Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Great Tax Debate of 2007

I have a lot of respect for Marty Trillhaase as a coherent and thoughtful editorialist and writer. I haven't always agreed with him, but I think he does his homework.

His commentary about Idaho's tax debate and economic development is worth a read. I am most in agreement with the fact that we need to invest more in education to make that element of our state's offerings the best it can be, and the most attractive to the best kind of companies who need advanced and educated workforces.

The op-ed was emailed to me, so I don't have a direct link, but here is the Post Register main page. This is a Copyrighted editorial of the Idaho Falls Post Register in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

Wednesday July 18, 2007


The great tax debate of 2007

By Marty Trillhaase
copyright Idaho Falls Post Register


After a generation of using Idaho's tax code as an economic development tool, it's time to try something new.

Idaho continues giving businesses income tax breaks for making investments -- even after the feds discarded their larger version of the idea back in the 1980s.

It offered Albertsons a package of tax cuts to retain its corporate headquarters in Boise. The company promptly sold out.

The state gave Micron Technology property, sales and income tax incentives. The company responded by investing in Asia and downsizing its Idaho workforce.

All of which says one thing: Taxes don't drive business decisions. Businesses decide where to operate based on whether they can:

* Hire a qualified, trained work force -- at a reasonable cost.

* Access markets through waterways, railroads, highways and airports.

* Find quality schools that appeal to their employees.

* Acquire a high quality of life.

Perform well on those attributes and your state becomes attractive to a wide range of business opportunities. Unfortunately, Idaho has short-changed schools and higher education. That's left us with an economy that is more dependent on one or two big employers than was the case 20 years ago.

Lawmakers didn't start out re-examining tax philosophy when they set up this year's interim committee. The group began with a more modest focus. Senate tax writing committee members were tired of passing new sales tax exemptions. Most of Idaho's economy is exempt from the tax than is exposed to it. They wanted to review those breaks.

Some members are tired of how lawmakers have begun to tinker with the state income tax code, making it more complicated for taxpayers to navigate.

Both House and Senate tax panels have new leadership, so there's an opportunity to innovate.

Still unresolved from the 2007 session is how Idaho can reduce or eliminate the sales tax on groceries and how it can pay for it. Big business may renew its push for a $110 million personal property tax break -- but lawmakers should ask what tax corporations are willing to pay instead.

But Micron's downsizing adds a new backdrop to these discussions. Not only is there the matter of whether these targeted business tax breaks do any good -- but questions about who pays what tax tend to get more attention when state revenues tighten up.

Idaho has a surplus now, but layoffs -- especially involving high-salaried workers in the Treasure Valley -- mean fewer income tax receipts down the road.

You'll see some long overdue debate on those points when the panel convenes in Boise next month and again in October. Clearly some legislators are getting skeptical about where we've been and where we've headed.

This will be worth watching.

Monday, May 28, 2007

As Allies Turn Foe, Disillusion Rises in Some G.I.’s

I attended a Memorial Day service this afternoon that was very well done. A sobering reminder of how many people have paid the ultimate price for this country and the many people left behind who love and cherish their memories.

Last night I watched a '60 Minutes' special report called 'Fathers, Sons, and Brothers' which followed an Iowa National Guard unit through their entire Iraq experience, including extended deployment and the death of several members who served.

Today I read this story (excerpted below) from the New York Times.

I keep trying to understand and rationalize the reasons for staying in Iraq, and wanting to listen to the arguments objectively. But since the credibility of our national leaders is so shot for me on this topic I can't see my way clear to trusting them. And it's getting harder every day to discern any effective path out except complete disengagement.

Pray that we elect an effective 44th US President in 18 months. That person is going to have one hell of a mess to clean up.

from Michael Kamber, New York Times 5/28/07

BAGHDAD — Staff Sgt. David Safstrom does not regret his previous tours in Iraq, not even a difficult second stint when two comrades were killed while trying to capture insurgents.

“In Mosul, in 2003, it felt like we were making the city a better place,” he said. “There was no sectarian violence, Saddam was gone, we were tracking down the bad guys. It felt awesome.”

