Page images
PDF
EPUB

In a very amateurish way, whenever for the last few years I have been anywhere where the sales tax has been inaugurated I have tried to make a little survey personally, and I have interviewed people in Brooklyn and California, Chicago, and I find that after the first shock of the thing is over with, that it is not a burden at all, and people do not mind, and the people I asked, well, especially in Brooklyn, were in the cheap department stores. I asked the clerks and I asked the people purchasing, and they all said the same thing, that they did not mind it.

Mr. BATEs. You are a resident of Washington, Mrs. Parks?

Mrs. Parks. I am a resident of Washington. I have lived here ever since the First World War. Part of the time I claimed Arkansas as my residence because at that time I was the wife of a Congressman from Arkansas, and since then I have purchased my own property here, and I have been here continuously, with no other residence and voting place except Washington for 10 or 12 years.

Senator Cain. What would you approximate your federation membership to be?

Mrs. Parks. Six thousand and six hundred, not approximately, but that is by count.

Senator Cain. And they have spent a considerable amount of time, I take it, certainly through your committees, in discussing this particular problem in recent years?

Mrs. Parks. They certainly have, yes, since 1938, and the last vote we took was this year. I cannot say just what month, but 2 or 3 months ago. My women, the rank and file, are not rich women at all; they belong to—

Senator Cain. They come from all groups?

Mrs. Parks. They come from all groups, but principally from, I would say, the white collar group.

Senator CAIN. Professional and clerical.
Mrs. Parks. Yes, sir.

Mr. BATEs. There has never been any poll of any kind taken among the women folk?

Mrs. Parks. Well, except our vote. You see, we have an executive board which is composed of over a hundred people; we rank with a State organization; we rank with New York and Pennsylvania and other States, by organizations, so it is a representative body. We meet once a month, and they send delegates, and their presidents; we have 27 clubs, and we usually have from 80 to 100 women there, and we have taken a vote.

Senator Cain. In your official connection with that organization, what is it? Perhaps you said it, and I did not get it.

Mrs. Parks. I am president.
Senator CAIN. President.

Mrs. Parks. Yes, sir; elected for 3 years; president of the District Federation of Women's Clubs.

Mr. BATES. Was it the executive board that met and voted on this!
Mrs. Parks. It is the executive board that does all our business.
Mr. BATEs. You never have
Mrs. Parks. We have not polled the individual clubs.

Mr. Bates. You perhaps have read in the paper, have you, and you have not heard otherwise, of the stream of witnesses here yesterday, other persons

Mrs. Parks. Yes; and they have polled their organizations, have they, individually!

Nr. Bates. I did not see any evidence of that.

Mrs. PARKS. I think we get a more accurate count than most because we usually-our legislative committee brings in the bills pending, and then recommends them for study, and they are sent back to the clubs; then they have their delegates and their presidents come prepared to vote the will of that club at the next meeting.

Mr. Bates. What was the vote? Was it unanimous ?
Mrs. Parks. I think it was unanimous, was it not, Mrs. Wright?
Mrs. WRIGHT. Yes.
Mrs. Parks. In favor of a sales tax.

Senator Cain. For our part, we are working pretty hard to find out what the people of Washington are thinking.

Mrs. Parks. That is what we are thinking about; that is the point exactly.

Senator Cain. And that is why we are asking these questions, perhaps unnecessarily, of you.

Mrs. Parks. Of course, you realize that the situation here—I do not have to tell you that-is different from anywhere else in the United States.

Senator Caix. Some of us are finding that to be singularly true.

Mrs. Parks. And we people who work so hard, and who are so loyal to the District, we cannot understand why we hear it is the greatest Capital in the world, and we have the most money, and still we here in our welfare work and in our other work are very, very backward, because we are depending upon the generosity, not of this Congress, of course-present company is always excluded—but of the Congress that is in the seat at the time, and with you taking increasingly more of our important property each year, our valuable property, and then giving us back whatever the will of that Congress thinks in a lump sum is what we ought to have

Senator Cain. We are going to try to seek some improvement. If I might speak for Mr. Bates, our only great grievance is that we cannot become citizens of the District of Columbia. We spend most of our time apparently here

Mrs. Parks. That is true. We feel that the sales tax will do that. In normal times we are a sightseeing city, and we get a little help from the people who visit us from time to time, and who escape in every other way.

