January 8, 2003
Dear friends and neighbors:
I strongly encourage
every voter of Virginia Beach either via the internet or Cox Channel
48 to watch the Tuesday, January 7, 2003 City Council deliberations on
the 18 cents a pack cigarette tax increase. At the end of
your viewing, ask yourself if you can afford what Mayor Oberndorf
passes off as leadership. The Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance
has no doubt what a majority will conclude. The question is,
what can we do between now and May 2004.
The current City Budget (2002-2003) is over $1.2
billion and it represented over a six percent increase over the prior
year budget (2001-2002). Remember inflation was 1.5 percent (how
could you forget, your meager social security and government pension
increase reminds you monthly) and population growth in the City was
relatively flat. The City Council approved a budget with
at least 4.5 percent real growth.
Last night the Mayor defacto said, in a budget of
$1.2 billion she couldn’t find $4.5 million dollars to reprogram to
what City Council claimed as its highest priority, that being public
safety and economic development.
Last night the Mayor defacto said that when City
Council adopted this year’s budget last May that she neglected to
address the City’s top priorities public safety. A need for
public safety radios has existed for 18 months, but a theater was
funded instead. The need for additional police officers wasn’t
funded, but funding for ads to get us to vote Yes on the regional
sales tax was available. The need for additional funding for
economic development wasn’t funded, but millions were expended on
Channel 48 and newspaper ads. We don’t have money for police
officers, but we have money for car allowances and other perks for
department heads and other city employees.
Mayor Oberndorf is like a magician that wants to
distract you from the trick, so you won’t see how it is performed.
Unfortunately the Mayor, who has never seen a tax or fee increase she
didn’t like or vote for, has played her trick so many times we all
know it. We understand she wanted us to focus on the need for
public safety, and not why City Council had funded lower priority
items. She doesn’t want to be held accountable for spending
money on the “nice to haves” and then raising taxes for “basic
needs”. Like a teenager she wants to spend all her lunch
money for CDs and the movies, and then come back later for lunch money
again because she’s hungry. Mayor Oberndorf and other members of
City Council won’t be held accountable if they are allowed to
continue in office. It is time for some real tough love action
on our part to instill fiscal discipline in City Government.
Mayor Oberndorf, Vice Mayor Jones, and Council
members Jim Woods, Margaret Eure, Richard Maddox, Harry Diezel, and
Jim Reeve exercised a play that
could come out of the old time Democratic tax and spend liberal game
book of Senator Kennedy. You find a product, and while being
legal, still carries a negative social image and that a voting
minority purchases (and hopefully will not remember 17 months from now
at the next Council election) and play that against a noble public
purpose. You distract City employees and the residents
they serve from Council’s misplaced priorities by pitting fiscally
responsibly voters against police and fire advocacy groups. City
Council then passes the tax and falsely proclaims itself as the voice
Newly elected Council member Reeve, although he
voted for the tax, joined Ron Villanueva and Peter
Schmidt in openly speaking out
against the Mayor’s and Councils’ imposition of a cruel burden on
many of our fellow citizens. However, Mayor Oberndorf and her
six helpers would not let reason and fairness get in the way of their
unquenchable thirst for your tax dollar. Voting
against the tax was Council members, Villanueva, Schmidt, Reba
McClanan, and Rosemary Wilson.
In closing let’s use an example right from the
City’s own Channel 48 propaganda network. VBTV announced an
economic development gain of 100 new jobs with a salary of $32,000
(including benefits). That means jobs that pay the employee $22,400
(assuming employer benefits at 30 percent.) Now if this employee
smokes a pack a day the 18 cents per pack increased just passed by
City Council will cost that employee $65.70 a year, on top of all the
other almost exhaustive list of local taxes and fees.
What is fair about picking on a person’s
addiction of nicotine to makeup for City Council’s unwillingness to
make tough choices? NOTHING! The fact that one with medical help
and self-discipline could quit smoking does not justify the raw
political calculus exercised by City Council to financially prey on
their addiction. For a senior citizen living on social security, the
City Council just took up to half your recently received annual
increase. The golden rule finds no home in the mind of Mayor Oberndorf
and most members of City Council.
The current City Council majority is a lost cause.
Mayor Oberndorf and the City Council majority are not capable of
helping themselves, because like most smokers, they cannot admit they
have a disease – an addiction to taxes and fees.
What can we do between now and May 2004? If
you do smoke please quit. If you can’t quit, then buy your
cigarettes anywhere but in Virginia Beach. Write and email
members of the General Assembly to pass proposed legislation to cap
local cigarette taxes at rates in effect prior to January 1, 2003.
Next time you see Mayor
Oberndorf giving one of her great public presentations, tell her we
have seen enough showmanship, you want to see leadership in reducing
the cost of government – we deserve tax reductions, not increases.
We can change the direction in government locally just like we have
nationally. You the voter have the power to control your
destiny. Join the Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance today and
start turning back the tide of big government and excessive taxation.
John D. Moss - Chairman
Virginia Beach Taxpayer Alliance
WEB site: vbtaxpayer.com