THE SALINA JOURNAL MONDAY, APRIL 9, 2001 A7 Tom BeU Editor & Publisher Opinions expressed on tiiis page are those of the identified writers. To join the conversation, write a letter to the Journal at: P.O. Box 740 Salina, KS 67402 Fax: (785) 827-6363 E-mail: SJLetters® saljournal.com Quote of the day "In good times, you spend all the money, and in bad times, you hunker down and wonder why you have no money." Rep. Rocky Nichols D-Topeka, on the boom-and-bust cycle of state budgeting. Shifting the blame THE ISSUE Tax hikes in Kansas THE ARGUMENT It'sjmt a matter of who gets the blame M embers of the Kansas Legislature are operating under the delusion that they have a choice as to whether or not taxes will go up. Or, perhaps, they are hoping it is the voters who are deluded. But the truth is tha:t for many, if not most, Kansans, taxes wiU be going up. The question is whether members of the Legislature will have their fingerprints on the tax hike or whether they wiU, once again, hide behind local units of government. Over the past few weeks, talk of raising taxes has gone from something that would be a good idea to improve educational opportunity in Kansas to something that may be necessary just to keep up with current services. While Gov. Bill Graves proposed a modest tax hike to increase the state's assistance to local school districts, many lawmakers, mostly in the House, have been dead-set against any tax hike. Existing revenues, they said, would have to do. Then, Wednesday, the official prognosticators of state receipts consulted their crystal ball and declared those existing revenues will fall $185 miUion short of funding the base budget approved by lawmakers that very day Still, resistance to a tax hike, and amnesia about the binge of tax cuts they passed in recent years, dominated legislators' thinking. But, as revenues stagnate and tax rates are frozen, the burden of state and local government grows. More children, needing more help, speaking more languages, compete with the needs of more frail elderly and more mentally handicapped citizens. An unwillingness to raise taxes will mean that some who, by law, deserve state services will not get them. A refusal to raise taxes at the state level means that Kansas cities, counties and, most notably, school districts will raise their taxes to fill the gaps. And, when school districts raise taxes, they raise property taxes, the tax least based on ability to pay, the tax most justly despised by citizens and businesses alike. Proof that our lawmakers know that local tax hikes are in the cards was shown in last week's House vote to allow school boards to raise local taxes. House members know what's coming. Tax hikes. It is just a matter of whether they have the courage to vote for them, or whether they are making your local school board take the political heat for them. — George B. Pyle Journal Columnist loo KfrHV FOtLUTAHTS? LETTERS TO THE JOURNAL SJLetters@saljournal.com Who cares what McVeigh thinks? ABC television has made me laugh with Dharma And Greg, Drew Carey and Norm, bored me to tears with "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire," but sunk to an all-time low with a 20/20 special on Timothy McVeigh. In 1995, this cold, calculating, remorseless monster drove a rolling time bomb into a federal building in Oklahoma City, Icilling 167 mostly innocent men, women and children. Does anyone really care what makes McVeigh laugh? What makes him cry? Or what turns him on? I sure don't. How about equal time for the victims? I'd like to know what made them laugh, what made them cry, what turned them on, and what their dreams were. If ABC wants ratings, and what network doesn't, give Timothy McVeigh the media attention he deserves on May 16, with a televised execution. ABC would smoke the ratings if that happened. — GREG GUARD Salina Well, Salina, it's time Well, Salina it's time we put our money where our mouth is. Time to step up to the plate. The Cagerz are back and pro basketball will ring out in the Bicentennial Center again for the third season. My hat is off to Francis Flax mmdm CONTRIBUTING EDITOR P.O. Box 740, Salina, KS 67402 and the other businessmen who believed enough "that this is what Salina needs. Now it's our turn to come up with corporate sponsorships, as well as season tickets and large single-ticket sales. Let's pack the BiCenter with 5,000 plus for the opener Come on, Salina, let's show these guys that the Cagerz are what we want and need. My wife and myself will be on the front row cheering on the Cagerz and supporting Francis' efforts to keep pro basketball alive in Salina. Hope you will, too. — JOE HAY Salina Answer me this? To remain silent indicates you agree with what's going on. Moreover, I