BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for October 29, 2008
West Point Park debate takes quarrelous turn at INC

Video: Pro/con arguments on the prepared foods tax

Tuesday night's Inter-Neighborhood Council meeting offered a forum for two key backers and opponents of the prepared foods tax on the November ballot -- Rob Teer Jr. from the committee supporting the levy, and Dallas Woodhouse from Americans for Prosperity and the opposition committee -- to offer their thoughts and ideas on the measure.

Both sides had a chance to present their side and then to answer questions from the assembled audience of neighborhood representatives and other civic stakeholders.

We at BCR captured the debate on video and present the pro and con sides here for review. Regretfully, the audio from Teer's Q&A session was not of good quality, but we've included Teer's presentation as well as the presentation and Q&A for Woodhouse.

Here's the pro argument, from Rob Teer Jr.:

Next up: the against case, from Dallas Woodhouse, followed by his response to questions from the audience. (Full disclosure: the question on AFP's tax regressivity concerns comes from this author.)

Once you've watched the videos, share in the comments here: what do you think, especially if you've been on the fence on the measure?



Kevin - Thanks for the video clips. Is there any way to raise the volume on them? I've got my laptop's audio up as far as it goes, and it's still pretty tough to make out what's being said.


I have been on the fence regarding this tax but after watching these videos I am now firmly against the prepared food tax.
Let me state up front that I am a proud liberal so my opposition is not from the ideological, anti-tax perspective.

First of all, the priorities listed by Mr. Teer are so not what this community needs. We need to expand public transportation and sidewalk construction as of yesterday. With the economic difficulties we face and the energy crisis we face in the future, public mobility, on foot, by rail, or by natural gas powered bus are far more important priorities for Durham that the MLS or a baseball museum (and I love baseball).

Secondly, there is absolutely no reason why teachers, cops, fire fighters, nurses, and janitors should be asked to pay a higher tax for these items even if it is a luxury to eat out. Sometimes, we just want to treat ourselves and its a little elitist to ask the working class to fund nonessential, luxury construction. There is absolutely no reason why those in the best position to invest private funds should not be encouraged to do so.

Third, Mr. Woodhouse doesn't even address the primary problem with this tax. Durham is home to some of the best locally owned restaurants in the state, if not the nation. We should not be making it more difficult for them to be successful. Furthermore, we shouldn't be surreptitiously punishing poor people for eating at McDonald's - even if I think that is a poor choice of how to eat.

I have some concerns about property taxes in Durham, specifically the county's excessive valuation of our property (I could never get market value for what they say my home is worth.) But Mr. Woodhouse is correct; we should either raise property taxes if these stated priorities are appropriate or we should have the Durham economic elite hold fund raisers in order to build these things.

Thank you,


I voted early and no on the tax, so it's interesting to hear this debate so late in the game. The major things that I had a problem with tax the are:

(1) it has no sunset law attached to it so it can go on forever and even increase; food is already taxed too high for such a necessity

(2) the North Carolina Resturant Association is against it because it unfairly targets their businesses; the place where you will buy this food doesn't even want it! Maybe they'll start adding more flies!

(3) school lunch programs (of which we already subsudise for many) will cost more; since that is essentially taxed based already, it's like we're being double taxed

(4) it will not pay for roads or any core services government provides and will not keep property taxes from climbing

(5) and let's be real, how many times does anyone really want to go to a MiLB museum in their lifetime? We can't even maintain our core services, why are we thinking to add to the burden of more things that need taking care of?

Do yourself a quick favor and check the property tax listings for those shown in the Herald Sun (in Sunday's advertising supporting it) as being on the steering committee or involved with a "Yes" vote for the tax. It's easy to see they will not feel a few pennies leave their wallet; most are wealthy. That's why it's called a luxury tax. It supports things other than necessities. And those who will pay for it is mostly us, not visitors; by a much broader margin than the 60/40% you hear tossed out there. It's probable closer to 70/30% if not greater. Just ask 10 people next time your out to dinner where they came from. By and large, they're your neighbors.

Unlike Disneyland and Orlando, Durham just isn't that big of a tourist destination... And the $4 hot dogs at the ballpark are already highway robbery!

Had the tax gone to fund public safety (fire, police, ems) I would have voted for it. We're already short 60 officers this year due to their pay inadequacies. And there are only 14 recruits in the academy. Who's going to protect all these people that they think will come to all of these great new offerings should it pass? Checked out the cost for season tickets to the new performing arts center? I bet those who supported this tax already have their tickets. It'll set you back more than $500. But I guess cultural amenities aren't cheap...

Bravo for using this technology to bring this online. Sad to see INC couldn't get their act together soon enough to bring it to the public in October when there was still time for debate.

I didn't hear anyone mention several of my points... It just goes to show that you have to do your own homework most of the time. It reminds me of a saying I once used often; "only dead fish follow the stream". To vote yes only means that the stream downhill is crowded with dead fish who didn't take time to even think about the issue. They just followed the stream...

Kevin Davis

@Randy: School lunch programs would cost more? I hadn't heard that anywhere before and believe those meals were already exempt from sales.

Also, one correction: season tickets to events at the DPAC start at $79.50 for the season, not $500.


I ment season tickets, not individual performance tickets. And the prepared food tax is just that; a tax on prepared food. A cup of coffee anywhere in town, that good garlic rubbed chicken they roast on Sunday's at Harris Teeter, and a Loco Pop; I didn't see anywhere that school (prepared) meals were exempt. Does that mean if I eat at a cafeteria at Duke, I won't have to pay it? No, it's still a tax there. Or a State school like NCCU or Durham Tech; maybe it's related to governement.. Perhaps where a "meal plan" is involved for a flat fee for whatever time frame, it may be exempt. But my guess it is a hidden cost of any plan. It's a tax on prepared food. How can it be any different...

Kevin Davis

@Randy: No, the total plan price for four tickets (four different performances) to the Broadway series at the DPAC costs as little as $79.50 according to the TicketMaster web site. I meant "season tickets, not individual performance tickets," too. That's $79.50 for four tickets, not one, 'kay? (There are more expensive plans, too.)

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