Posted By: Francis Koster Published: January 22, 2023

One in six dollars owed to the IRS are not being paid.[1] An astonishing number of wealthy Americans do not pay the taxes they owe.  What is also astonishing is that some members of Congress appear to have that as a goal.  You will see their efforts play out over the next few weeks in the very …

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Posted By: Francis Koster Published: January 17, 2023

I am the oldest of six kids.  When I was growing up in Lakewood, Ohio, our (large) extended family would gather to share Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, reconnect with uncles, aunts, and cousins, and drive my mom nuts with the bedlam created by a dozen or so primary school aged kids racing our small house around …

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Posted By: Francis Koster Published: January 10, 2023

On one of the most significant public policy issues of our time, the major split in our society is not between political parties – it is between the young and the old, regardless of political party affiliation.   The issue they disagree on influenced by their age is Climate Change.  Recent surveys show twice as many young adults aged 25 – …

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Posted By: Francis Koster Published: January 1, 2023

Several badly designed teacher’s pay proposals now before the N.C. Legislature claim they will pay teachers more if they do their jobs well. They will not. The proposed new laws would have educators’ pay raised only if their student’s learning improves year-after-year on state-wide tests. This is profoundly unfair to teachers in older school buildings. …

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Posted By: Francis Koster Published: December 28, 2022

Students change classrooms at Mariam Boyd Elementary in Warrenton on Dec. 7, 2021. The school opened in 1957 and needs renovation. In 2019, the Warren County school board closed another elementary school due to concerns the aging heating system could fail. The writer heads a nonprofit called the Pollution Detectives, which lends electronic equipment to …

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Posted By: Francis Koster Published: March 9, 2021

Schools are often the heart of communities.  My own memories of primary school included time spent playing dodgeball on the playground,  my excitement when I was asked to bring my favorite book to school and tell my classmates why I liked it, and too many times having to carry a note home to my parents about some action I did or did not do.  (That never ended well.) Like some members of our community, some school buildings are getting old. Like some of us, their plumbing does not work as well as it once did, and friends and loved ones notice peeling paint, deteriorating roofs, and breathing issues (in the schools). North Carolina’s schools rank 37th of all 50 states in student learning.[1]   Our disappointing ranking is driven in part by old and loved school buildings which do not breathe well.

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: February 23, 2021

America’s health insurance system is like a ratty old quilt.  If your body is covered by the thick part of the quilt, you can feel more or less comfortable.  If your quilt has too many holes in it, you suffer. North Carolina has 17% of its population uninsured. We rank 6th worst out of all 50 states for our percentage of uninsured.[1]   Those uninsured who get sick will have mountains of debt they will not have the ability to pay. Insurance claims filed by Covid-19 patients show that if you catch mild Covid-19 but can recover at home, the cost of treatment averages around $750 for your care.   If you need to be hospitalized, the bill from the hospital is around $34,000.  If you are so sick you need to be in intensive care, the cost is about $84,000.[2]

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: February 8, 2021

When I was in school, one of the most dreaded sentences my teacher uttered was “Close your books, we are going to have a pop quiz.” Over the past few months, I have written a number of columns each teaching little-known facts. Have you been paying attention? Surprise! Here is your quiz: 1.    How much more does the average American adult weighs now compared to 1960? 28 pounds. [1] 2.    What percentage of American school buildings have unhealthy levels of indoor air pollution? Nearly half.[2] 3.    How much invisible microplastic does the average American eat each week? Equal to one credit card.[3] 4.    Is our life expectancy getting longer or shorter? Shorter [4] 5.    Of all the nations of the world, where does America rank on the happiness scale? 35th.[5] One of the major obstacles to improving our society is that a large number of things that need fixing (as you saw above) are not well known. We have to make the invisible visible. One way to do that is to measure indicators of Quality of Life.

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: February 4, 2021

Do you remember when you were given your first goldfish?  The gift was probably a little bowl of water containing a few tiny fish and some fish food.  I remember receiving mine when I was in grade school.  It was probably the first time I was officially made responsible for caring for other living creatures.   I also remember how sad I was when weeks later I found them floating in cloudy water, dead.  As a child, I felt my failure deeply.   I still remember when my brothers and sisters and I buried them in the garden with a little ceremony overseen by my mom. I will never know what killed that fish, but the range of possibility is large – the amount and kind of food, jimmy germs from failing to wash hands before putting them in the bowl, not enough or too much light, high or low water temperature, and acidity – the list can go on and on.  Just like the list of things that impact the quality of life and health in our cities and towns.  We all live in a ‘human aquarium, and the lives of our friends and neighbors in our cities and towns are just as vulnerable as those little fish.  Any number of elements in our local aquarium can encourage or stop a wide range of physical, emotional, intellectual, and financial growth for our citizens, and impact our collective quality of life.

Posted By: Francis Koster Published: February 3, 2021

We have two healthcare calamities unfolding before us – one visible, the other not yet. The first you at least know something about - Covid-19.  On January 14, one in 15 Americans (24 million) have been diagnosed with Covid-19.[1]  Of these, around four million survived, but are suffering after-effects ranging from brain fog, lung issues, and sexual disfunction.[2],[3]  Another 380,000 Americans have already died from it.[4]  Experts predict that the number of dead will grow to over half-a-million by April 2021,[5] even with an aggressive vaccination campaign, because around one-third of Americans say they will not take the vaccination at all.[6] This is only the visible part of our national tragedy. The second (still invisible) crisis is caused by the fact that out of every ten Americans, six have what is called a “chronic disease” – things like heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease.  These do not heal. They do get worse over time and must be carefully managed for as long as you live. [7],[8]

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