Off Key!

By Bob Frederickson

From a Roadside Smile to Media Guile…

Truth in Advertising

There’s a billboard on the side of the main highway leading into the small town of Keenesburg, Colorado that makes me smile.

It reads “Welcome to Keensburg, home of 500 happy people and a few soreheads

Funny How that Works…

When Sarasota stopped charging for parking downtown back in March as the lockdown began, many kept paying since the city never really publicized the change. In fact, it wasn’t until weeks later at a press conference that word finally leaked out after a reporter’s question on the matter. But when the parking charges returned in early July, well, there was no missing the change as the city made sure the message got out pronto.

Phone Spoofers Jump the Shark…

I’m one of the dozen or so area residents who still happen to have a land line. Why, I’m not quite sure since I haven’t answered the phone connected to that line since oh, 1986 or thereabouts. That was around the time phone solicitations began to outnumber legitimate calls by an ever widening margin. Perhaps the reason I hang on to it is the whiff of nostalgia it brings; but there’s also a certain entertainment value in listening to some of the breathless messages left on the answering machine from all manner of scammers and scofflaws telling me what I must do IMMEDIATELY to avoid CERTAIN financial DOOM or impending CRIMINAL prosecution or to not miss out on the money I’ve won in a LOTTERY I never entered. And since the scammers figured out how to hijack the caller ID message that shows up on the phone itself, that too has become a source of continuing entertainment.

One such read-out last week gave me a good chuckle and a sense of just how much these folks must want to get me on the line.

The message read: “IMPORTANT CALL.”

Funny though, the caller didn’t leave a message.

Don’t Hold Your Breath Waiting for this Refund…

I was mildly surprised when my power bill went down after the lockdown began – a response by FPL to the slowing economy caused by the pandemic. My auto insurer also rolled back my rates, a decrease that remains in place as this is written. Both gestures, though modest, are nonetheless appreciated, especially since they were implemented without any prodding on my part.

I was thinking about this the other day while reading about the back-and-forth over if and when schools will open in the fall…(August here in Florida). So, here’s the question that popped into my head: since schools have been closed for months do you think there will be a refund from our local school districts retroactive to last March and forward to whatever date is finally agreed upon for reopening in the near (or far) future?

Ha!

Of course not. The very idea is utterly ridiculous to any cogent taxpayer. Instead a referendum to extend the district’s increased millage rate for Sarasota County taxpayers is still in the works. That last increase was approved in 2018 and expires in 2022.

If a refund proposal was made, school board members would likely crow that costs for the district still remain. Teachers were still teaching this past spring and kids still learning, albeit remotely. And yes, that’s true. But what about savings to the district on utilities like power and water? There are certainly real savings there even beyond the temporary FPL rate refund. Just turning up the thermostat from 76 to 82 for all the district’s shuttered buildings has to have generated sizable savings. And then there are reduced costs associated with maintenance, like janitorial services, lawn mowing, and school bus repairs. And of course, with kids not going to brick-and-mortar schools, fuel costs to run those busses has dropped to zero, no?

The truth is, government agencies and the bureaucracies behind them rarely if ever offer refunds to the taxpayers funding them, even when they spend less than anticipated when their budgets were approved. And this serves as an abject, real world lesson on the differences between capitalism and socialism that has been simmering in the news lately and will likely continue to do so as this year’s presidential race draws ever nearer.

Private enterprises have to ‘earn’ the business of their customers every day. Government agencies like school districts have to reach out to their ‘customers’ much less frequently…perhaps just once every two or four years when there’s an election. And as the bureaucracies behind those bodies grow, the unelected, unaccountable officials manning them seem to exert an ever greater impact on policy matters, rendering those elected officials supposedly accountable to the public less in charge of things than perhaps they should be. That seems to be the trend anyway, both locally and nationally.

Perhaps our local school district will shock me and pass along a small refund in the near future. Think of the goodwill that would provide? And I would certainly remember the gesture when the renewal of additional funding initiative returns to the ballot.

I will also remember the more likely outcome: that any thought of such a refund is utterly ridiculous.

Joke of the Day…

How many country singers does it take to change a light bulb?

Two. One to change the bulb and the other to sing about how much the old one is missed.

Hold onto that Phone!

Be careful if you’re approached by someone asking to borrow your phone because their own is dead or they forgot it when they left the house that morning; they might say something akin to needing to text a friend because of some emergency like car trouble or saying they have to call a Doctor’s office or some other professional to explain why they will be late for an appointment.

The scam comes if you have financial links on your phone that you use to either pay bills or transfer funds to kids at college or to others for any number of sundry reasons.

In less than 20 seconds, a scammer can text funds from any linked account on your phone to an untraceable ghost account of his or her own. And once the transaction is made, your chances of recovery are virtually nil.

Law enforcement says you should offer to make a call or type out a text for someone, but never let them do so themselves.