believe, when you do that you are a part of the attack. You are actually one of them. George Pyle's April 4 column, "God goes to school, but doesn't run it," is the establishment's justification as they seek to remove God from everything public, no doubt thinking the dummies won't figure out what is going on. Answer me this: Why are there something like 4 million children now being home- schooled? Are they too stupid to be enlightened by the George Pyles of the world? Just my thought for the day — GEORGE MEYER Concordia Farmers must deal vvith city folk Outnumbered 120-to-1, we farmers have no real political or economic power E ^ very now and then, I pass a sign along the highway that says, "Every Jl American farmer feeds 120 other people," or words to that effect. Actually, it's been awhile since I've seen such a sign. The number is probably higher now. These signs are evidence of the pride farmers take in their jobs. Producing food is a noble profession, and those who do a good job of it have a right to be proud. I, too, am proud, hopefully with justification, to be a farmer But those signs also tell me something else. When push comes to shove, farmers are outnumbered 120 — or more — to one. That's why reactionary legislation like Kansas S.B. 204, which tries to legalize pollution * by "delisting" certain streams, is ultimately futile. Eventually farmers will use up the remaining good will urban people have for them, and that 120-to-one majority will squash us. Urban people, sick and tired of fertilizer, pesticides and manure in their drinking water, may decide to simply eliminate the pesky farmers who refuse to consider their point of view. Don't think that there is no precedent for T POINT OF VIEW JIM SCHARPLAZ /or the Salina Journal this. A few years ago, New York City faced a similar situation. Farms in the upstate watersheds that provide NYC's water were polluting it, and costs to clean up the water were mounting. One solution that was seriously considered was to eliminate farming in those watersheds. More than 8 million people live in NYC. What they want, they get. Fortunately, another solution was proposed and accepted, or those farmers would have been history Who will grow the food if farmers are eliminated? I don't think there is any question that the ag corporations that control the rest of the food system are anxious to fill that role. When farmers finally push their urban neighbors too far, the Monsan- tos, ADMs, Cargills and so on of the world will step forward and say "We'll be happy to grow your food. And we'll do it the way you want us to. We'll be good neighbors." Whether or not they actually will be good neighbors is open to question. Perception being far more important than fact in such situations — and these companies being masters of creating perception through advertising — plenty of people will believe them. What about farmers' property rights? One of the things I've learned from years of involvement in various causes is that we really have only those rights we can defend. Defending rights takes power — political, economic or, in some cases, military Farmers have no political power; 120 to one takes care of that. A quick look at the Board of Trade shows us that farmers have no economic power, and I know of no farmers' army. Farmers have no power, hence no real rights. People with no rights or power have two choices. One is to make a glorious • last stand, like the heroes at the Alamo. Glorious or not, they all ended up dead. They would also be forgotten if others hadn't gone on to win the wan Sometimes I wonder why certain commodity groups and "farm" organizations encourage farmers to take an adversarial position with their urban neighbors, pushing themselves-toward what will inevitably be a "last stand." Perhaps these groups and organizations are really serving the interests of the ag corporations which contribute heavily to them, and which want to eliminate private farmers. The other option of the powerless is to malie a deal. "That's what the upstate New York farmers did. In exchange for employing farming practices that don't pollute, these farmers are given preferential access to the NYC market. NYC gets clean water The farmers get a good market — and they get to keep farming. Fellow farmers, these are our choices — a deal or oblivion. People outnumbered 120 to one do not dictate policy Stop letting organizations with an agenda talk you into suicidal battles against overwhelming odds. Get acquainted with, communicate with, make a deal with, the urban majority that wants only clean food and water, and has the power to preserve your place in society. • Jim Scharplaz, a Minneapolis farmer, is a member of the Salina Journal Board of Contributing