Senator Caix. I raised that question with someone who disagree so vehemently yesterday with your testimony.

Mr. BATEs. Thank you, Mrs. Parks.
Mrs. Parks. Thank you.

Mr. Bates. Our next witness is Mrs. Wright.
STATEMENT OF LESLIE WRIGHT, CHAIRMAN OF THE DEPART-

MENT OF LEGISLATION OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA FEDERATION OF WOMEN'S CLUBS, WASHINGTON, D. C.

Mrs. WRIGHT. I am Leslie Wright, and I am chairman of the department of legislation of the District of Columbia Federation of Women's Clubs, and I am also representing one or two citizens' associations. The Forest Hills Citizens' Association is one.

The District of Columbia Federation of Women's Clubs went on record, first, for the larger Federal contribution, preferably the O'Mahoney-Overton formula.

We also favor a broader income-tax base. We feel that there should be an exemption for those who pay taxes in the other States, if they are Government employees, but there are a certain number of businessmen, business people not affiliated with the Government who come here and still retain their vote in the States, and we feel that they should pay the District tax, because, after all, they are making a living out of the District government, and they are not compelled to stay here as the Federal employee, and we think there should be a difference there.

We are definitely on record, as Mrs. Parks said, for a sales tax. We feel there is a great group—well, you take day workers, there are several different orders of day workers. I know down in my husband's building there are people, whole families of grown people, who do a day's work, and they do not pay any tax, and I would like to know whether or not the waiters in the hotels pay any kind of a tax at all. I think the sales tax would be a very good thing, because then they would have to pay for the stuff they buy.

I do not think there are very many who pay income taxes here. I think on the tax books of the District there are about 150,000 realestate accounts, but that is not representative, because of the 150,000 property owners, I suppose there are around 100,000 people who own their homes, and as Mrs. Parks has just said, a great many of them are people in very moderate circumstances who bought their homes, and an increase in real-estate taxes would be a burden on them. Furthermore, they have enough worries as it is just now.

We have a board here which I think could very well be done away with, the board of zoning adjustment, which keeps the property owners on the qui vive all the time trying to protect their property. We never know at what time the board of zoning adjustment is going to rezone neighborhood property and jeopardize the rights of property

owners.

Quite often we have been out of town on short vacations, and the board of zoning adjustment has had a meeting, and property has been uczoned down from a residential restricted to roadhouses, and it happened in my own community, and it is a dangerous thing. As I say, the property owners have enough to do without watching that, and we feel that we pay a very fair real-estate tax here. We have practically a hundred-percent assessment on it.

There is certain property, however, Mr. Bates and Senator Cain, that we feel could

go

back on the tax rolls. I think you could well look into certain property which has been bought for park purposes, I have one small piece in point; it is called the Melvin Hazen Park; it was bought because the real-estate company wanted to unload it. They were very slick and they gave it the name Melvin Hazen becanse M". Hizen was a much-beloved figure. It is a hole in the ground: it is not good for park purposes or anything else, but it would be very valuable if an apartment house was put on there, and if the people sold it.

We know that the real-estate tax is going to affect us a great deal more than the sales tax. I think that has been brought out by the Corporation Counsel, that even if we spent $1,500 or $2,000 on things

outside of necessaries, it would not really amount to as much as an increased property tax.

I would like to point out the fact that when the Federal tax went into effect on luxuries, of course, everybody talked about the 20-percent luxury tax. I do not think anybody stopped buying lipsticks or rouge or face powder or anything else because there was a tax on it; they kept on buying it. And I think they would do the same thing with a sales tax.

I heard Mr. Press talk about a tax on 15-cent sales. I am wondering if that thing would not be a very hard thing to handle. We would have to have those stamps for fractional amounts and I think that would be very hard indeed.