But now on his third deployment in Iraq, he is no longer a believer in the mission. The pivotal moment came, he says, this February when soldiers killed a man setting a roadside bomb. When they searched the bomber’s body, they found identification showing him to be a sergeant in the Iraqi Army.

“I thought: ‘What are we doing here? Why are we still here?’ ” said Sergeant Safstrom, a member of Delta Company of the First Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division. “We’re helping guys that are trying to kill us. We help them in the day. They turn around at night and try to kill us.”

Monday, May 21, 2007

Home Sweet Home!

Jack's back. And so is Mom.

Yesterday, after six days of finally improving weight in the hospital and diagnosis of some milk allergies and low muscle tone, the doctors decided that Jack could go home to continue his regimens.

This was welcome news to everyone, but especially to those of us reliant on Mom to keep the house in order.

I won't list the number of people who helped us, both because it's too long and because it's slightly humbling. But we are in all of your debt for the prayers, food, chauffeur services, and babysitting (and cleaning help, much to my delight and chagrin!). And thanks to our friends at the city and the police association and the school district, who brought kind words and beautiful flowers to brighten up the hospital room!

Jack's prognosis is good. He'll be on a strict regimen of supplements and weigh-ins, with Mom toughing out a new "no-dairy at all" diet, which is harder than one would think. Jack will also have some neurologist exams and muscle tone exercises to 'pump him up', as his brother Max did before him.

All in all, we've been blessed again, and life continues onward and upward.

Thanks for everything.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Saying goodbye to Mommy for the night

This was a hard night. I brought kids 1-5 into Spokane for a reunion with Mom and baby Jack, who is in the Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart. They haven’t seen their Mom since Tuesday morning at 6:45 am, at which time we all thought they’d be home the next day at the latest.

As it happens, Jack’s “failure to thrive” has him in the hospital much longer, possibly a week, maybe less, maybe more, depending on whether he can prove that his little body can begin to keep calories in him and gain some real weight. They’ve put Jack through a battery of tests for everything from possibly horrible diseases like Muscular Dystrophy to simple potential allergies to some element of his mother’s milk diet. They’ve taken tissue biopsies all the way down to his intestines, numerous blood draws and “sweat test” patches to keep ruling out things we don’t want to think about.

All of this while he has a feeding tube inserted through his nose that goes all the way into his tiny tummy. It doesn’t seem to bother him but it’s taped to his face like spray paint on the Mona Lisa – it just shouldn’t be there.

So tonight, after a week of unbelievable help from literally dozens of people, flowers and calls of support from more than that, not to mention the most sincere, genuine, unexpected and moving offering of personal and group prayer I think I’ve ever been blessed with from our schools superintendent and members of the School District 271 leadership team, we reunited the older kids with their little brother and their Mom.

I realized tonight that I’ve been more frazzled by all of this than I was aware of. And I’m more than a little embarrassed by the realization (again) of just how much hard, important work my wife does every day as a stay-at-home parent. I have known for years that she works much harder than I do, which is not at all false modesty. But I really hadn’t processed in a while just how many constant and all-consuming details go into life as a single parent. Because when I travel on business or am gone from home for extended work periods, in many ways that’s what she is. Even with all the help and support I’ve received from all corners of our life, I still am feeling pretty wiped out as I sit and type tonight. She does this much stuff 24 hours a day 7 days a week for the last 12 years without the slightest complaint. Me I’m grousing about lots of little things.

But in all that what has struck me the most is that the hardest part so far was when a weary set of kids had to say goodbye to their Mom at the elevator after 3 hours of wonderful plain togetherness. Our 2-year old was almost totally distraught. Our 9-year old was silently crying in a way I hadn’t seen her do in I can’t remember how long. Our 4-year old was bleary eyed and kept asking Mommy why she couldn’t go home with us. Our 7-year old was a trooper in helping carry things to the car while she stared off into the distance not fully comprehending or wanting to leave. And our 11-year old eldest was a proud big brother champion who didn’t want me to see his tears as we sat in the car in the parking garage getting ready to pull out for the trek home from Spokane.

And most of all, the strongest woman I’ve ever known, my wife, was trying gamely to be strong in front of the kids while grappling with the emotions of day four of an uncertain hospital stay for our smiley happy three month old who is clueless that anything is wrong.

