Taxes, townhouses and feathers

Friday, April 16, 2004

The good news this week is that April 15 is behind us. The bad news is that there are only 364 days left until Tax Day 2005.

Speaking of taxes, some opponents of the tax cuts approved by Congress a while back are claiming all of the benefits went to the rich while middle-class taxpaying slobs like me didn't get any of the breaks.

I don't know who's filling out the tax returns of these tax-cut critics, but I suggest they find a new accountant.

Like most Americans, I too was skeptical that my tax bill would go down. Heck, I would have been happy to not have to pay more.

But when the tax forms were all filled out, my tax liability was down more than 7 percent. The message I got was that the tax cuts indeed were spread across most taxpayers -- which is exactly the way it should be.

Taxpayers who had significant increases in income or made fewer charitable donations or experienced other improvements in their financial status because of the economic turnaround very likely had tax bills this year equal to or above last year's. That's the way the system works. But the tax cuts are there -- for just about everybody.

You can count on two hands the number of days since I first shared my dream for a major downtown development.

In a wide-ranging conversation, I mentioned what I'd do if I had a lot of money. I'd buy the vacant land along the floodwall in downtown Cape Girardeau, the empty space north of Broadway where casino development and parking were envisioned a decade ago. And I'd build a themed area of retail shops, offices and residential space -- something like Germantown or Swiss Village or Girardeau Riviera -- all connected to the existing historic downtown.

My dream for downtown (yes, there might still be a downtown golf course) is a destination magnet that would pull visitors from all over the country like Fran-kenmuth's Little Bavaria in Michigan that you see advertised on billboards on Highway 55.

The residential space, of course, would all be on the second floor so residents could see over the floodwall.

Lo and behold, here come the Wymans and Rileys, two names closely associated with downtown stability and revitalization, with serious plans for a major townhouse project (with a Spanish theme) that would offer upscale housing and a river view.

I congratulate the Spanish Court developers and wish them every success. What a boost this would be along with the Marquette, federal building, River Campus, First Presbyterian, Red House and mural projects.

It has been an exciting week for Miz Wren, the feisty occupant of the curious hole-in-the-side nest in the wreath on our back door.

As the time draws near for her eggs to hatch, Miz Wren is becoming more and more reluctant to vacate the nest when we go in and out of the door -- which is our main access when you consider we rarely ever use the front door and have stopped using it entirely since Madame P. Finch took up residence in the wreath there.

Twice now Miz Wren has fluttered into the family room instead of heading for the patio hedge as usual. Fortunately, she has quickly found her way outside.

I wonder what she thinks of my wife's decor. Maybe she thinks those ficus trees (yes, there are two in the family room) could stand a little residential development of their own.

R. Joe Sullivan is the editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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