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1 week ago

Don’t politicians see that raising taxes has nasty side effects?

Seattle is worried about the well-being of the poor and mentally ill people living there, so it’s going to drive businesses out of town.

OK, that’s not how the politicians describe their plan, but that’s probably how it will work out.

Members of Seattle’s city council want all big Seattle businesses to pay a tax of $500 per employee.

In response, Amazon stopped building a new complex. Construction workers joined Amazon in protesting the new tax.

On the other side are city council members like Kshama Sawant. She and members of her political party, Socialist Alternative, demonstrated in support of the tax. They chanted, “Housing is a human right!”

Seattle does have large encampments of street people. Some are mentally ill. Some are young people looking to get stoned and live free. Some are homeless simply because they cannot afford apartments. There are many reasons for that, but one is that Amazon and other companies have brought so many new jobs to Seattle that the demand for housing exceeds the supply.

Normally, when that happens, the free market quickly solves the problem. Builders view the rising prices as a wonderful thing. They quickly build new housing to sell to the new customers. But in Seattle, and many towns in America, politicians make that very hard.

Seattle’s building code is 745 pages long.

If you want to build apartments, you better hire lawyers and “fixers” to keep you on the right side of the rules.

Seattle’s rules insist that “Welded splices shall be of ASTM A706 steel” and “foam plastic signs shall not be greater than 1/2 inch” thick.

On the majority of Seattle’s land, building any high-rise is illegal; zoning rules say only single-family houses may be built.

Want to run a cheap flophouse with single rooms? Seattle’s rules make that just about impossible.

Finally, if a landlord decides to take a building off the market, he must pay each of his tenants $3,000 in relocation costs.

No wonder there’s a housing shortage.

Seattle’s big-government restrictions created a housing problem. So now they propose to solve it with more heavy-handed government.

Seattle promises its new per-employee tax will only hit “big” companies, those grossing more than $20 million per year (about 3 percent of Seattle’s businesses).

Don’t the politicians realize that many growing companies will simply stop expanding when they get close to $20 million in income, just as companies, looking to escape Obamacare, avoid employing more than 49 workers?

Some pay lawyers to split the company into pieces. Some expand in another state. Don’t politicians see that raising taxes has nasty side effects? I guess not.

Monday, after Amazon’s pushback, the city council imposed a tax of $275 per worker instead of the originally proposed $500 tax.

They called that “compromise,” but it sounds like replacing a bad plan with a half-as-bad plan.

It’s not only government bureaucrats who are to blame. The consulting firm McKinsey weighed in with an analysis of Seattle-area homelessness and concluded the city needed to spend $400 million a year to solve the homelessness problem.

I’m sure Seattle, and many other governments, will manage to spend $400 million without solving the problem.

It’s good that Amazon pushed back against the tax. Their reminder that they could reduce or close up business if Seattle’s government got too greedy helped cut the tax roughly in half.

You can’t just keep squeezing businesses or other taxpayers forever and not expect them to try to escape. At some point, businesses will pack up and leave. Then there will be fewer paying jobs that make a city’s population less likely to be homeless in the first place.

Sawant and the other big-taxers try to make productive companies, which employ people so they can afford things like rent, sound like villains. She called Amazon’s threat to leave “extortion.” The activist group Working Washington asked Seattle’s attorney general to charge Amazon with the crime of “issuing mob-like threats.”

Mob-like threats? Amazon just wants to be left alone so it can build complexes, hire people and sell stuff.

As usual, government is the organization that sounds mob-like.

John Stossel is author of “No They Can’t! Why Government Fails — But Individuals Succeed.”

(JFS Productions, copyright 2018)

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1 min ago

Rural Alabama school closes suddenly as board balks at repair costs

A northeast Alabama school district is closing a rural school instead of paying for repairs.

Thursday is the last day for Paint Rock Valley High School in Jackson County, after board members voted 3-2 to close the K-12 school last week.

The move was unexpected after Jackson County leaders kept open the 74-student school last year. But board members balked at $200,000 in needed repairs to the historic school. Board members say they feared more expensive repairs in the future.

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Jackson County superintendent Kevin Dukes tells news outlets that parents can choose between schools at Skyline and Woodville for their children next year. He says students will have more opportunities at larger schools.

Dukes says the school board could lease the vacant building for use as a community center.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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1 hour ago

Alabama city again refuses to release body camera recordings

Officials in one of Alabama’s largest cities stand by their refusals to release recordings from police body cameras.

WHNT-TV reports the city has once again refused a request to release a recording.

The latest request came after a bystander’s video appeared to show a Huntsville police officer punching a suspect while trying to make an arrest. The department cleared the officer Monday, saying the video was part of a longer struggle.