Editors. What's upriver matters to everyone Kansas Legislature should not do anything to protect polluters from the law D OWNSTREAM - I grew up with six brothers oiit on a farm in Brown County Although cash was always in short supply we had the best playground in the world. We were surrounded by gardens, rolling fields, farm animals, wildlife, * woods and meandering JULIE streams. GEIGER When it got really hot in ,ueAtchinson the summer, mstead of go- Daily Globe ing to a swimming pool, ^ which cost too much money we went wading, swimming and exploring in nearby creeks and streams. The cool water called out to us like a magical fairy godmother Constantly we stretched our imaginations by setting up Lewis and Clark type expeditions - always curious, always exploring. I remember how dearly I loved the silvery slip of minnows against my bare ankles when I was.wading in the water I was completely fascinated by the fluid schools of perfect, miniature fish. Occasionally we would catch a frog. One of my brothers would peel off his shirt, wet it in the creek and carefully carry our prize new pet home. There, we would create a miniature habitat in a cardboard box in the backyard. We would spend hours catching flies to feed him, and watch with glee as he ate them. Inevitably, the frog would escape, because the habitats we made were never constructed with padlocks and concrete. We manufactured our own fishing poles with dental floss lines and corn-cob bobbers on the ends of likely looking sticks. The smallish fish we caught traveled home in dilapidated 3-gallon tin buckets. The water in them spilled down our shins as we walked. We learned first-hand how to clean, cook and eat those fish. Of course, our parents would admonish us to stay on the streams on our own land. But like all normally curious children, what little we understood of property lines was generally ignored. One particularly memorable July day, my brothers were swimming in a wide shallow pool in a stream near our farm. My big brother Joel was sitting on a rock at the edge of the water whittling the bark off a walking stick with his pocket knife. When he finished, he decided it was time to trek "upriver." I eagerly set off with him, as the other boys were enjoying splashing me too much. With Joel by my side, I always felt safe. The blistering sun pounded down on us as we marched through the water, jumping from stone to stone where it looked murky and uninviting. We went further than normal that day up around a bend we had not been past before. Suddenly Joel and I stopped and stared in shock. The stream bank before us held a huge mountain of garbage. Empty pesticide cans, sporting skull and crossbones warnings, oozed yellow gook into the water A rusty bedspring jutted up amidst overflowing, black plastic garbage bags. Flies buzzed in mammoth, shivering swarms. Joel took a step closer and poked at a dead frog floating in a stagnant, greenish pool. I doubled over with nausea, clenching my hands across my stomach. Joel turned and grabbed my arm, hard. He yanked me up and nearly dragged me back downstream at a great clip, never loosening his strong fingers. When we got to where the other boys were playing, Joel commanded, "Hey you guys. Guys! Get your shoes on. We're going home." Splashing and laughter trickled into surprised silence. The boys stood staring at our stricken faces. Rebellion stopped short as understanding spread without words. One by one, each of them moved to rocks along the bank and started pulling on shoes and socks. We did not go back to' play in that particular stream ever again. I ceased to feel that innocent, magical call to the water Swimming and wading were obviously dangerous. The dead frog stuck like super glue in my mind. The experience ruined my appetite for fish as well. 1 always figured, somewhere, the fish on the plate had been exposed to a mess like the one we saw that hot July day so long ago. Fortunately today the Clean Water Act is set up to correct and prevent this and other types of dangerous pollution from seeping into our national waterways.- Uri-fortunately in Kansas, both our house and senate have approved Senate Bill 204, which cuts the Clean Water Act to shreds. • I am sadly disappointed with the representatives who sponsored and supported this bill. It is an outrage to every child in Kansas in that it sets a standard for water quality which renders even our largest, rivers and streams unsuitable for swim-' ming. Hopefully Gov Bill Graves will exert' his usual good common sense and veto the darn thing. • Julie Geiger is a freelance writer and organic farmer in Brown County. DOONESBURY FLASHBACKS By G.B. TRUDEAU ^ YOU SHOUt^ PO...
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