Posts Tagged: taxes

A View from My Recession: No Lifeguard on Duty

Huntington Beach Lifeguard Tower Number 24

Photo taken by Ms. Jen on 08.28.10 with her Nokia N86.

Sat 08.28.10 – Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish has over the course of the last two years an ongoing series of posts called “The View from Your Recession“, where readers write in about how ‘The Economy’ is affecting their lives either directly or indirectly.
Even before the economic downturn in late 2008, California has had budget woes, particularly in the summer when the legislature has been chronically unable to pass a budget before July 1st. The last 4-5 years has featured July and August as a monumental struggle between the legislature and Arnold, of which Arnold has turned off the budgetary taps to get the legislature to talk to each other and resolve their issues. The result has been steep budget cuts year round and a frozen budget in the summer months.
Last summer Bolsa Chica State Beach tried to save money by turning off fresh water in the park, thus no showers, no drinking fountains, etc. The local surfers revolted, as they all pay $125 a year for a parking pass which supposedly supports the state beach, and went to the State Beach commissioner’s house and threatened to turn off his water all while they demanded their parking money back. Water got turned back on the next day and has remained on since. It does help that Bolsa Chica State Beach has the greatest revenue and attendance of any state beach or park in California, so the commissioner can make an argument to Sacramento that the surfers are paying for their post-ocean showers with their parking pass fees.
[Disclosure, I have a State Beach parking pass and use the shower to wash my feet off and give the dogs a drink post-dog beach.]
Most years at Southern California beaches the lifeguard towers are only open for business during the summer when the kids are out of school and the tourists are out in force, during the school year most of the lifeguard towers are closed up and the only the ones at nearest the main piers are open. Most of the SoCal beach communities do have full time rescue and lifeguard staff that is augmented by trained young lifeguards in the summer time who staff the towers.
The past few years Huntington Beach has all the towers staffed with lifeguards during the summer months from the HB Pier to the Santa Ana River to the south and to Bolsa Chica State Beach to the north, as well as roving lifeguards on red four wheel all terrain vehicles & red trucks patrolling between towers that are spaced at a greater distance, like towers 28-24 at Dog Beach on the north side of town.
Early this summer, I noticed that the 3 lifeguard towers at Dog Beach had fencing placed around them with signs saying “No Lifeguards This Area”, and as the summer progressed the towers were not opened at all not even on the busy weekends like the Fourth of July. Even more surprising is that I have not seen the roving lifeguards in trucks or all terrain vehicles patrolling the areas with no staffed lifeguard towers.
The most active surf, the most amount of rocks, and riptides in North Orange County are right in front of Tower 24 and Tower 26 at the Huntington Cliffs. This is a highly trafficked area with surfers clambering down unofficial paths of the Cliffs to get to the surf, dog owners trying to get themselves and their dogs to the beach, as well as random Angelenos and tourists wanting to experience the beach.
Either the City of Huntington Beach consulted with their lawyers and determined that big signs warning folks of no lifeguards and that folks were taking responsibility for their own lives by swimming was sufficient to repel any lawsuits in the event of child whisked out to sea by riptides or the budget cuts plus decreased tax revenue due to ‘The Economy’ really has taken a toll on the Huntington Beach lifeguard and rescue budget.
Anyone know what the real story is on the lack of lifeguards at the towers?

Gah! April 15th. Gah!

I wish I had a great photo for you all tonight. Or a big written post chock full of juicy tidbits or meaty ideas. But I don’t have either for you all this evening because today was Tax Day.
Actually, my activity towards the eventual goal of the 11:59pm tax filing deadline this evening started yesterday. Back when I expected a refund every year, I couldn’t get my taxes done fast enough in late January or early February. Now that I am not teaching, nor do I have a day job, but instead all my working efforts are those of the self-employed, it is all I can do to drag myself to Turbo Tax to get my taxes done in time.
The last two years, I knew before it all started that I had a loss or close to a draw, thus my incentive to do my taxes early was slim to none. This week I cut it very close, close in time and close in dollars.
I do not begrudge paying my taxes – as I do like paved roads and the like, nor do I begrudge giving a full accounting of my fiscal activities – it is a good discipline. But to sit down and do it, that is the hard part.
Luckily for me, TurboTax has really stepped up their game and rather than struggling a bit with the software or explanations or the user interface and then panicking that I would be audited by the IRS due to the bizarre TurboTax interface & lack of clarity, this year was easy with TurboTax 2008, unlike the evil 2005 TurboTax adventure.
TurboTax just worked this year. I had a choice of doing it online at the turbotax.com website or downloading the software on to my computer – or in my case, as a repeat customer, using the cd that came in the mail months ago. Rather than TurboTax walking me through tons of evil details that not even tax accountants understand at first glance, this year the program got smart enough to let me know when I should pay attention and when the details did not pertain to my situation. I love it when I am not drowned in details that make me panic.
Best of all the user interface allowed me to hop back and forth in between sections, finish bits, save and then hop somewhere else without complaint. And it was worth it to get the Home and Small Business edition, as it really was able to breakdown all the categories that as a small business owner / freelance / self-employed person would need to know and had expanded pop-ups to help explain each category of expenses that one is allowed to take for a business expense. There was only one time where I had to guess where to list an expense (domain name registry fees).
Big thanks to the design and development teams at Intuit for a good tax experience, rather than a panicked, evil one.
Intuit, I do have one big request: Please make a Quickbooks Simple Start for Mac OS X. Just sayin’… not all of us small business owners out there are MicroSquash junkies. I know I need to keep track of business expenses during the year, but I am not going to shell out $199 for the Mac edition of Quickbooks before I know if I like it & it will work for me. How about making Quickbooks Simple Start as an online service that is device agnostic?