Watch council tax increase on TV and ask if you can afford what Mayor Oberndorf passes off as leadership

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 of reason.

    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
Ph 363-7745
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