State politicians scurry for solutions
Nearly 1,000 protestors filled the north side of Monument Circle last Sunday, many carrying signs with slogans such as “The Year of the Shanty Town: Mitch Daniels and Bart Peterson present a Parade of Homes 2008.”
Reflecting a broad demographic of genders, races, ages, sexual orientations, social-economic backgrounds and party affiliations, the crowd shared outrage over their recent tax increase percentages and bill amounts, on the average of 35 percent. Most wore black clothes to the rally, symbolizing unity and a collective call for government to operate “in the black.”
After about an hour, the crowd marched to the Statehouse. They were led by former Army bugler Fritz Gordner, a Meridian-Kessler home owner, who played as protestors walked down Market Street yelling, “Charge.” Arriving at their destination on the north steps of the capitol, the group listened to more speakers for another few hours before moving back to the Circle, where, once again, speeches railing against politicians of both parties, government incompetence and spending were heard. The speakers, crossing all party lines, also criticized politicians that many felt are responsible for a crisis that has caused financial hardship for those facing unexpected high tax bill increases.
Homeowner after homeowner and a few renters related the negative effects of the tax increases on their budgets and plans for the future. Others predicted they’d have to sell their homes and still others demanded that lawmakers make major changes to the state’s property tax system. Several speakers representing S.T.O.P. Indiana (Stop Taxing Our Property) asked for support of its statewide class action lawsuit against the state to remove the tax on residential property, which, they say, is unconstitutional. Also speaking were those representing Americans For Fair Taxation, who seek to eliminate the IRS. Marion County Treasurer Mike Rodman and Sen. David Orentlicher, D-Indianapolis, were met with hostility from some in the crowd, who booed and shouted them down when they attempted to speak at the Statehouse. Republican candidate for mayor Greg Ballard also spoke and called for an end to property tax.
Many, protesting publicly for the first time, hoped that the rally would result in substantive change, but most remained pessimistic about that likelihood.
Tamara Wright, who lives in Broad Ripple, was dismayed that her property tax had increased by 65 percent and says, “This is really hitting the middle class. It’s ludicrous. We need to hold the politicians accountable.”
Gary Stewart, who lives in Washington Township and whose situation typifies challenges faced by families, says his tax bill went from $866 to $1,877. “This is coming out of the pocket of my kids for things like summer vacations. They [politicians] need to be more responsible and find other ways to raise money and cut spending.”
The rally was organized partly by Greenwood resident Mike Rowe, who, after starting a blog, began receiving e-mails from outraged taxpayers and said at times he “almost broke down and cried reading the stories how people were being adversely affected, particularly the disabled and elderly, and how unjust it all was.”
Facing the loss of his own home and livelihood as a real estate agent, Rowe sent out e-mails, starting a chain reaction resulting in the rally that turned out to be better attended than he could have imagined. “I only expected maybe 20 or 30 people to show up, I am just amazed at the turnout,” Rowe said.
Public hearing on property taxes
When: Monday, July 23, 9 a.m.
Where: Auditorium, Indiana State Government Center South, 402 W. Washington St.
Who: Hosted by Sen. Kenley, chairman (R) of the Commission on State Tax and Financing Policy Committee
Town hall meeting hosted by WTHR 13
When: Monday, July 23, 7:30 p.m.
Where: University Place Conference Center, IUPUI
Who: A panel of elected officials will answer questions and concerns.
Tax protest and march
When: Monday, July 23, 5 p.m.
Where: Begins at Monument Circle, goes to City-County Building
Who: Organized by S.T.O.P.