Casualty of Capitalism

Exiled into Wilmington, Delaware by virtue of corporate layoffs. (Note: Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this blog are Copyright 2005, Michael Collins, and cannot be used without permission.)

Location: Wilmington, Delaware, United States

Graduate of University of Maryland School of Law; University of Maryland, College Park (Economics/Political Science).

Friday, May 20, 2005

Another Tax Increase

I buy a house in Wilmington, and immediately the city increases property taxes by 6.9% (only after being negotiated down from a proposed 9.8% increase). Water and sewer rates will rise 15%. And I wonder, for what? How is this tax increase going to improve my life here in Wilmington, a city that appears to be having trouble attracting small businesses and that certain something that makes successful cities a fun place to live?

After reading that the Mayor of Wilmington, James Baker, advocated the higher end tax increase, I decided to check out his resume. You can find it here.

If you read this career summary without knowing who it belonged to, you might conclude that Mr. Baker is an official with the NAACP, rather than the mayor of a small city.

Reflecting Mr. Baker's belief in the value of history and culture, he has played a key role in a number of projects to preserve and promote the City's heritage. They include the restoration of the historic Mt. Olive and Mt. Zion Cemeteries, establishing the Heritage Gallery and Pauline Young Historical Collection at Howard High School, and the Historical Society of Delaware's "Opening the Door To Freedom" exhibition, which chronicled the sacrifices and contributions of Delaware's African-American Community. In 1989, he was responsible for creating the Civil Rights Commemorative Commission to mark the 25th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The permanent legacy of that Commission includes an extensive video and music collection at the Wilmington Institute Free Library.

Under his leadership, City memorials to Americans killed during World War II and the Korean War were erected. Also through Mr. Baker’s efforts, the City/County Government building was named in honor of Delaware's nationally renowned civil rights attorney, the late Louis L. Redding, with an inspiring statue of Mr. Redding commissioned to adorn the building. Mr. Baker’s initiatives also include the naming of the Peter Spencer Plaza and The Freedom Plaza, site of the City’s Holocaust Memorial and the commemorative naming of the Helen Chambers Park, Clifford Brown Walk, John Babiarz Park, Harriet Tubman/Thomas Garrett Riverfront Park, and the Brown-Burton-Winchester Park. Mayor Baker is also the author of “The Genuine American Music,” a two-volume encyclopedia of black musicians, which tells the story of black music in America through text, rare photos, and original illustrations.

So I ask again, regarding this tax increase: what benefit will I receive from it? Will it be name more parts of the city for members of certain ethnic groups? Will it be to restore more black churches around town? Will it be to promote more educational programs on black history?

Is this what passes for accomplishments of a city's mayor these days? What about crime reduction? Attraction of businesses? Improved economic opportunity? Cleaner streets?

Taxing the owners of land in the city (a practice as whole that I believe counter to the principle of ownership: aren't I just paying RENT to city?) is not the solution to building 1) a better city, or 2) better public relations. Wilmington has a huge problem with crime and drug abuse for such a small place. How about the mayor start taking his job seriously and protecting his citizens, rather than just throwing them the occasional race-based bone?

Tell us, what are your economic and crime-fighting accomplishments? Or is what your resume proclaims the best you can offer Wilmington? If so, you're better suited for a non-profit than leadership of a city that needs some serious work.


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