This month's issue is larger than usual. We have a lot of exciting news to report. Also, unfortunately, we have a double dose of sad tidings, as we note the passing of two stalwart Georgists. May we all strive to be as dedicated to worldwide economic justice as they were.
Deadline for our March 2005 issue: February 22.
You can always reach the Georgist News at firstname.lastname@example.org
CONTENTS: (to return here just click the headline)
GN Comments: Ted Gwartney does not consider Mel Gibson to be a farmer. And that opinion carries a lot of weight in Greenwich, Connecticut, because Gwartney, a long-time Georgist, is the property tax assessor. This is a true story, picked up by dozens of major newspapers around the world. Here is the version distributed by the Associated Press.
Gibson Loses Bid to List Estate As Farm
GREENWICH, Connecticut - Mel Gibson has lost his bid to have a portion of his Connecticut estate classified as a farm.
The director of "The Passion of the Christ" asked to have 17 of his 75.7 acres in Greenwich taxed as farm land, but town officials rejected the request.
"Anyone can have a few pigs in their back yard, but a viable farm is more than having something for personal use," town Assessor John "Ted" Gwartney said. "It's about producing a viable product."
Gibson would have saved about $10,000 per year in property taxes on his $17.7 million estate if granted the exemption for owners of working farms. His annual property tax bill is about $137,000, the 'Greenwich Time' reported.
Besides a 28-room mansion, pool, tennis court and two guest houses, the property includes a barn where Gibson has kept sheep, donkeys and possibly chickens, town officials said.
Gwartney, in a letter to Gibson's representatives, ruled that Gibson's property was "not being used as a bona fide productive farming activity."
by Paul Martin
Below are the headlines of recently uploaded news stories on the IHG Mga website at www.ibw.com.ni/~ihg. Enter and click on the "NEWS and Photos" link to get to the "IHG News as of December, 2004" page and the following stories which include informative news, updated IHG statistics, and some interesting photos:
You will also find our Managua real estate survey updated for 1990-2004 on the "FACTS, STUDIES, & Common Sense" page of our website.
Enjoy your visit to our website!
Paul Martin, Director
Instituto Henry George
by Ed Dodson
2004 was a remarkable year, with nearly 250,000 "hits" at the website. In December, SCI received over 33,000 hits. This volume of traffic generates an average of around 10 monthly contacts from visitors who express opinions or ask for answers to questions. How or whether others are influenced by the material they access is impossible to know. My hope is that Georgist organizations will begin to receive inquiries about how to get involved, indicating they learned about Henry George's ideas at the SCI website. Has this happened to anyone? If so, I would enjoy hearing about it.
Throughout the year, I have continued to dig thru Georgist periodicals and research other sources on the internet to add to SCI's "Biographical History of the Georgist Movement." A small number of Georgists have shared stories and anecdotes to be included in this historical record. When you can find some time, browse the history and look for yourself there. Help me fill in the blanks. And, if you have authored material you would like to make available to a broad audience, send it on to me (preferably in electronic form, if at all possible). You can access the Georgist history section by the link on the SCI main page.
Some recent additions to the SCI library Georgists will find of interest include articles from past editions of Land & Liberty - several by Bob Clancy, a great paper by Raymond Crotty on the history of Ireland, a chronology by yours truly on the Life and Work of Henry George, Roy Douglas on the Greens and a 1987 paper by John Wood on Henry George's influence on Scottish land reform efforts.
by Sue Walton
This year's conference will begin officially at 5:30 pm on Wednesday, August 3, 2005 with a Welcome Reception sponsored by the Henry George Foundation of America and other local organizations. The conference will adjourn at noon on Sunday, August 7, 2005 after its annual friendship brunch.
Please note that Optional (extra charge) bus excursions are being planned for Wednesday, August 3rd afternoon prior to the Welcoming Reception and Sunday, August 7th afternoon after the official conference adjournment.
For more information please contact the Council Administrators, Sue & Scott Walton at : 847/475-0391 or email@example.com
2005 COUNCIL OF GEORGIST ORGANIZATIONS CONFERENCE OPTIONAL BUS EXCURSIONS - RESERVE NOW
In order for these excursions to take place, we need a sufficient number of people to reserve by March 15, 2005. These tours will not be available on the regular conference registration form.
The place to visit in Philadelphia is the new Constitution Center which opened in 2003. The Council has made a tentative reservation for Wednesday, August 3rd, 2005. There will be a bus to the Center leaving our hotel at 12:30 pm for a 1:00 pm tour of the Center. Afterwards, there will be a guided bus tour thru America's Most Historic Square Mile before arriving back at the hotel around 4 pm. (Our opening reception is 5:30 PM at the hotel.) Hotel check-in is 3:00 pm, however participants who arrive early can check their luggage at the hotel bell stand. The cost for this optional event will be $30 per person.