This week has been one of those focusing events in our life, in mine anyway, that seems like a message from above saying “be still, watch your kids sleep quietly, and be reminded that this is truly the most important thing you’ll do on this earth.” I don’t reflect on those times enough.

These last few days I’ve been working to remind myself of the little blessings that permeate our lives. I’m glad that modern medicine is as good as it is. I’m deeply touched by the cheery, varied, and unending assistance that friends and family have provided all week. I’m blessed to have health insurance so that at least a big chunk of this major expense will be covered (fingers crossed). I’m happy that if this had to happen at all it did so in the spring and not the middle of a snowy winter. And the list of dumb things I’m forcing myself to be thankful for goes on an on.

But more than anything else I wish Kathleen were in bed in the next room with baby Jack in her arms - anticipating in her ever-vigilant “Mommy sleep” the inevitable 2 am visit from a partially sleepwalking child of whatever age who climbs into the bed and snores the gorgeous music that only a child can create. I wish the dog were in the house standing sentry at the foot of the bed always on Kathleen's side while I’m in the other room typing or reading something with half an eye on a fake news comedy show.

Maybe one day this week will take its place as a little gift to my memory, reminding me that in the small, routine times when the world is totally in order it’s then that I need to pause and give thanks. Maybe.

Get better fast Jack. Gain some weight and get yourself back home. And please don’t forget to bring your Mom with you. She’s the glue holding together the lives of seven people who love and miss you both very much.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Jack's Baptism

Today John Patrick Kennedy gets baptized into the Catholic faith. It's a great day that he'll never remember, but his terrific godparents, Natalie and Madeleine Sheils will be great mentors and leaders for him throughout his life.

Welcome, Jack!

A Prayer by Archbishop Oscar Romero

It helps, now and then, to step back
and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation
in realizing that. This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well. It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Schedule for CdA Comp Plan Public Meetings

Schedule Announced for CdA Comprehensive Plan Public Meetings

The City of Coeur d’Alene needs your participation as the community takes the next step in the process of updating its Comprehensive Plan. Join friends and neighbors to learn about the plan that will serve as a guide for future development within the city. Meetings will be held:

Monday, April 23rd
Christ the King Lutheran Church
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

Thursday, April 26th
Lake City High School
6101 Ramsey Road
6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

Thursday, May 3rd
Special Walk-in Open House
CdA City Hall – Council Chambers
710 E. Mullan
Noon till 9:00 p.m.

Wednesday, May 16th
Lake City Senior Center
1916 Lakewood Drive
6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

Wednesday, May 23rd
St. Pius X Catholic Church
625 Haycraft, Community Room
6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

For more information, visit the City of Coeur d'Alene's website, or call Sean Holm at 769-2274.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Ben Bernanke on Affordable Housing

OK - I'll concede it - this linked document is mostly boring for non-banker types. BUT - it shows that the issue of affordable housing and the many repercussions for communities that lose touch with a diverse pool of housing options is getting attention at the highest levels.

Here is an informative (if a bit wonkish) speech by Ben Bernanke, Federal Reserve Chairman that touches on the issue. The section about affordable housing and Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac comes about midway down the speech. Here's a blurb from Bernanke's speech, particularly the section on the topic:

"Affordable Housing and the GSE Portfolios

What public purpose should be served by the GSE portfolios? An obvious and worthy candidate is the promotion of affordable housing. The Congress has frequently expressed the priority it attaches to affordable housing through, for example, the provision of various housing programs and tax incentives aimed at increasing the availability of moderately priced homes and rental housing.

The Congress has also determined that financial institutions have a role in providing credit to low- and moderate-income households. Most notably, the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) obligates insured depository institutions to help meet the credit needs of their entire local communities, including low- and moderate-income borrowers and neighborhoods, consistent with the institutions’ safe and sound operation.

