March 23, 2011

Inbox — March 23, 2011

Letters to the Editor

LEO Jinx
I’ve heard of the Sports Illustrated cover jinx, but now I guess we have a LEO cover jinx given the Cards quick exit from the NCAA tourney.
J. Ashley, Middletown

Lien Back
Jonathan Meador’s March 2 article, “Lien on me,” begins to illustrate the harm being done to families by Kentucky’s law allowing local governments to sell outstanding tax liens to private investors. These private investors — many of whom operate from outside Kentucky — file expensive foreclosure suits and charge exorbitant fees and interest to the homeowner in their effort to collect liens often worth only a few hundred dollars.

We are a broad coalition including the Kentucky Equal Justice Center, the Legal Aid Society, the Metropolitan Housing Coalition, the Network Center for Community Change (the Making Connections Network) and others examining the sale of tax liens to private investors. Some important work already is being done to address the hardship faced by low-income families and elders. Last year, the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office agreed to not sell delinquent tax liens when the homeowner was on a low fixed-income and could demonstrate a hardship.

Our coalition also is studying the taxpayer costs and the expansive social costs of tax lien foreclosures in our city. We are examining the link between the sale of tax liens to private investors and the dramatic rise in vacant properties. Because investors own these tax liens, it is harder for local governments to clear tax debts and restore vacant properties to productive use. Furthermore, a foreclosure or a vacant property in a neighborhood drives down the value of neighboring homes and erodes our community’s tax base. According to analysis by the Network Center for Community Change, 69 homes have been sold at Commissioner’s Sales between 2008-2010 as a result of tax lien foreclosure. The loss in neighborhood home values as a result is close to $4 million in home equity.

We can do better than continuing to allow investors to prey on vulnerable citizens and erode our neighborhoods. If you are interested in learning more, please join us at for a forum on tax lien foreclosures on Tuesday, April 12, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at New Directions Housing Corp., 1000 E. Liberty St.
Anne Marie Regan, Kentucky Equal Justice Center; Cathy Hinko, Metropolitan Housing Coalition; Dana Jackson, Network Center for Community Change; Jeff Been, Legal Aid Society

Train Sense
In response to David Blank’s letter in the March 9 LEO, I would like to point out a few issues with respect to the benefits of rail vs. driving/vanpooling. I formerly participated in the good Ticket To Ride vanpool program. Train service has advantages for several reasons:

1) Flexibility — Vanpool program participants must go to work and leave at the same time every day, not allowing for unexpected overtime that four-trains-a-day service would accommodate. Also, it exclusively accommodates regular commuters, unlike train service, which allows for single-ticket purchases. There is no longer Greyhound service to Frankfort and service to Lexington only via Cincinnati.

2) Nearly all, if not all vanpools to Frankfort, meet near the Gene Snyder Freeway, an area poorly served by transit, excluding anyone without their own vehicle to get to the pickup location.

3) Better fuel economy — Gas is $3.50/gallon. We can start planning now for its continued rise with more efficient transportation, or pay for it later.

4) Comfort and convenience — Trains are more comfortable and convenient than vans and would be equipped with Wi-Fi service.

5) Safety — Per passenger mile, trains are far safer than motor vehicles.

6) Proven ridership potential — Wisconsin had proven it would have good ridership numbers on a very similar line and was about to construct it until their new governor came into office. Louisville and Lexington are only slightly smaller than Milwaukee and Madison, respectively, and are about the same distance apart. One major difference that makes ridership potential much greater here is the location of our capital in between the two cities, providing a huge potential for daily commuters to the capital from both directions that Wisconsin doesn’t have.
Ron Schneider, Coalition for the Advancement of Regional Transportation (CART), and National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP), Hikes Point

Powerbridge
Why can’t we have a lottery game, based on the Powerball format, that could help or entirely pay for the bridges project? The other lottery games could go on paying for whatever they pay for, and this could be entirely separate. Toll booths are going to add to the project cost, as well as create traffic snarls. Seems like a simple solution to a problem that all our “leaders” spend too much time overanalyzing.
Jeff Herbert, South End

Scared
Why are scientists always scaring us? Except for that earth-circling-the-sun thingy, they haven’t gotten anything right. Mercury in drinking water is bad for us, really? Cigarettes and natural sunlight cause cancer — where is the proof? Radiation from nuclear plants is dangerous — don’t they use radiation to stop cancer? I almost forgot their crazy monkey theory and their claim the universe is more than 6,000 years old.

Rather than make our kids listen to this nonsense after age 16, end all public education and give us a nice tax break. Next, repeal child labor laws. With the GOP/Tea Party running the economy, we will need those young’uns to work all the new jobs.
Sam Sloss, Highlands

False Prophets
President Barack Obama is not a Muslim. He is not a socialist. He was not born in a foreign country. He is not destroying America. Yet FOX News, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and scores of others in the conservative media have spent the past two years perpetuating these untruths. They should be ashamed for fattening their bank accounts via bearing false witness against a neighbor. A day of reckoning will come when America’s false prophets will be held accountable for their hateful trashing of a good person.

What’s destroying America insidiously from within is greed. Yes, the love of money is the source of all kinds of evil. Yes, brother Cain, we are our brothers’/sisters’ keepers. Yes, it does take a village to raise a child. Yes, people of faith, we are currently living in God’s kingdom on earth and greed is not a kingdom value.

If Jesus Christ, the epitome of love and source of good news for the poor, were living in the United States today, Jesus would be vilified by the prophets of greed. Jesus would go to New York City and turn over the moneychangers’ tables on Wall Street, asking, “What are you doing corrupting God’s kingdom with your selfishness? Agents of greed, how is your love of money consistent with the In God We Trust slogan inscribed on your currency?” Should we change the In God We Trust on our bills and coinage to In Business We Trust, In Greed We Trust, or In Money We Trust?

We keep on glibly pleading for God to bless America, but I don’t believe God is pleased with our loving money more than we love God. Only God’s transforming love can bring real, needed change to our country. We might start by reforming an economic system that runs on greed and that unjustly makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. Reform could happen if we loved the poor as much as God does.
Paul L. Whiteley Sr., St. Matthews