OPTION #2: ARDEN DELAWARE HISTORIC SINGLE-TAX COMMUNITY
We've been invited by the Georgist Gild to tour Arden, Delaware on Sunday afternoon, August 7th. We have tentatively reserved a bathroom-equipped bus to depart our hotel at 1:00 pm and arrive back by 6:00 pm. Participants will be able to tour the new Arden Museum and enjoy Georgist Gild hospitality. A mid-afternoon lunch will be served. Hotel check-out time is 12 Noon, so if you are not staying over, luggage may stored at the lobby bell stand. The cost of this excursion (including food) will be $40.
To reserve your place, for either/both of the excursions, please send a deposit of ten dollars (for the 1st excursion), per person, earmarked Constitution Center; fifteen dollars (for the 2nd), per person, earmarked Arden Tour to the CGO, PO Box 57, Evanston, IL 60201. Or you may reserve by fax with credit card to: 775/248-8630; by phone: 888/262-9015; or at our website: www.progress.org/cgo/excursion.html
Please include your name, address, phone number and the names of the people you are reserving for. If we do not receive a sufficient number of reservations by March 15, 2005, or in case of a medical emergency, etc., we will return your deposit.
GN Comments: A Green Minister in the European Parliament has pointed out that for affordable housing and environmental protection, the best policy is a Land Value Tax. The British government, instead, has put forward a proposal that would worsen sprawl. Here is part of a news release from January 25, 2005:
Proposals to tackle the South-East housing crisis unveiled yesterday by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott will fail the homeless, first-time buyers and the region's environment, Green Euro-MP Caroline Lucas has warned.
"The government has prioritized the interests of the construction industry over the needs of the region by announcing plans for large-scale private construction which will effectively concrete over the South-East," said Dr. Lucas, South-East England's Green Party MEP and a member of the European Parliament's Environment Committee.
Growing disparity between housing demand in the South-East and other UK regions should be tackled by a robust regional policy aimed at rebalancing economic activity across the country. Existing but empty homes should be brought back into use by implementing an effective empty homes policy, including scrapping Council Tax in favour of a Land Value Tax.
"These Green Party proposals would take the pressure off the South-East's housing market almost overnight, and benefit first-time buyers and those without access to secure affordable housing rather than the construction industry and property speculators," added Dr. Lucas.
"The over-emphasis on large-scale development in the South-East - not just of housing but also of so-called 'economic infrastructure' - is bad news for those living in the region, many of whom feel 'developed to death' by the avalanche of new roads and houses pressing in on them from all sides," she concluded.
"The sustainable solution to an over-heating South-East must lie in a robust regional policy aimed at reducing the disparity in housing costs and levels of economic activity across the UK."
by Joe Casey
GN Comments: Congratulations to Rybeck and Casey. How about you? Have you written a letter recently?
The Philadelphia Conference Planning Committee and the Executive Committee of the Council of Georgist Organizations are pleased to announce an IMPORTANT ESSAY CONTEST:
Many of us have been committed to the Georgist cause for nearly our entire adult lives. We have written and spoken often about our passion for justice. This year, CGO invites conference attendees to participate by sharing their thoughts about what a Georgist future should look like, what tactics we should use to get there and what current issues we should address.
A panel of judges will review your essay of up to 3,000 words and select the best of those submitted for presentation at the CGO conference. The authors of selected essays will then lead concurrent discussions of their papers with interested attendees.
We hope you will accept this challenge and take advantage of this opportunity. Get to work on your vision of what our world should look like if our quest is realized, what tactics we should use to get there and what current issues we should address.
Completed essays can be sent to Ed Dodson, either by email to firstname.lastname@example.org - or by regular mail to 202 Horse Shoe Court, Cherry Hill, NJ 08034. Please let us know of your proposal with a brief outline by February 28, 2005. The deadline for the full submission is April 30, 2005.
by Ed Dodson
The Wall Street Journal reports (1/12/05) that real estate investors are competing for and bidding up prices on "choice properties" in Tokyo and in other major Japanese cities. The Journal almost off-handedly mentions the fact that "the epic 1990s slide in land prices ... helped trigger Japan's long economic slump" but does not add the additional observation that the upward climb in prices - fueled by bank and insurance company credit - stressed the economy to the point that land could not be profitably developed, so that Japanese producers had to leave in droves in order to survive. Now, once again, cheap credit is fueling the upward climb.
