Property taxes unfair!
Kudos to Susan Paskewitz for her study of the under-assessment of high-priced homes ("Are High-End Homes Undervalued?" 9/5/08). Thirty-five years ago Gov. Patrick Lucey, a former Realtor, tried to professionalize the assessment of property in Wisconsin by requiring fulltime county assessors. He knew that assessors generally under-assessed high-end homes and over-assessed low-priced homes. That reform never made it into law.
Had Paskewitz gone further down the price list, I expect she would have found that not only are owners of expensivehomes paying less than their fair share of property taxes, owners of low-cost homes are paying more than their fair share.
The question that needs to be asked about property taxes is not whether all homes reflect an accurate assessed value, but what why does the value of a home have to do with one's ability to pay?
It is flawed logic to levy taxes on current property values. Californians figured this out a long time ago. Madison's solution for longtime homeowners on a fixed income who don't want to be taxed out of their home: Give us the deed to your house under the "Modified Reverse Mortgage Program."
Local government must have revenue, but going after homeowners is not a good approach. I would gladly swap a portion of my household's property-tax bill for an increase in consumption taxes, because I can control what I spend; and income taxes, because my ability to pay depends on my income.
Ruth Conniff, like many Gloria Steinem-type feminists, appears to view a pro-choice stand on abortion as the criterion above all others for being a feminist.
Correspondingly, she views pro-life Christian conservatism as a total disqualifier. Given that, it is understandable that she sees no cause at all for Hillary voters to support Sarah Palin ("John McCain's Feminist Connection," 9/5/08).
No doubt most Hillary voters of Dane County share her view. However, the Hillary voters of rural Pennsylvania or Ohio, the blue-collar Hillary voters of Michigan and the rest of Wisconsin may be another matter. (Conniff, by the way, makes no mention of Palin's courage in taking on key powerbrokers in her own Republican Party in Alaska.)
Conniff ought to know that American feminism has always had two faces. One stresses equal opportunity and individualistic upward mobility; and one seeks to tap the unique strengths of women in family, community and other settings, including the public sphere.
Equal-opportunity feminists are in the saddle these days. Their heroes are such people as Susan B. Anthony and Betty Friedan. But the other tradition, typified by Francis Willard, for instance, has at times been able to mobilize more women. Palin, with her opposition to abortion, her large and loving family, her Christian faith and her vigorous public role, is a perfect exemplar of that tradition.
Jonathan Burack, Stoughton
I agree with Ruth Conniff about McCain's sorry attempt to appeal to women by selecting Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. The more I read about Palin, the more alarmed I become, but not just about her lack of preparedness - or even interest in preparing - for the job of vice president. A much bigger concern for me is Sen. McCain's poor judgment in selecting such an unqualified person. Is this a preview of the choices we could expect should he be elected? I think so.
Palin is testimony to McCain's willingness to put political expediency above the good of the nation. Her selection was an insult to me as a woman, and the electorate of our country. We deserve better from our leaders.
Raising a little cane
I enjoyed tremendously the article by Michael Popke, "Raising Political Progeny" (8/5/08), which focused on our youngest citizens. My 5-year-old is already interested in politics, especially after seeing Barack Obama speak at the Kohl Center in February.
I found it interesting that the article quoted a local Republican who went door to door in Sun Prairie talking to his neighbors about the presidential campaign. Such community organizing (my term for it) is the backbone of the American political process. It's appalling and sad that in their speeches at the RNC on Sept. 3, vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani denigrated all community volunteers by trashing Obama's career beginnings.
As Margaret Mead famously said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Change is coming Nov. 4, and the speeches at the GOP's convention have proved its need beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Mike Meulemans, Monona
Africana yay or nay
Pooh-pooh on Linda Falkenstein and Isthmus for printing a pejorative review of Africana ("Don't Pooh-Pooh the Fufu," 8/29/08). This is the best West African restaurant I have come across in the States since returning from the Peace Corps in Benin. The maffe rivals the spicy peanut sauce of my dear host family there, and the extensive list of West African dishes offers authentic tastes of the diverse cuisine of the region.
I particularly enjoy washing down my fufu and sauce with a cold ginger beer, house-brewed mango iced tea or one of the unique specialty cocktails. At Africana, the food warms, the drinks enliven and the people put you at home; customers regularly announce entry with a restaurant-wide greeting, and the owners circulate to meet and greet guests. This welcoming atmosphere is as authentic to West African hospitality as its dishes are representative of the flavors of the region.
I sincerely hope Isthmus will send an individual with a more worldly palate and an open mind to re-review Madison's only West African restaurant.
My wife Lesa and I vacationed in Senegal this summer and were excited to hear that Madison had a new African Restaurant, Africana. We went to try it. We were truly ecstatic when we saw yassa and maffa on the menu. I ordered the yassa, which was horrible. No caramelized onions with a rich soupy sauce.
I told the waitperson I've had this dish several times and it was a very poor representation of yassa.She said there had been several complaints about the yassa and that the restaurant had changed the item to Americanize it.
Here in Madison we have so many good restaurants that I find it hard to believe the recommendation of this restaurant in your publication.It is a very poor representation of good African cuisine.
Missing Kris Visser
It was with a mix of nostalgia, regret and sadness that I looked at the picture in your "20 Years Ago" piece "On the waterfront" (9/12/08) talking about Jerry Minnich. For there, right in the middle of the boat and the picture, was Kris Visser (later Jerry's wife). I first met Kris working on Tony Earl's campaign and whenever I or she needed a body for one political or another effort, we'd call each other.
A talented writer and editor and a good friend, she died way too young. I still miss her and think about her whenever our world gets "political." She would have loved this year especially.