Along similar lines, in 1992 the Congress established an affordable housing mission for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by directing HUD to create specific mortgage purchase goals for these GSEs. However, evidence that Fannie and Freddie have had beneficial effects on the supply of affordable housing (over and above the benefits of their securitization activities for the mortgage market as a whole) has been difficult to find. After conducting several studies of the effects of GSEs on the mortgage market and establishing the GSEs’ disappointing results, HUD in 2004 raised the numerical goals that these institutions must reach to fulfill their affordable housing mission. As noted by HUD, “With respect to these public purposes, Congress does not simply expect the GSEs to strive toward achievement of these purposes but rather to lead the mortgage finance industry and to ensure that citizens throughout the country enjoy access to the public benefits provided by these federal entities.”

Thus, a standard for determining the public benefit of Fannie’s and Freddie’s portfolios seems readily available: Do the GSE portfolios support affordable housing? At the present time, Fannie and Freddie appear to fail this test. Indeed, by OFHEO’s estimation, less than 30 percent of the GSEs’ current portfolio holdings are oriented toward affordable housing (Lockhart, 2007)."

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

NIC Presidential Search

Today the North Idaho College Presidential Search Committee held the first meeting, and the caliber of people in the room helping to give advice and counsel to the NIC Board of Trustees was very high. For one more week, the committee is seeking input on what criteria the community seeks in a new president.

There are 11 members of the NIC community (including professors, staff, and a very impressive student and 11 members of the community at large (including business people, government representatives, retired residents, just to name a few).

Here's a website with information and timelines on the search.

If anyone has information, thoughts, or ideas on the topic, feel free to send your input to any committee member or email:

Salvation Army Kroc Corps Community Center

This page has a video flythrough of the Salvation Army Kroc Corps Community Center. Pretty amazing.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Idaho's Working Poor Special on IPTV

From Idaho Public TV Website:
Airing February 15 & 18

Idaho's Working Poor

According to a new study, only half of Idaho's existing jobs pay a living wage for parents with two children, even when both parents are working full time. The Northwest Federation of Community Organizations issued its report at the same time Idaho's legislators rejected or held off considering several measures aimed at helping the working poor.

This week on Dialogue, host Joan Cartan-Hansen and her guests, State Senator Elliot Werk, D-Boise and State Representative Janice McGeachin, R-Idaho Falls, will debate what legislators can do to improve economic and social conditions for thousands of Idahoans. The two legislators are expected to discuss proposals like an increase in the minimum wage, reducing the sales tax on food, and starting community colleges to increase educational opportunities. Why have legislators rejected theses ideas? What other proposals are on the table?

Viewers are encouraged to e-mail questions before February 15th or call in with their questions during the show. If you wish to pose a question during the program you can call IPTV during the program (the phone number will appear on the screen) or use this email link before or during the program.

* Links: Job gap study (Northwest Federation of Community Organizations)

State Senator Elliot Werk, D-Boise
State Representative Janice McGeachin, R-Idaho Falls

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Thank you guys.

Tonight my family sat, laid, and lounged in the living room and watched a movie together. The kids brought their sleeping bags and we popped popcorn. It was Norman Rockwell, sappy, even, but totally normal and comfortable.

But it was also a tremendous reminder to me that in the midst of whatever else is going on, despite whatever stress or strain or anxiety is afoot, there are 7 people in the world that don't want anything other than love, attention, and a hug.

I'm not a world-class parent. I get frustrated at the kids way too often, and I am pretty limited in my patience levels. But these little people, and their amazing Mom, forgive and forget, always moving on to the next moment, constantly optimistic and loving.

I can't repay them for their love, and I can't promise superior parenting. But I can say thank you guys, because you give me more than I can ever give back.

So thank you. I love you.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

John Patrick Kennedy

Welcome to the world, Jack!

January 30, 2007

7 lbs. 12 oz.
21.5 inches long

Mom and Baby are doing great and resting comfortably. Jack decided to arrive with a bullet (and a scare to his folks). His cord was wrapped around his head twice and tightly, so he was as purple as his ancestors getting ready to take on a British drunk in a Galway bar.

But given some good doctors and nurses, some oxygen and he turned the corner quickly. Thanks again to Kootenai Medical Center for a job well done!

Though he was a day late based on the first due date given, he was way early by Kennedy baby standards. And that's a blessing - Mom was quite ready.