Huntsville City Attorney Trey Riley says recordings are a “public record to a certain extent” but that doesn’t mean they’re “automatically available.”

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Riley says Huntsville will generally withhold recordings while a criminal case is ongoing.

The lawyer says the public can see videos if a case goes to trial, but acknowledges most cases don’t go to trial.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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2 hours ago

How the Russia investigation helps Trump

This week, for the first time in months, a generic ballot poll showed Republicans beating Democrats in the midterm elections.

According to Reuters, Republicans are now leading by six points. And while that poll is obviously an outlier, the movement of the generic ballot in the direction of Republicans isn’t: The average lead for Democrats has been dropping steadily since late February, from a nine-point lead to a four-point lead.

Why?

Certainly, the economy has something to do with it: The job market continues to boom; the stock market continues to hover around 25,000; and GDP continues to grow steadily. And, certainly, foreign policy has something to do with it: There are no catastrophic foreign wars on the horizon, and President Trump’s gutsy calls to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem resulted in zero serious backlash.

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Democrats opposed the Trump tax cuts and have whined incessantly about Trump’s Middle East foreign policy, even going so far as to demonstrate a certain level of warmth toward terrorist group Hamas. This isn’t exactly brilliant politicking.

But there’s another reason Democrats seem to be dropping like a stone, too: their Russia obsession. The reality is most Americans think the Russia investigation is going nowhere. As of early May, just 44 percent of Americans though the FBI special counsel investigation of President Trump and his associates is justified; fifty-three percent thought that the investigation is politically motivated. Three-quarters of Americans think Trump should cooperate with the probe, but Americans are skeptical that there is a there there.

And so far, Americans have been right. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has resulted in indictments of Trump associates on a charge of lying to the FBI, but there have been no indictments related to the original brief of his investigation: election collusion with the Russians. Meanwhile, each day seems to bring new headlines regarding the extent of the FBI investigation, dating all the way back to mid-2016. Americans aren’t going to read all the details of the various stories — they’re just going to take away that law enforcement was all over the Trump campaign, has come up with nothing thus far and continues to hound the Trump White House.

Furthermore, Democrats are getting discouraged. They were promised a deus ex machina — an alien force that would swoop in to end the Trump presidency. They hoped it would be Mueller; they were convinced the election was stolen. It wasn’t, and it’s unlikely Mueller will end Trump’s presidency.

So when Trump fulminates about the supposed sins of the “deep state,” few Americans are exercised. Most shrug; some even nod along. Democrats seethe but have no new fodder for their ire — and every day that passes with the media chumming the waters and coming up empty drives down enthusiasm even more. And Trump’s focus on Russia means that he spends less time tweeting about other topics — which helps him, since he’s less likely to make a grave error on those fronts.

If Mueller truly has nothing, there’s a serious case to be made that the Russia collusion investigation actually helped Trump more than it hurt him. And Democrats might just have to come up with a plan for dealing with Trump’s policies other than praying for an avenging angel to frog-march him from the White House.

Ben Shapiro, 34, is a graduate of UCLA and Harvard Law School, host of “The Ben Shapiro Show” and editor-in-chief of DailyWire.com.

(Creators, copyright 2018)

2 hours ago

Here are Alabama’s population gainers and losers

Baldwin County long has been Alabama’s fastest-growing county, so perhaps it should be no surprise that one of its towns is the state’s fast-growing municipality.

According to population estimates released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau, Loxley added 335 new residents from July 2016 to July 2017. The 16.7 percent growth rate over that 12-month period topped the state.

It came in just ahead of fellow Baldwin County towns Summerdale (12.3 percent) and Silverhill (12 percent).

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Three other Baldwin cities also made the top 20 — No. 9 Spanish Fort (5.1 percent), No. 16 Fairhope (3.7 percent) and No. 17 Foley (3.3 percent).

They were among 179 Alabama municipalities that saw growth from mid-2016 to mid-2017. Meanwhile, 244 cities and towns lost population, while another 36 remained exactly the same.

Census figures show much of the rest of the South remains booming. Of the 15 American cities with the greatest numerical gains over the past year, eight are in the region. The South also has 10 of the 15 fastest-growing cities on a percentage basis.

While the biggest cities get most of the attention, that is not where most people live — either in Alabama or across the country. Nationally, only 3.9 percent of cities have 50,000 residents or more. Only nine Alabama cities meet that threshold. The nearly 1.7 million people who live in those cites make up about 34 percent of the state’s residents.

