Thursday, September 23, 1999
Virtual Tax ManI am writing as a local bookseller and proud member of my community about two issues of deep concern to me: Congress' moratorium on new Internet taxation, and the failure to collect taxes from e-commerce sites that, under current laws, should be paying them but are not. This is costing local communities tens of millions of dollars per year, and this letter is a call to arms to all among us who wish to protect and preserve our neighborhoods and communities.
By not paying sales tax, e-commerce companies can compete unfairly against community-based businesses. Consequently, more shoppers are driven online because of the unfair price advantage. Stores lose business, reducing their payments of sales tax and resulting in major losses for the stores and their communities.
Amazon.com has had a dramatic and negative effect on independent, bricks-and-mortar bookstores. It is heavily subsidized by the stock market, which has permitted it to discount heavily and suffer huge losses in order to beat competition. Amazon.com is being helped to compete unfairly against local businesses because it is not forced to collect sales tax in most states. Amazon.com is evading collecting sales tax in its largest market, California, by building a warehouse in Nevada to service this market. While Amazon has no physical stores, I would argue that substantial nexus could still be shown by virtue of its "Associate Member Program."
This is not only damaging but may very well be illegal when it involves e-commerce sites affiliated with bookstore chains, such as barnesandnoble.com and Borders.com. There is substantial proof making very strong connections between Barnes & Noble's and Borders' e-commerce and physical sites, though they may be officially operated as separate corporations. These activities include, but are not limited to: accepting returns at the physical store for a .com purchase, and advertising their e-commerce sites in the store on banners, posters, bookmarks, brochures, sales receipts, etc. Borders even plans to put kiosks in all of their stores that link to their Web site for customers to use within the next several months.
If this issue is not addressed, the neighborhoods and Main Streets that we all love so dearly may become a thing of the past.
THUNDERBIRD BOOKSHOP, CARMEL
Art for the Rest of UsThe bigger picture beyond the current Carmel art gallery gold rush is about art as a commodity, and just how much money these dealers can make off of artists living or dead ("The New Gold Rush," 8/26). Unfortunately this truth is not limited to Carmel, but has spread like the plague of our materialistic society to most all affluent art locales, such as Santa Fe, Lahaina, Lajolla, and Scottsdale. Many of these art dealers might as well be selling stocks, real estate, or expensive cars!
The Old World art dealer who was passionate about art and highly supportive of the artists they chose to represent--known or unknown--are now, sadly, almost an extinct species. Carmel and all other affluent, desirable locations where galleries do big business are faced with high rents and operating costs. So gallery wall space is at a premium, and most dealers want to go with what sells, and with name artists who guarantee larger returns from sales. This kind of scene usually shuts out a lot of the local diverse talent.
Unfortunately this is for the most part the way the Carmel art scene has gone. Painters more or less gifted who lived and worked here 50 years ago when it was affordable now stand a better chance of financial reward. The same old deal: Now they're dead and the dealer is making all the money! To my way of thinking it's a two-fold loss for the diverse group of talented dedicated artists who are shut out from showing in Carmel, and also for the reputation of the art scene in Carmel, where safe predictable art plus the lovely gold frame seems to reign supreme.
Onward and upward with the arts--very slowly it seems--and the same external reverberating question: Is it about love or money?
Saving Our ShoresCongratulations for the recent coverage of important conservation plans proposed in Pacific Grove by the Coalition to Preserve and Restore Point Pinos Tidepools ("Love on the Rocks," 9/9). As a Pacific Grove resident who supports conservation of our intertidal areas and has followed this issue very closely, I would like to clarify:
1--The coalition has proposed a pro-science plan that makes provisions for real, bona fide scientific research at Point Pinos. In fact, a Pacific Grove city task force (at the behest of the coalition) is already designing a scientific study for this area. While the coalition's plan supports the work of scientists, it will, however, prevent the taking of intertidal animals for non-scientific purposes, such as commercial aquarium displays, aquarium animal food, and commercial trading and bartering.
2--The article minimized the amount of rocks, boulders, and substrate matter (just one "tea-cup saucer-sized" rock) removed from the Great Tidepool earlier this summer by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Jim and Lee Willoughby called upon Pacific Grove police only after witnessing the removal of larger amounts of rock (some requiring a cooler and two men to carry), and some boulder-sized rocks taken away by Aquarium collectors on two prior days. The Willoughbys should be commended for having the courage to stop such desecration to this magnificent intertidal area.
The Coalition's proposed plan is pro-science and pro-conservation. It would allow full public access to Point Pinos for children and adults alike, and would still allow line-fishermen to fish off the rocks with the proper licenses. This is a win-win plan for today's citizens and future generations. The intertidal life at Point Pinos belongs to everybody. Let's not allow special interest groups bent on harvesting Point Pinos' intertidal life for commercial purposes to thwart conservation efforts that will benefit the common good.
Kind Words"The Needle and the Damage Done" (9/16) was a very nicely written article. It's about time that I was moved by an article such as this one out here on the West Coast. I'm originally from the Boston area and an article like this one is the reason why I decided to take up journalism at San Jose State University.
Please give the writer of this article [Richard Pitnick] a pat on the back for me.