I should have become an artist. Grabbed a copy of today's KC Star and headed out to dinner.

Got myself seated, relaxed and started eating. Opened the newspaper and eventually got to page 3. That's where I saw it. A picture of a 1950 painting by Mark Rothko entitled "White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose)" Then I read the accompanying article. This painting brought $72.8 Million at auction yesterday at Sotheby's in New York.

My first reaction was............why didn't I think of doing something like this? I could sit my grandson down with some finger paints and become an instant millionaire. Or, I could throw some paint on a canvas and let some neighborhood pets walk on the canvas. Another thought is to place a canvas on the floor, climb a ladder and just shoot paint balls at it.

I'm sure that there are local art connoisseurs out there who probably think that I am very low class for these comments. Certainly I don't have an appreciation of fine art.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Tough Shih Tzu

Another interesting item came up Monday evening. Briefly, an individual applied for a special pet permit to maintain 5 dogs on his property.

What irks me was the missing resident. The individual who applied for this permit never showed up to the meeting. If a person is not going to show why don't they contact City Hall and either have their item rescheduled or totally withdrawn?

After a period of debate the council voted not to approve the special permit.

The time spent on this could have been better used on other items

Monday, May 14, 2007

Pfrick & Pfrack Just Don't Get It

Interesting evening at the Shawnee City Council tonight.

Because of what happened a few weeks ago I brought something up and this is what I said:


A couple of weeks ago, a member of the city council was so concerned about the health

of the citizens of Shawnee that an attempt was made to jam an ordinance down the

throats of the people without proper review. Another member of the city council

apparently was equally concerned as that member seconded the motion for the


Are these two individuals really concerned about the health of the people of Shawnee or

are they just grandstanding ?

Many studies have been done about the effects of fossil fuel emissions. The negative

effects run the gamut from respiratory problems for people, to acid rain affecting soil and

and physical structures. But let’s concentrate on the respiratory problems associated with

fossil fuel emissions. The City of Shawnee and these two council members have the

opportunity to set a precedent that could spread across this great country of ours.

Remember when California first enacted its smoking ban? And recently, in the name of

health, NYC has placed restrictions on trans fats in food preparation.

What can we do? We cannot outlaw cars and trucks. But, we can make it expensive for

polluters of our environment to change their habits. SUVs, trucks, vans and mini vans,

are basically gas guzzling rolling pollutants. Therefore, it is suggested that if these two

council members are serious about the health of the citizenry of this community they will

propose an ordinance based on the guidelines listed below:


It would apply to all SUVs, pick up trucks, vans and minivans registered to individuals with a residence address within the city limits of Shawnee. SUVs that are “crossover” (those built on car chassis) would be exempt.

Each of these vehicles would be required to obtain a “Clean Air Permit” on an annual basis.

The cost of the permit would be $200 if the vehicle is of the current model year. Since vehicle performance declines over time, and pollutants increase, each year after the current model year would increase the cost of the permit by $50

The City would retain 10% of the fees collected as an offset for administering the program.

The remaining 90% would be placed in an interest producing trust fund. Citizens of Shawnee who experience respiratory problems that require medical attention and who have insufficient funds and/or insurance could apply for grants from the fund.


Personally, I really think that these two individuals should lead the fight to reduce the emissions of gas guzzlers in our city.


Wow, I must have really rattled Kevin Straub's chains. He said something to the effect that I would have been better off if I didn't start my comments by insulting him. I told him I didn't insult him, I spoke the truth. Heck, he and his buddy boy were insulting the citizens of Shawnee with their little stunt two weeks ago.

Then the other half chimed in, Dan Pflumm. He again brought up that he submitted his ordinance proposal because "due diligence" had already been done. He was referring to the Johnson County survey. I had to remind him that another council member at the previous meeting tried to explain to him that surveys can be manipulated. I offered to show him how a survey can be manipulated and it would only take three minutes. My offer was not accepted.

I think these two are missing the point. If they are so concerned about the health of the citizens of Shawnee they would embrace items like the one I brought up. It takes guts to set a precedent, and also to show that you are sincere about what you say.

Any fool can jump on a "me too" bandwagon.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Fourth Ward is a Star in The Star

Ahhhhhhhhhhh, common sense. What a breath of fresh air this is, especially in view of the idiocy perpetrated last week.

Michelle Distler, a Fourth Ward Councilperson from Shawnee had her views of smoking bans published in the Kansas City Star on 4/30/07. The link is

Also, this commentary originally appeared in the Shawnee/Lenexa Sun on 4/26/07. At least we still have freedom of speech.

Sometimes those links don't work, so I'll quote the article here:

AS I SEE IT City bans deny people their constitutional rights

Special to The Star

As an asthmatic, I initially thought smoking bans were a good idea. I still think they are, but not one that the government should implement. It is a decision that is best left to the individual owners and their customers through the power of the purse.

Upon further thought on the matter, I remembered taking my oath of office and swearing to uphold the Constitution. Although there is nothing stated specifically to the rights of smokers or nonsmokers, the Constitution does speak directly to individual liberties and private property rights. I do not want to open Pandora’s Box and give the government undue power and control over our lives.

Communities across the country are wrestling with the dilemma of whether to enforce smoking bans, and unfortunately we’re quickly losing sight of our obligation as a society to protect civil rights in the process.

The constitutional purpose of our government is to promote commerce, build roads, protect us from foreign invasion and protect individual rights. This includes property rights. Any act to the contrary is an outright violation of the Constitution. A smoking ban is a violation of property rights, period.

The Constitution was written in such a manner to specifically limit the power and scope of government to preserve our individual rights — rights that are being eroded daily with a variety of seemingly small encroachments, such as the smoking ban.

Just as eminent domain started as a good idea and a means to acquire private land for the public good, it has become extremely problematic when untrustworthy government officials and self-serving developers define what is in the public’s best interest. Tax increment financing also began as an effective means to restore blighted areas until insiders began using it to increase their personal profits.

Everyone has the freedom of choice to go into any building where people are allowed to smoke or not smoke. But no one has the inalienable right to go into a privately owned business and demand that it be smoke-free or demand that a smoke-free building allow smoking.
No one should have the right to use government to force an owner to make his property smoke-free. In doing so, all our rights become easier targets for anyone disagreeing with, or who is offended by, the practice of our personal freedoms.

In the long run, this is far more dangerous than secondhand smoke ever could be.
Supply and demand drives free enterprise, and I think the best way to implement a smoking ban is to support those establishments that cater best to your desires. I think we must remember that whether as employees or patrons to businesses, we are the "guests" of the property owners.

My concern is for the property rights of all Shawnee residents and business owners.
Michelle R. Distler serves on the Shawnee City Council.