Since this is our sixth child born at Kootenai Medical Center, we have all the holes punched on our "Frequent Delivery" card, so we can now get a free latte!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

PBS Series - 'The Supreme Court'

I was alerted to this series that will be airing beginning in January by a former professor of mine, Joe Kobylka of SMU in Dallas, Texas. As a nationally known and respected expert on the Supreme Court in general and the late Justice Harry Blackmun in particular, he will be featured in the series. In watching excerpts of the show's episode 4 here, it looks to be a terrific series for history and government buffs, particularly if you're interested in the Supreme Court.

I had Professor Kobylka for class my first semester freshman year and my last semester senior year, and he was also a valued counselor for class slection and the like. As I recall, I received the same grade in his classes both of these bookend semesters of my college career, and suffice it to say it wasn't an "A". Because we shared an avid love for baseball and a certain northern wisecracking approach to the socialite scene in Dallas, I don't hold any grudges against him for my grades.

Considering, too, that I took Adam Smith's 'laissez-faire' approach to a few aspects of my college career, he might even have been more generous than was deserved.

I should note however that a google-assisted discovery of Joe Kobylka's inclusion on a 2003 student newspaper list of SMU's Best Dressed Faculty Members shows that MUCH has to have changed in Dallas fashion trends and student tolerance of Wisconsin-chic sartorial style since I attended college there.

The Supreme Court series will be a must-watch for me, hopefully you'll find the time as well.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

S.M.U. Faculty Complains About Bush Library

NY Times, DALLAS, Jan. 9 — Intimates of President Bush have singled out Southern Methodist University as the likely site of his presidential library, but faculty members, complaining of being bypassed, are raising sharp questions about the school’s identification with his presidency.

In a meeting Tuesday, faculty members complained of a lack of consultation over the emerging agreement and all but demanded answers from the university’s president, R. Gerald Turner, on the relationship that would develop between the university and the library.

“There’s been a lack of transparency from the beginning,” said Tony Pederson of the journalism faculty, urging the university’s administration “to be more forthcoming with detailed information.”

UPDATE... 1-14-2007

This link is to the reaction from SMU's students and community to the Bush Library decision. I found it tonight after watching the 60 minutes interview with GWB and found it interesting.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Verizon Hell

This is the repost of an actual transcript of an online chat I had with Verizon, while on hold waiting for service. I have been on hold for 1 hour and 45 minutes as of this writing, with no end in sight. If I weren't cancelling a phone line and didn't want to be charged any longer, I would have hung up. Thank God for speakerphones so I can still be getting work done during this interminable nightmare.

Down with Verizon!
Your chat ID number is 01080756442. Welcome to Verizon Live Chat. You have selected to chat about. TN: 2086647976
Subject: None of the categories apply (None)

Question: I want to cancel my account and I have been on hold for EIGHTY minutes, and I'm still holding - this is totally ridiculous. 11:48:20

A Verizon eCenter Representative will be with you shortly. Thank you. 11:48:29
Agent Sean has joined. 11:48:29

Sean: Chat ID for this session is 01080756442.

Sean: Hello. Welcome to Verizon's chat service.

Michael Kennedy: The number I want to cancel is 208-664-7976. How can I get that done and a verbal, live confirmation with someone that it will actually happen?

Sean: I apologize for the delay you have experienced in trying to reach our Customer Sales and Service Center. We receive calls and emails from all over the world and each one is handled on a first-come-first-served basis. As we strive to provide each customer with personalized solutions, there may be periodic delays in answering inquiries from other customers.

Michael Kennedy: perhaps, but EIGHTY MINUTES? I'm pushing an hour and off of my life that Verizon now owns and I won't ever get back!

Sean: I'm sorry but there is no option to disconnect service on our web site. You may wish to try later in the week as that office is not open on weekends and they can experience very high volumes early in the week.

Michael Kennedy: Typical bad customer service. Hello Vonage.

Sean: Do you have any other questions I can help you with today?

Michael Kennedy: I presume this is an automated computer response, so no, I'll pass thanks.

Sean: I am a representative, not an automated system.

Sean: Thank you for using Verizon's chat service. I hope I have resolved your reason for contacting us today. If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact us again. Your session is now closed. Thank you. Have a nice day.

Please select Exit to close this window.