“The U.S. is a nation of small cities and towns,” Census Bureau demographer Joseph Bowman said in a statement. “Of the 19,500 incorporated places, about 76 percent had fewer than 5,000 people and almost half of these places had fewer than 1,000 people.”

Most of Alabama’s populous cities followed well-established trends over the past year. Birmingham retained its position as Alabama’s biggest city but shrank by about a quarter of a percentage point, to 210,710.

Montgomery and Mobile also lost residents. They and Birmingham have lost population since the 2010 census.

Huntsville, which passed Mobile in 2017 to become the third-biggest city, added another 2,629 residents. That was the most of any municipality in the state. Since 2010, the Rocket City’s population has jumped 8 percent. It now trails second-place Montgomery by just 4,933 people.

Among the top 10 cities, two others have outpaced Huntsville on percentage basis. Auburn grew by 2 percent since mid-2016 and is up to 63,973 residents. That is up 20 percent since 2010. And Madison jumped 2.2 percent on year and 13.8 percent since 2010, to 48,861.

Alabama’s 20 biggest cities got a new member over the past year — Daphne, in Baldwin County, replaced Homewood at No. 20. And Prattville swapped places with Gadsden at 13 and 14, respectively.

Here is a look at Alabama’s fastest-growing municipalities since the 2010 census:

  • 1. — Hayden, which has grown 203.6 percent.
  • 2. — Pike Road, which has grown 72.4 percent.
  • 3. — Summerdale, which has grown 60 percent.
  • 4. — S. Florian, which has grown 49 percent.
  • 5. — Loxley, which has grown 43 percent.
  • 6. — Fairhope, which has grown 36.6 percent.
  • 7. —Westover, which has grown 32 percent.
  • 8. — Uniontown, which has grown 30.7 percent.
  • 9. — Priceville, which has grown 30.3 percent.
  • 10. — Chelsea, which has grown 27.8 percent.

@BrendanKKirby is a senior political reporter at LifeZette and author of “Wicked Mobile.”

 

3 hours ago

7 Things: Kushner security clearance HUGE news, paper targets Alabama immigration law, Trump wants to withhold aid from countries who send ‘animals,’ and more …

1. A conclusion that is obvious, but not being drawn: Jared Kushner is probably in the clear

— Kushner had his temporary security clearance revoked months ago, leading to speculation that he was dirty. He just got that clearance approved.

— If he was under any threat of being compromised this would not have happened, so this is big news for the whole Trump-Russia narrative.

2. Alabama is to blame for losing a Congressional seat, not rampant illegal immigration

— The Decatur Daily editorial team accuses Alabama of being responsible because they did not create a friendly environment for illegal aliens, they even took them to task for daring to pass anti-immigration laws (Arizona will pick a seat and they had a similar law).

— Congressman Mo Brooks and Attorney General Steve Marshall have filed a lawsuit seeking to make sure only legal citizens are counted for Representation.

3. President Trump continues to beat the drum on MS-13, threatens to withhold aid for countries who won’t stop them

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— Ramping up his previous rhetoric, Trump added a nugget: He wants to cut foreign aid for the countries that send illegal immigrants and he will base aid on the number of their citizens who crossed the border.

— The ACLU and top Democrats continue to moan about Trump’s willingness to demonize gangs, so he called them “animals” again.

4. The NFL decided having a large portion of their fan base pissed-off was a bad idea, players still don’t get it

— The owners are attempting to end a multi-year controversy over kneeling by telling the players to “respect” the anthem or stay in the locker room.

— In spite of an almost $100 million dollar “social justice” play by the owners, the players have decided to keep fighting, claiming “management has chosen to squash the same freedom of speech that protects someone who wants to salute the flag in an effort to prevent someone who does not wish to do so.”

5. Democrat outreach to middle America continues, proposals to raise taxes roll out

— Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) plans to introduce a bill Wednesday that would undo tax cuts passed late last year, which has support softening under constant misleading media attacks.

— The repeal will coincide with new spending of taxpayer money toward erasing student loan debt and improving college affordability, which doesn’t make college more affordable.

6. Huntsville student sent to ICU after being slammed by a security guard

— The security guard was attempting to break up a fight between Steven Franklin and other students, he was slammed on the ground and hit his head.

— Huntsville City Schools is investigating the incident, the guard is no longer on campus and he will not return for the rest of this school year.

7. If a politician has blocked you on Twitter, that politician violated your 1st Amendment rights, or something

— A federal judge says the president’s Twitter account constitutes a “public forum” and using its block feature silences voices.

— This ruling will obviously be challenged, and it is not applicable to Alabama yet, but if it stands, get ready for people to slide into politicians’ DMs with public records requests.