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One-half cent isn't much ... or is it? 

The Atascadero powers that be are currently attempting to convince the local populace to impose a half-cent city sales tax upon them in addition to the current state sales tax. Ostensibly, this tax is intended to bolster the coffers of the Atascadero city government with $1.5+ million additional adscititious funds to continue or expand all those purportedly "essential" services that city governments administer.

They, the government folks, even provided the residents of Atascadero with a paid (by the taxpayers, of course) professional survey that claimed a 55 percent support for a sales tax increase. This survey was comprised of an insignificantly tiny sampling of 500 carefully handpicked people out of an Atascadero population of nearly 26,500. That's less than 2 percent. What about the opinion of us other 26,000 folks? If we include only voting-age adults, it's still a meaningless survey of about 5 percent.

One half cent isn't much, is it? It's merely an extra nickel for each $10 spent. Not much? With a median family income of $55,000 in Atascadero, one could logically assume that these families are probably spending about $50,000 a year to maintain and support that family. At a nickel per 10, that's 5,000 nickels, or $250.

Of course, not all spent income is subject to sales tax, so let's be overly generous and divide that number in half and we still come up with at least $125 a year in extra taxes. Like you, I can think of multitudes of ways to spend that $125 other that giving it to the city government. Still not much, you say? Let's see.

That $125 or more per family will generate over $1.5 million every year to be deposited into the treasuries of the Atascadero city government. That's $1.5 million less than the people of Atascadero will have to spend on things of their own choosing. $1 1 / 2 million that now cannot be spent at our local merchants.

Many of our local merchants are operating at a razor-thin sustenance level, and this tax increase will effectively put them out of business. Those businesses that survive will be forced to raise their prices, thereby increasing costs to all residents far beyond that so-called tiny half-cent tax increase. A half cent - not really so insignificant anymore, is it?

All taxation is gratuitous theft. A sales tax is one of the worst forms of theft as it steals directly from our pocketbooks and from the pocketbooks of the merchants with whom we trade.

So, just what does our city government intend to do with this newfound windfall of funds? Perhaps they could build a few more dangerous and idiotic speed bumps on the main street of town. Or perhaps they could put a few more gardens in the center of the only thoroughfare in town, thereby making it even more difficult or impossible for delivery trucks to bring goods to local merchants.

One or two more center-of-the-road gardens just might make it impossible for school buses to operate. The current center of the road garden forced a rerouting of school buses as they were unable to make the turn with the current one in the middle of the road.

The city government is using $1.2 million to tear up a perfectly good city park, and, as we don't have another downtown city park, I guess squandering the money again in that manner is currently not an option. An especially clever move by our local government, who are obviously graduates of the George Bush school of political idiocy, was the timing of the desecration of the park.

The park was the hub of the annual October Colony Days celebrations in Atascadero ... this year the park is a rent-a-fenced, bulldozed boondoggle.

There are, however, numerous other ways that the city government could misspend this additional $1.5 million.

An expensive assistant city manager could be hired to concoct even more of these harebrained schemes. Whoops, we already have one along with a city manager doing just that.

Or, they could purchase a few more police cars. After all, 26 police cars, including a gigantic gas-guzzling SUV, are barely adequate for a town this size. Or, perhaps they could use that extra tax money to subsidize more megabucks private projects like the Carlton Hotel, which is nothing more than a corpse in a very expensive casket.

The list is almost endless. How about spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to install median strips on the main road through town and then spending hundreds of thousands more to remove them as was done on the south end of Atascadero a few years ago? Or, they could squander nearly a million dollars of our hard-earned money to buy out an adult bookstore so that its presence won't embarrass the patrons and owners of the fancy hotel just across the street.

Perhaps a few more of those multi-thousand-dollar digital radar speed indicators on El Camino would be in order. Evidently the city officials are unaware that people can determine their speed by simply looking at their speedometers - amazing. Anyone passing these speed indicators regularly is being exposed to cumulative and dangerous doses of radiation from the radar that has been proven to cause genetic damage and sterility. Way to go, government folks, thanks a lot.

Our city government has the unconscionable audacity, or is it just ignorance and stupidity, to call all this ridiculous stuff the "Downtown Revitalization Project." A misnomer if there ever was one, and one that continues to make Atascadero the laughingstock of the county.

There are many sincere and honest folks in Atascadero who actually believe that giving the city government an extra $1.5 million a year through a sales tax increase would be beneficial to the community. They're utterly wrong.

The more money that any government has at its disposal, the larger and more intrusive it becomes, and the less the benefits are that accrue to the people. Witness the horrors of bloated government that are occurring at the federal and state levels.

As Thomas Jefferson stated: "Government governs best that governs least." The only way to get less government and thereby more freedom and benefits to the populace is to de-fund the government, i.e. reduce the amount of money they have at their disposal to an absolute minimum. A sales-tax increase? Could there be any sane response but no?

August Salemi lives in Atascadero. You can reach him at

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