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Commentary

Five Reasons to Dump the Sales Tax

Sales taxes negatively affect the economy, disproportionately hurt the poor and lower middle class, and are an unreliable source of revenue for governments.

Whether it is to fund road repair and construction, local jails, or supplement public school funding, politicians are enamored with sales taxes. A penny here and a penny there taken from the pockets of consumers, they argue, cannot be harmful. Yet there are compelling arguments that sales taxes have a depressive effect on the economy, disproportionately affect the poor and lower middle class, and are not a reliable source of revenue.

Far too often, politicians use deceptive tactics to get sales tax increases approved. Before voting on any sales tax increase, voters deserve to consider the following reasons why sales taxes should be rejected.

1. Sales taxes punish consumer spending and hurt the local economy. 

It is generally understood that taxes influence behavior, and that we get less of a behavior when it is taxed. That is why activists demand high taxes on cigarette and alcohol sales. Their goal is to make those products more expensive so that less people will be inclined to purchase them. Why then do we tax consumer spending generally?

Categories
Mysterious America

German Church Road and the Grimes Sisters Tragedy

When the frozen, nude bodies of teenagers Barbara and Patricia Grimes were discovered along a remote roadside in 1957, it ignited one of Chicagoland’s most famous mysteries. But was it murder?

German Church is a nondescript avenue running between Willow Springs Road and County Line Road, just a half-mile north of Healing Waters Park. The area is sparsely populated and two streams, Flag and Devil’s Creek, gently wind their way through the nearby woods. During the 1950s, not very many people had a reason to venture out to that particular edge of Cook County, but it was along an isolated stretch of German Church Road near Devil’s Creek on a cold day in January 1957 when a passing motorist discovered the remains of Barbara and Patricia Grimes.

The two sisters had been missing for three weeks before a Hinsdale man named Leonard Prescott noticed their nude bodies lying on the outside of the guard rail just before the culvert leading down to Devil’s Creek. Upon identifying the girl’s remains, their father, a truck driver named Joseph, exclaimed, “I tried to tell the police my daughters didn’t run away, but they wouldn’t listen to me.”

It was the end of a long and exhaustive search, but only the beginning of a case that would shock and fascinate Chicago for decades to come. Many writers have declared that moment to be the end of innocence, but it was, in fact, only one in a series of similar incidents stretching back a decade.

Categories
Mysterious America

The Lafayette Avenue Ghost

The following is an excerpt from my book Tales of Coles County, a collection of history, folklore, and true crime from one of the most interesting counties in Illinois. Order it in paperback or Kindle today.

In the winter of 1907-1908, a black-shrouded ghost startled residents of Mattoon’s west side. It began in December 1907 (formerly a time of year when ghost stories were popular) when residents noticed a diminutive figure dressed head-to-toe in a woman’s dress or gown, face covered with a hood, appear on the south side of Lafayette Avenue near 23rd Street around 7:00 p.m.

At least three times a week for several weeks, the figure walked west to 24th Street and back before vanishing as mysteriously as it appeared. Then, as now, this was a sparsely-populated neighborhood north of the Peoria, Decatur, & Evansville Railroad.

In the Journal Gazette, one man described being followed by the ghost, which emerged from the shadows behind a tree late at night. “I walked about fifty feet past Twenty-third street on the south of side of Lafayette avenue, when the ghost, or whatever it is, stepped out from the shadow of a tree and followed close after me as far as Twenty-fourth street, where it turned around and went back again,” he said. Others who were followed claimed the ghost never came within 20 feet.

Categories
Mysterious America

America’s Haunted Houses

These storied homes are valued for their architecture or their role in historical events, but many visitors and residents report that something otherworldly lingers…

Lizzie Borden House

The Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum in Fall River, Massachusetts was the scene of a gruesome unsolved double murder, perhaps among the most infamous in the U.S. Thirty-two-year-old Lizzy Borden became the chief suspect, but she was acquitted at trial. Today it’s open for tours and overnight stays.

The Franklin Castle

Built between 1881-1883, Franklin Castle (or the Tiedemann House as it is more properly known) is located in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood. It is rumored to be home to more than a few tortured souls left over from a series of gruesome murders – but are any of those stories true? Only a few people have been allowed inside its wrought iron gates to know for sure.

Categories
Mysterious America

The Murder of Kenton Gene Ashenbramer

The following is an excerpt from my book Tales of Coles County, a collection of history, folklore, and true crime from one of the most interesting counties in Illinois. Order it in paperback or Kindle today.

Clarence W. “Jack” Ashenbramer (1909-1996) and his wife Helen Grace returned from a weeklong vacation to their home at 920 Piatt Avenue in Mattoon at around 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, August 27, 1972. Their son’s red 1967 Ford Fairlane with a white stripe was not parked outside.

When they entered the back bedroom where their 34-year-old son Kenton Gene Ashenbramer was staying, they made a sickening discovery. He was lying across his bed with multiple stab wounds, a knife nearby. The horrified parents called police and an investigation was launched.

Kenton Ashenbramer was a former Marine with three children who worked at the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company and had lived in Mattoon since 1955. On Saturday evening, August 26, 1972, he met two 26-year-old women, Ann Cole and Shirley Mae Moutria, at a bar called Club Oasis, 1406 Broadway Avenue in Mattoon.

Categories
Photography

To Mourn is a Virtue

This graceful neoclassical bronze door opens to the Duda mausoleum in Bohemian National Cemetery, 5255 N. Pulaski Road in Chicago, Illinois. Joseph Frank (1870-1950) and Albine T. Wolf (1872-1931) Duda were born in Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) and emigrated to the United States. Joseph was a clothier in Chicago until his retirement. The couple had three children.

Duda
Categories
Musings

Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bobbie Jean Ashley

Bobbie Jean Ashley is the seventh daughter of eight girls of Bud and Opal Ashley. She graduated in 1991 from Lake Land College in Mattoon, Illinois with a degree in Radio/Television communications. She has been singing since the age of four and writing songs since her teens. From 2000 to 2002, she sang with a band called Southtown and opened for Kentucky Headhunters at the Effingham County Fairgrounds. Boofuhluh is her first album.

How long have you been interested in singing/songwriting, and what inspired you to create this album at this time?

I’ve been writing songs since the age of 14/15 and have written close to 300 songs so far. Most I will never share with another person because they just aren’t ready for another’s ears but maybe one day I can rework some of them so that they are ready. The inspiration for this album came after a prayer I made to God and asked him why my life has been spared so many times at deaths door.

I’ve nearly died over 9 times. I was walking when I said that prayer and I looked down and saw a piece of string on the floor and I took that as a sign that I need to do my music. I wanted this album to be filled with inspiration, love, and beauty because of that sign and I dedicated this album in part to God.

Do you have a favorite song on the album, and why?

My favorite is “The Hope and the Love” which is the song I wrote for God. I’ve had several people tell me that this song was just what they needed during this time of COVID.