Just as occurred in the U.S. during the savings and loan crisis of the late 1980s, a huge number of real estate buildings and uncompleted projects were acquired by lenders after borrowers defaulted. The lenders put these properties onto the market at fire-sale prices. Even so, it has taken a very long time for this inventory of excess real estate to find occupants. "Only the priciest properties in Tokyo" have experienced increases, however.
A Tokyo condominium developer is quoted as follows: "We are experiencing situations where land comes on the market and 30 or 40 companies swarm to bid for it. Land targeted for condominium development has increased in price by 20% over the past year.
Other land prices in Japan continue to remain low by recent standards and some continue to fall.
Have Japanese policymakers learned any fundamental lessons from the land market collapse? I rather doubt it. But maybe a Georgist News reader has some insight into what, if any, measures have been put into place to keep the lid on going forward.
GN Comments: Chuck Metalitz and Bob Drake recently sent out a request for ideas and suggestions for the 2006 CGO conference. They are particularly seeking input from people who have not attended such events in the past. You can help them! Here is an excerpt from their invitation.
The CGO includes over 40 different Georgist organizations, and the conference attracts 80-100 members of these organizations from all over the U.S. and Canada.
What kind of sessions should we have? What topics might relate Georgist principles to conditions in Chicago? Where might a tour group like to go? What local people should be on the program? (They needn't be Georgists, as long as they have something to say that Georgists would want to know about. They could be elected officials, educators, or members of other organizations.)
But, as we said, we need new ideas. So if you still aren't sure what the CGO meeting is all about, you're exactly who we need! Because what we need to know is: What would it take to interest you in attending a Georgist conference?
A big brainstorming party will take place on February 5. If you can't be present, you can still contribute your ideas by emailing them to: email@example.com with the subject line: 'Ideas for 2006 conference.'
by Ed Dodson
Most community libraries have sections on specialized knowledge regarding the history of the area, but for the historian original source documents - manuscripts, correspondence, newspapers from decades or centuries gone by - are the real treasures. Slowly (but surely?) more and more of this valuable research material is becoming available on-line.
I, for one, cannot remember what research was like before the internet and before Google was fired up and unleashed on the world. True, we are in some respects on information overload. And, teachers have to worry more than ever before about whether students actually write their papers or merely download them.
Today, there is an announcement that Google has signed agreements with Oxford University and four other leading research libraries to begin converting their hard copy materials into digital files - to be made freely searchable through Google. Wow!
One of the libraries listed is the New York Public Library, the chief repository of the papers of and about Henry George. Researchers receiving the Georgist News are encouraged to reach out to library officials and ask that they include George's papers and correspondence early on in the process.
In last month's Georgist News we mentioned a book review by Bill Batt. Now Batt has completed another book review, this time concerning the best-seller "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man," by John Perkins.
You can read Batt's review at: www.progress.org/2005/hitrev.htm
The American Monetary Institute will be sponsoring a Monetary Reform Conference in Chicago, Illinois, September 30 - October 2, 2005.
Stanley Sapiro, a Georgist attorney, passed away on December 30, 2004.
Sapiro was the writer of Insights, which appeared in GroundSwell, the publication of Common Ground-U.S.A. He was one of the founders of that organization. Stan was married to Georgist activist Marion Sapiro for 62 years.
As an attorney, Sapiro once handled a lawsuit that resulted in then-Governor Ronald Reagan's ranch being reassessed at a rate 620% higher than the original value assigned for property tax purposes.
GN Comments: Thanks to Nadine Stoner for informing us of this sad news. For further information, contact Nadine Stoner at NadStoner@aol.com
John Burger, a Georgist leader, passed away on January 11, 2005.
Among his many Georgist activities, Burger served as an elected at-large director of Common Ground-U.S.A. from 1987 to 2001. As a member of the Minnesota state legislature, he constantly pressed for greater efficiency in goverment and for consideration of land value taxation instead of property tax. John was a strong advocate of MOST (Mission-Objective-Strategy-Tactics) as a way of optimizing an organization's goals and plans. He served as Executive Administrator of Common Ground-U.S.A. from 1991 to 1994.
An obituary can be viewed at: http://www.startribune.com/stories/466/5189803.html
GN Comments: Thanks to Nadine Stoner for informing us of this sad news, and for her background notes on John's achievements. For further information, contact Nadine Stoner at NadStoner@aol.com
Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right
answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own
responsibility for the future.
- John F. Kennedy
Don't give up. Keep going. There is always a chance that you will stumble over
something terrific. I have never heard of anyone stumbling over anything while
he was sitting down.
- Ann Landers
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