One of the best photo-ops in recent times came Monday morning when I got a call from Optic managing editor, Martin Salazar, asking me to hustle over to the north exit on I-25 to get some pictures.
Taking Exit 347, I discovered that a sea of orange cones, closing the right southbound lane, stretched for about a mile. There, a number of city vehicles were towing away dozens of wrecked trucks, buses, trailer houses and other equipment that had greeted locals and tourists alike. This eyesore has been an in-your-face assault on our aesthetic sensibilities for years.
Patiently, city crews hooked on vehicle after vehicle, dragging them to the shoulder and towing them away. With each tow-away, there seemed to be sighs of relief from the workers. One of them even slapped his hands together in a gesture that says, “Well, that’s one down; only 100 more to go.”
Ain’t progress wonderful? Obviously, it cost a ton of money for Tony Ortega, the owner of the automotive detritus, to plunk down those rotting vehicles nearly up against the southbound lane of the Interstate. It must have taken days to accomplish that feat. It’ll cost the city a goodly amount to clear the area, but it’ll still be worth the effort. Can the city sell the tons and tons of rotting metal as scrap, compliments of Tony Ortega?
I believe the several acres of trash remained in place for more than a decade. Let me refresh your memory: the graffitied buses, trucks and cars were dumped between the University exit and the north exit. Ironically the view has been best for people traveling through Las Vegas and exiting at University or south Las Vegas. Traffic entering town from either direction and taking the first exit might have missed it altogether.
Several months back, crews cleared the refuse that practically abutted the interstate. We’ve enjoyed a fairly clear right-of-way, but a bit to the west, you’ve been able to see the rest of the eyesoreiest view.
Wanting a better vantage point, I asked the manager of the Best Western hotel if I could take some photos from the third floor. The manager, Krutik Bhatka, was happy to comply. He led me to a window that provided a good view of what he and many hotel guests have suffered through. I said to Krutik, “I suspect most of your guests simply get off the interstate before even seeing the junkyard.”
He replied that aside from its being a eyesore for guests at his motel, and the nearby Comfort Inn and Days Inn, having dozens of wrecked vehicles strewn over several acres hurts the town.
He explained that much of the goodwill effort by some of the Old Town merchants, for example, can be negated when people passing through vow not to stop here.
Let’s hope the Meadow City’s cleanup project serves notice that we just won’t tolerate impromptu (but soon to become long-lasting) automotive graveyards. Las Vegans deserve better.
Thank you, Las Vegas, for working to rid the city of all this flotsam and jetsam.
• • •
Begrudgingly, I waited until late Monday to settle the score with Uncle Sam and Auntie Susana. The amounts I paid to the federal government and to the state were almost identical.
But still too much.
As I waited by the outside mailbox at the post office, counting the cars occupied by people apparently waiting to mail their returns, I recalled something called luxury tax, a term I heard as a child.
Remember Newberry’s, the large variety store on the site now occupied by Price’s Furniture? It was a wonderland for the window-shopping ilk such as I, who loved to browse. We seldom had two dimes to rub together, but we still entered the store as if we were the possible aspirant for president, Donald Trump.
In those days, browsing was easier. Things were usually displayed in large bins and seldom wrapped. That was before shoplifting became so pervasive and earned the label of “five-finger discount.”
In one of the bins I saw some rings with adjustable bands, which probably sold for 50 cents. But the catch was that there’d been tacked on another dime as a luxury tax.
And why not? If people want to buy trinkets or other unnecessary stuff, why not have a tax up front?
I favor this kind of direct taxation. Why does Congress keep shooting down any proposal to use the flat rate? These days, April 15 has become a ritual, a yearly grind that’s ensnared by an unwieldy tax code that runs into thousands of pages and probably hasn’t been read by anyone.
It’s disheartening for us poor slobs to comply with the multitudinous regulations and to discover that there are so many loopholes that “45 percent of U.S. households will pay no income tax for 2010,” according to an Associated Press release Monday.
The same article cites a wealthy man, Eric Schoenberg, who earns $200,000 a year and pays only $2,000 in taxes each year, only 1 percent! Many of the rest of us, whose aggregate incomes are far less than Schoenberg’s, pay a much higher rate.
General Electric’s “innovative accounting” enabled the corporate giant to get off in 2010 by paying zero taxes, as in zilch, nada.
Of course, much of Congress is proud of the tax monster it has created, continues to nourish — and benefits from. The multiple exemptions make it easy for the fiscally well-endowed to drive their SUVs through these loopholes.
It’s a pity that what people pay to the government on Tax Day often depends on the expertise of their personal tax accountant.
Art Trujillo is a copy editor at the Optic and a contributing member of the newspaper’s Editorial Board. He may be reached by calling 425-6796 or by e-mail to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.