So, as I say, and as Mrs. Parks said, we do represent a cross-section of the women of the city, and the women of the city hold the purchasing power—the women of the city, any city, hold the purchasing power; and like Mrs. Parks, I have not talked to the women who are not in favor of a sales tax. We do want certain things exempted. We have definitely wanted this utility tax exempted but 3 years ago, 2 years ago, I guess it was, we came out requesting that a tax be put on all meals over a dollar and a half to be used for welfare purposes. That, Mr. Bates, was because I knew in Massachusetts I never found it was any pain at all to pay a little tax on the meal to be used for old-age pension funds, and I feel that was a painless tax, and I cannot understand why, with all the spending there was during the war, the Commissioners did not attempt to collect a lot of money and have money to use right now to make improvements. A good many cities and States did that, and when the war ended they had money which they collected from the spending population who made large wages.

The Federation of Women's Clubs also went on record for a 5-percent amusement tax. I noticed that you have knocked that out of your proposals, but to us it seems a much fairer tax than to assess seating capacity of the theaters because a lot of these little neighborhood theaters only give two shows a day and it is going to work quite a hardship on them, and the large ones downtown which Mr. Brylawski runs, could very well stand the admission tax. We are in favor of that.

We are also on record for a cigarette tax. We also reccmmended to the Commissioners that there be a tax put on dance halls, poolrooms, and skating rinks. It would not be a whole lot, but it would all help.

I would like to point out that the tax on dance halls is $8, and in New York it is $150, and those little sources of revenue could easily be used, and they should be looked into.

Now, all of these people here have been talking about the fact that they do not want a tax on gasoline, and they do not want a tax on liquor and they do not want a tax on cigarettes and on amusements, but I belong to citizens groups that spend their time writing letters to the Commissioners asking for improvements in this and in that; there are half a dozen streets in my own community that are pretty well filled with holes from the winter, and all that, and I have written letters in my capacity as executive secretary asking for those improvements. You cannot get improvements unless you have the money to make them, and the Commissioners are authorized, of course, and bound by law to collect a certain amount of money from the people of the city, and we women feel that if you do not give them a sales tax, and if you are

a

not going to have more liquor taxes and cigarette taxes and gasoline taxes, then it is going to come back to our little homeowners; we are going to pay a larger amount, and we just do not think it is fair to us at all.

There is another source that we feel should be attended to. Resolutions have been sent in relative to attending schools in the District by children of residents of Maryland and Virginia. We have never had them pay because Members of Congress from Maryland and Virginia have stayed on the committee to protect their constituents, which is a very good idea.

We have addressed letters, one of the groups I belong to, the Northwest Citizens Council of Washington, to the States of Maryland and Virginia, requesting that our children be allowed to enter the State universities of those two States on the same basis as the Virginia and Maryland children, because the District of Columbia has no free college for higher education for white children. Every State in the Union has something of the kind. We have nothing here, not even a college, a junior college which is free, yet we educate the children from Maryland and Virginia in the District schools, who can possibly get in under the law, which allows them in if the parent's business is in the District, and I think that is a reciprocity thing that you gentlemen might look into.

Senator Cain. What has the reaction of the other several States been?

Mrs. WRIGHT. Well, I had no letter from Maryland at all; and Virginia wrote me that the legislature had adjourned for the year, and they would take up that problem the next year, but they did not do it at all.

I know, going through the West you see free junior colleges and all the States have State universities. We have nothing here for our white children whatever, nothing at all. Yet there is a grant made to Howard University, of course, every year in Congress for the higher education of colored children, so when that question of inequality between the white and colored comes up that is a point you might well remember, when you think it over.

Now, we think that there should be savings in some way of the Board of Zoning Adjustments and the Park and Planning Commission. We feel that that is a very good Commission in some ways, but I do not think either of you gentlemen is as old as I am, and I remember the city of Washington when we had beautiful shady expanses at the Mall, covered with elm trees, such as Mr. Bates has seen in many of the New England towns, and we had to sit by and watch in holy horror while the Park and Planning Commission took those, all those trees and made a bare, sandy tract out of it, and then spendI know in some cases—they spent $5,000 moving trees from other places over to put around buildings; those were expenditures that were not justified and not wanted.

As far as the highway tax is concerned, I do not think our Federation of Women's Clubs is expert in highway planning but we do feel, many of us, that the Dupont Circle underpass is really an extravagance, and furthermore it is not being run the right way. We think Connecticut Avenue should be kept as one of the main arterial highways to the city; it is a beautiful street, and we feel that this is a very,

a

« PreviousContinue »