SOAPBOX:

Taxing Matters for the City

by Lynda Lambert
Before the City leaders stick us taxpayers with a higher piggyback tax rate, they should sell the City to the outside world.
       So, Baltimore’s income taxes are going up. This is just so typical!

       As a single mother and single wage-earner of some years, I understand that you’ve always got to meet the basic expenses. And, when you can’t, you look for new sources of income.

       Okay. I get it. I work two to three jobs at any given moment. But why, when the City is short on funds, is that new source of income always the taxpayer?

       It continues to amaze me that in a country that is supposed to be based on capitalism, the government always thinks socialistically. “From each according to his ability; to each according to his need.” Isn’t that Lenin’s creed? It’s not supposed to be ours.

       But every time the government gets in trouble, it has only two responses: reduce services or tax the populace. Well... I have another solution: Sell the product.

       That’s the capitalistic way. Sell the product.

       In this case, there is a good product: Baltimore. Character, history, neighborhoods, the harbor, convenience to business and museums and the symphony and the opera. It has a lot to offer; it can be sold.

       That’s what groups like Live Baltimore Marketing have been trying to do.

       And they’ve begun to succeed. For the first time in years, people are moving into Baltimore because they want to, not because they have to. And look at where they’re moving.

       Places like Canton, with its $245,000 townhouses and lofts.

       Exciting new addresses like the not-quite-ready-for-occupancy Congress Apartments and the Atrium—the old Hecht-May Company building.

       We’ve got a start here. Higher income taxes are not going to help move this forward.

       When you need to maintain the market you have and bring in new customers, the answer is easy. Every businessman from the corner grocer to GM knows it. You have a sale.

       You don’t raise the price of the item when you want people to keep buying; you lower it.

       If the Mayor and the City Council had lowered income taxes and property taxes, people who had been thinking about Baltimore and dismissed it as too expensive, might think again.

       Now, people who had been thinking about Baltimore are going to look elsewhere. And people already in the city who had been thinking about moving out will make the decision to go.

       Yes, everything I said before is true, and you still get more for your housing dollar in Baltimore than you do anywhere in the nearby vicinity, but that’s all you get. The schools are worse; the parking, horrendous. There’s crime and grime, and everything costs more if you live here with the rest of us schmucks in the city.

       “But... but... but...,” say the Mayor and the Council. “ ‘But’ nothing,” I say.

       Listen, if I have a ride at a carnival that has 20 seats, and those 20 seats have to go around whether there’s one person on them or 20, then I make more money if I fill those seats at a 50 cents a throw, than I do if I charge $5 and only get one rider.

       You may say, “Well, yes, but if you fill all the seats at $5, look at all the money you make!”

       Indeed. Have you ever seen a carnival ride filled when the tickets are $5?

       No, you haven’t. Because no one will pay it.

       The same thing is true here.

       The City government is trying to up the charge $5 per seat to ride, and what’s going to happen is that half the riders are going to get off, or never get on in the first place

       They’re going to go somewhere where the ride is cheaper.

       And I wouldn’t blame them.


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This story was published on June 27, 2001.